Primarily a stage actor, Slaughter also served as general manager of several theaters, first in the Theatre Royal, in Chatham, Kent, then in the Elephant and Castle Theatre, in London. Slaughter remained active in the theater — his greatest passion — for all of his life. An enthusiastic actor that engaged audiences in his eclectic and outstanding performances, Slaughter soon acquired great popularity, doing work for mass consumption, as well as more sophisticated dramas for a quality demanding public. He only started appearing in movies in 1934, at forty-nine years old. His first movie was Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn, released the following year. In total, he appeared in eighteen films.
His next feature, 1936 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street — on which he would play the title character — would become his most successful and celebrated movie. As it was the case with this movie, as well as its predecessor, Slaughter had also played the theater versions of these stories.
Based on a character that was first featured on a weekly serial of the Victorian era — The String of Pearls —, Sweeney Todd rapidly developed into an urban legend, similar to that of Spring-heeled Jack. The movie tells the story of a professional barber, that kills his customers with the assistance of Mrs. Lovatt (played by Stella Rho), the owner of a nearby pie store.
Tod Slaughter would reprise the role in two less successful sequels, 1945 Bothered by a Beard, and 1954 Puzzle Corner No. 14, his last movie. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street won a remake in 2007, directed by Tim Burton, with his long time collaborator Johnny Depp in the title role.
In this movie, Tod Slaughter played the villain, something that was a recurring fact in his film career, which created a curious contrast with his theater career, where he usually played the hero or the benevolent prototype of altruistic romanticism.
As theater remained his greatest passion, Tod Slaughter appeared to have seen movies just as a means to supplement his financial income. Always busy, he ran theater companies, went on tour regularly even in his old age, and was exceedingly versatile, playing all kinds of spectacles, from conventional melodramas to more complex one act monologues. In the early fifties, however, his fortunes changed for the worst, as the theater companies that he led were no longer in demand, having gradually falling out of favor in the public's general taste. By this time, Tod Slaughter went broke. Nevertheless, with no better prospects, he continued performing and touring, and accepting work-related performing jobs.
He still did some feature films in the fifties. King of the Underworld and Murder at Scotland Yard were both released in 1952. As they worked together as a single story, in these movies, Slaughter played the same character, a criminal mastermind named Terence Reilly.
Tod Slaughter also had done some work on television, on the TV Series Inspector Morley. Nevertheless, the episodes on which he participated were combined in two movies for theatrical release. A version of the legendary British entity known as Spring-Heeled Jack adapted for the theater, starring Slaughter, was filmed and later exhibited in television.
After fifty years completely dedicated to the performing arts, Tod Slaughter died of coronary thrombosis, in Derby, in 19 February, 1956, one month before completing seventy-one years. After his death, his work was entirely forgotten. More recently, his movie work has been properly appreciated by critics and evaluated by film scholars, generating interest from classic movies' enthusiasts.