Documentary features look at the lives of two extraordinary men

“Rondo and Bob” film to be shown for free this weekend at Seguin’s Palace Theater

(Seguin) — A special screening of the documentary “Rondo and Bob” will be featured Saturday night at the Palace Theater in downtown Seguin. The film is the work of Joe O’Connell, who said he felt compelled to tell this story about Robert Burns and Rondo Hatton.

Burns may be a name that you recognize. He’s famous in horror movie circles, for his work on films, like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Burns also lived in Seguin towards the end of his life. Hatton may not be as well known to you, but he was someone who fascinated Burns for a very long time.

O’Connell offers viewers some insights into the stories of both men, and how they are connected. O’Connell says he first got introduced to Burns, and his fascination with Hatton, during a writing assignment in the year 2000.

“I was a writer doing a column in the Austin American Statesman about the film industry. I was invited to a big blood bank event done by Bob Burns. Bob was the art director on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And he really created the look of classic horror, or what we consider horror now. While I was there talking to him, he gave me a script called Rondo and May, which was a love story about Rondo Hatton. Rondo was a guy who was looked at as the next Boris Karloff — back in the 1940s. He was disfigured. He had a condition called acromegaly, which made his face, hands and feet grow; and it made them distorted. And Bob was obsessed with Rondo Hatton,” said O’Connell.

There are layers to their stories. Their lives are largely connected by Burns’ obsession with Hatton, but O’Connell says it’s also more than that.

“Bob was a very normal looking guy, who was weird in all of those ways — that ‘keep Austin weird’ type ways. He was extremely creative, but he was also a lonely guy who felt like he was incapable of love. And he was obsessed with Rondo Hatton from the time that Bob was in college. Rondo was this strange looking guy, who was quite normal. He was an all-American kid before his condition. He was a star athlete. He was voted best looking at his high school in Tampa, Florida. So, there were these two stories, and I was kind of interested in (them). There’s enough in Bob’s life to make a film about just him, but I was really more interested in the intersection of these two people,” said O’Connell.

The movie is a documentary, but O’Connell says they took a slightly different approach in their story telling.

“The film is both about Bob’s career, Rondo’s career, and the intersection of the two of their lives. We did something kind of interesting. It’s a half traditional documentary (and) half recreations using actors, because neither Bob nor Rondo is around, but this seemed like a good way to do it,” said O’Connell.

There’s a bit of an opening act before the movie begins on Saturday night. So, in addition to the film, O’Connell says you’ll get a taste of some of the fun and quirky talents that Burns shared with the community during his time in Seguin.

“One of the things that Bob did when he moved to Seguin was that he created this strange costume — the Burns Family Band, which was his sister, Heart Burns and his sister, Powder Burns. It was a big joke. It was comedy country, and they actually performed regularly at the Kingsbury Opry. So, the Kingsbury Opry is going to perform at the screening at 6 pm and the film will be at 7 pm It’s free. We’re asking people to bring donations of canned goods and dry goods for the local food bank,” said O’Connell.

O’Connell says he really hopes that people from Seguin will come out and enjoy this movie. He says this is the place where they started their work on this project.

“When we had the crazy idea to make this, we first came to Seguin. That was the very first thing that we did. We told people in Seguin that we would like to screen the film there eventually, so here we are,” said O’Connell.

The screening is free and runs from 6 to 9 pm Saturday at the Palace Theatre. The theater is located at 314 S. Austin St. in downtown Seguin.

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