Eric Gorman returns with his wife Evelyn from a trip to the Orient collecting zoo animals, having killed a member of his expedition who happened one day to kiss Mrs. Gorman. On board ship Evelyn meets Roger Hewitt, who falls in love with her. After delivering his animals to the zoo, Gorman plots a way to dispose of Hewitt using one of his latest specimens, then continues using the zoo's non-human residents to do his beastly work. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One of over 700 Paramount productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
When Gorman returns from Indo-China, at least one lion is visible among his catch. Lions have never been indigenous to Southeastern Asia. See more »
Mr. Gates, never be afraid of a wild animal. Let it alone, and it'll leave you alone. That's more than we can say of most humans.
You mean that you really like these, eh?
Beasts? I love them. They're honest in their simplicity, their primative emotions... They love, they hate, they kill.
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The pre-"Code" horror flick "Murders in the Zoo" is noteworthy for being quite potent for its time. If only some of the comedy relief were eliminated and the horror quotient punched up even more, it really could have been something special. As it is, it's enjoyable but may not be intense enough for the modern viewer. It's highlighted by a wonderfully deranged performance by genre icon Lionel Atwill, here playing Eric Gorman, a zoologist who's pathologically jealous of his hot young wife Evelyn (Kathleen Burke of "Island of Lost Souls"), who admittedly is not exactly faithful to him. He's well aware that his animals make for handy murder weapons, so he employs them whenever he wants to eliminate a man from Evelyns' life.
Three sequences stand out here as being appropriately intense. The film establishes a tone immediately; it begins as Eric sews a mans' mouth shut! Another involves a victim tossed into an alligator pit. And the finale sees many animals escape their cages, and the skirmishes between the big cats are all too convincing. A huge snake gets to do its thing before this is all over.
Capably directed by A. Edward Sutherland, "Murders in the Zoo" does waste some time with its principal comic character, a drunken press agent played by top-billed Charles Ruggles. Ruggles is amiable enough, but isn't funny enough to warrant that much screen time. Otherwise, it's just zippy enough to clock in at a mere 63 minutes. The supporting cast helps keep it watchable: Gail Patrick, Randolph Scott, future Connecticut governor John Lodge, Harry Beresford, Samuel S. Hinds, and Edward McWade. The cinematography is by the celebrated Ernest Haller ("Gone with the Wind", "Rebel Without a Cause", etc.).
Overall, a fun film worth a look for genre fans and completists.
Seven out of 10.
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