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The Crimes of Stephen Hawke (1936)

The Crimes of Stephen Hawke is a 1936 British historical melodrama film directed by George King and starring Tod Slaughter as the nefarious Stephen Hawke – who masquerades as the ‘Spine-Breaker’. It also features Marjorie Taylor, D. J. Williams and Eric Portman.

Slaughter plays a seemingly kindly money-lender who dotes on his daughter Julia. He has however a double life as the notorious ‘Spine-Breaker’, Victorian England’s most maniacal serial killer. His nefarious activities are eventually detected by his daughter’s suitor Matthew Trimble, the son of one of his victims, who after pursuing and failing to catch him somewhat charitably opines to his daughter:

‘Julia, Julia, my darling, listen to me. I know that he’s the notorious ‘Spine-Breaker’ and he ought to be dead a hundred times but I also know that his death cannot bring my father back to life. But alive or dead it cannot alter my love for you.’

In the end Slaughter comes out of hiding to kill another unwelcome suitor of his daughter, before falling to his death from the roof of his house in a dramatic final exit.

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