16 April 2014

Murders in the Zoo (1933)
66 min.
Directed by A. Edward Sutherland.
With Lionel Atwill, Kathleen Burke, John Lodge, Charles Ruggles, Gail Patrick, Randolph Scott, Harry Beresford, Jane Darwell.
Millionaire philanthropist Eric Gorman (Atwill) is a big game hunter who supplies the local city zoo with live specimens from his latest expeditions abroad.

He's also an insanely jealous man who's fiercely overprotective of his beautiful young wife Evelyn (Burke).

So, when Evelyn strikes up a romance with handsome Roger (Lodge), Gorman decides he'll eliminate his wife's new suitor...using some of the ferocious (and poisonous) new animals brought back from his recent hunt!

And if any other bystanders die in the process? No matter.

Right from its disturbing opening scene, Murders in the Zoo declares itself a one man horror thriller with no identity problems whatsoever.

It wants to chill you at any cost.

And in Eric Gorman, it certainly gives Atwill one of his most delicious roles, rivalling his work in Doctor X (1932) and Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933).

The genre actor squeezes every morsel of contemptible evil out of the juicy lead part; and since there's no real mystery as to who the killer is, Atwill has a field day with leering grins and malevolent eyebrow lifts.

There's a bit too much comic relief from Ruggles as the zoo's PR man, but the rest of the supporting cast (especially Burke, Patrick, and Scott) is appropriately serious and winning.

The climax - a mad chase through a banquet room full of wild uncaged zoo animals - is wonderfully staged...and (ahem) executed.

Required viewing.

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