Horror Fest 2016 – Murders in the Zoo (1933)

murders-in-the-zoo-1Horror Fest 2016: Murders in the Zoo (1933)
Cast:      Lionel Atwill as Eric Gorman
Charlie Ruggles as Peter Yates
Gail Patrick as Jerry Evans
Randolph Scott as Dr. Jack Woodford

Written by Philip Wylie (Island of Lost Souls) & Seton I. Miller (Scarface)
Directed by A. Edward Sutherland (The Invisible Woman)

Plot: Eric Gorman is a man obsessed with his wife, who has eyes for another man. He’ll stop at nothing to keep her, including sadistically murdering any man who has eyes for her. Upon returning to the zoo where he works with a new selection of animals, he unfolds a plot to kill a rival for her love. With the backdrop of animals at every turn, Gorman may be the most bloodthirsty of them all.

murders-3Personal Thoughts: One of the most graphic sequences in this Pre-Code flick comes in the opening moments as Eric Gorman sews the mouth shut of a man who kissed his wife. It sets the tone of Gorman as a killer who’ll do anything to keep his wife. Lionel Atwill plays the crazed Gorman quite well, leaving his mad scientist frock at home for this one. However, he doesn’t kill conventionally and the idea of using snake venom as a weapon is quite different. It works well here and sets the stage for a quick and fun effort. The sequence where Atwill forces himself upon his wife is a little hard to watch as you can see just how obsessed he is.

Charlie Ruggles (Six of a Kind, Bringing Up Baby) receives top billing here based on his comedic status at the time. He’s fun to watch but seems to disappear towards the last act when the movie takes a darker tone. Leonard Maltin was quoted as saying the film was “astonishingly grisly,” and I would agree. Gorman’s death at the end of the film is particularly gruesome. While I doubt any animals were harmed (too much at least), know that what you see are real animals. In today’s world, they would all be CGI. Just one reason to love these old classics. Definitely entertaining and well worth your time, as well as adding to your collection.murders-2

Trivia:

  • Made by Paramount Pictures but sold to Universal in 1958 for television distribution. It was not part of the Shock Theater package but it was released as part of the Universal Monster VHS series.

Availability:

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