Murders in the Zoo (1933)

Eric Gorman (Lionel Atwill) hunts down exotic wildlife for a zoo back in the States. He also has an intense jealous streak when it comes to men interacting with his wife (Kathleen Burke from THE horror film of the 30’s, Island of Lost Souls). So jealous that he’s more than willing to kill any man he deems a threat, and his weapons of choice are the animals that he has access to.

This is a solid 30’s horror picture with a unique storyline. It also has a pretty potent mean streak for a film of it’s time, one scene involving an alligator pit coming immediately to mind. Lionel Atwill has an effective screen presence as the sinister Gorman. As murderous as he may be, I found it hard to root against the man. What can I say? I’m not remotely sympathetic towards philanderers. His idea to utilize animals as murder weapons is both one of convenience and a clever way to be free of incriminating evidence. The animal attacks, including an encounter with a large python, are intense and believable.

My main qualm with the film is a problem that plagues many pictures of the era, that being the style of comic relief that was popular back then. The Peter Yates character is pretty annoying, and we’re treated to a particularly absurd scene where he pops a lion on the head. Charlie Ruggles plays Yates, and he’s about as unfunny as it gets. Why he has such a prevailing presence in an otherwise serious film is beyond me. The time taken up by his antics could have been used to further develop our main storyline.

However, this is worth seeing. It’s also well-paced, clocking in at just a little more than an hour in length.