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Rhinoceros (1974)

A boozing young man in love with his co-worker finds that everyone around him, even his pompous and condescending best friend, is changing into a rhinoceros.


Tom O'Horgan


Eugène Ionesco (play) (as Eugene Ionesco), Julian Barry (screenplay)




Complete credited cast:
Zero Mostel ... John
Gene Wilder ... Stanley
Karen Black ... Daisy
Joe Silver ... Norman
Robert Weil ... Carl
Marilyn Chris ... Mrs. Bingham
Percy Rodrigues ... Mr. Nicholson
Robert Fields Robert Fields ... Young Man
Melody Santangello Melody Santangello ... Young Woman (as Melody Santangelo)
Don Calfa ... Waiter
Lou Cutell ... Cashier
Howard Morton Howard Morton ... Doctor
Manuel Aviles Manuel Aviles ... Busboy
Anne Ramsey ... Lady with Cat
Lorna Thayer ... Restaurant Owner


Originally an absurdist play by Eugene Ionesco, Rhinoceros tells the story of a French town plagued by rhinoceroses. These are not ordinary rhinoceroses, but people who have been victims of "rhinoceritis." Or is it something else entirely? But, why are they turning into rhinoceroses and what is Ionesco trying to tell us about society? Written by Jeff Schoner <zek@primenet.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Would you want to be a rhinoceros? But what if everyone else was one? See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Zero Mostel won the 1961 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for "Rhinoceros" as John, and re-created his role in this filmed production. See more »


Stanley: I will not submit!
See more »


Referenced in Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004) See more »


What Did You Do To Yourself
Music by Galt MacDermot
Lyrics by Bill Dumaresq
Sung by David Lasley
See more »

User Reviews

Whether or not you like it just depends on your tolerance for absurdism.
6 May 2012 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

The French/Romanian writer Eugène Ionesco wrote this VERY strange story for The Theatre of the Absurd. Now if you are the sort of person who likes their stories very literal (or semi-comprehensible), you will most likely have no interest in this film. In fact, MOST people would probably have no interest in this movie!! Despite this, it was a reasonable hit on Broadway--running for 240 performances (very good back in the 60s) and earning Zero Mostel the Tony.

There are other films that are absurdist and most often they are French (such as "Buffet Froid"). The trademark of these stories are bizarre situations but even more bizarre are the reactions or lack of serious reactions by the actors. Here in "Rhinoceros", people inexplicably start turning into rhinos!! It's totally weird. But weirder still is that folks aren't all that upset about it and although they react, it's completely out of proportion. While there SHOULD be panic and terror, folks take it very much in stride. Other really odd bits are the dream sequence 2/3 of the way through film where Karen Black in orange crepe dances about with Mostel (who at this point has already turned into a rhino but he's not a rhino in the dream)--while Gene Wilder looks on from inside a cage marked 'Human'. You may be tempted to keep watching--just so something is eventually revealed that makes it all make sense. But this is NOT something you very important in truly absurdist films--as they WANT to provoke the audience and confuse them. Some have interpreted all this craziness as a reaction against Fascism, Communism, conformity, modern life or WWII or whatever. I doubt if this was the intention...who knows.

The bottom line is that even if you are a huge fan of the Mostel/Wilder combination (they were BRILLIANT in "The Producers"), this still probably will be a very tough movie to like. I am not saying it isn't without merit (a bit of the comedy is funny--such as when Mostel tells his friend to take in some culture--such as seeing a Eugène Ionesco play--and he's the guy who wrote "Rhinoceros"!). For me, it was very hard going even if it was, in an odd way, well written and acted.

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Release Date:

21 January 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)


Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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