Murders in the Zoo – USA, 1933

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Murders in the Zoo is 1933 American horror film directed by A. Edward Sutherland (The Invisible Woman), from a screenplay by Philip Wylie and Seton I. Miller for Paramount Pictures.

The movie stars Charles Ruggles (Bewitched, The Munsters), Lionel Atwill (The Vampire BatMark of the Vampire, Son of Frankenstein), Gail Patrick, Randolph Scott, John Lodge, Kathleen Burke (Island of Lost Souls), Harry Beresford (Doctor X).

Eric Gorman (Atwill), a monomaniacal zoologist, is pathologically jealous of his beautiful but unfaithful wife Evelyn and will not stop short of murder to keep her…

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Reviews:

“…just as it seemed the cinema’s experiments in sadism were ended for the season, Paramount disclosed a particularly gruesome specimen. Judged by its ability to chill and terrify, this film is a successful melodrama. Lionel Atwill as the insanely jealous husband is almost too convincing for comfort.” Andre Sennwald, The New York Times, 1933

“Roars, shrieks and cacklings of the wild animals on the screen at the Paramount theater yesterday were echoed to an amazing degree by the audience, at times driven to a mild state of hysteria.” The Los Angeles Examiner, 1933

“The cold-blooded and surprising murders are capped with the use of actual dangerous animals. One scene couldn’t be done today, when the cheetahs, lions and tigers all start fighting with each other – no way of faking that! What also adds to the film are the leading actors interacting with the animals, not always using stand-ins. The story still holds up today with it’s clever ‘perfect murder’ method… ” Black Hole

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“The cast is efficient if, Atwill aside, unmemorable, the pace brisk and if the comic relief from the top-billed Charlie Ruggles as the animal-phobic zoo publicist quickly irritates, the gleeful sadism of both Atwill’s performance and some unexpected plot turns make this required viewing.” James Marriott and Kim Newman, Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death

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“It isn’t often that a movie is so much fun in its on moments that it is able to survive in the face of vast amounts of stock footage and painfully unfunny comic relief …. But Murders in the Zoo is just such a survivor. Maybe it’s the pre-Hays Code frankness about sex and violence. (Not only does the movie open with a scene of unusually nasty torture, its very sympathetic heroine is a serial adulteress!).” Scott Ashlin, 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

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“This film really is a very odd mixture. The bits that work, work brilliantly; and the bits that are painful, are so very, very painful…. Perhaps unusually, I find that one of the real strengths of this film is the acting. It’s a classic psycho role for Lionel Atwill, of course, and his contribution is one of this film’s main pleasures.” And You Call Yourself a Scientist

“Lionel Atwill so overacts as a philanthropist/big game hunter that what should be horrifying is ludicrous.” John Stanley, Creature Features

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“Murders in the Zoo is by no means a flawless horror-comedy film, bumping around between two tones with impunity and with nowhere near the grace or atmosphere as the amiable Doctor X… However, Atwill and Burke make the movie’s moments of horror truly memorable set pieces and demonstrate how true human predators can operate outside cages. The rest, thankfully, will fade.” Pre-code.com

“Atwill plus atmospheric cinematography make it seem more chilling than it really is.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

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“Animal lovers should be warned that there are some sad scenes of old-style zoos here, although most of the animals look content. The saddest single scene is that of a bear cubs chained by their necks and crying for food. There is also a harrowing scene of big cats (lions, leopards, etc.) fighting, apparently for real.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

“Beautifully shot by Haller in Paramount’s caressing low-key style, literately written (Wylie also co-scripted Island of Lost Souls) and very well acted, it has something of the same intense intellectual sadism as The Most Dangerous Game (1932).” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

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Copyright HAG ?2009

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Categories: 1930s, psychopath

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2 replies

  1. Well the funny bits haven’t aged well, but the Horror is still very potent, not to mention mean spirited.

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