31 Days Of Horror: Murders In The Zoo

Eric Gorman: “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.”
Peter Yates: “You mean that you really like these, eh?”
Eric Gorman: “Beasts? I love them. They’re honest in their simplicity, their primitive emotions… They love, they hate, they kill.”

A jealous husband has decided to do away with his wife’s lovers. Fortunately he owns a large supply of animals at zoo that he supplies.

Lionel Atwill stars as the villainous millionaire zoologist sportsman Eric Gorman. In a brilliant opening scene, Atwill is on safari in Indochina, looking for new animals for his zoo. The film opens with the a man and some locals tying up a man in the jungle. Then the man leans down as does something offscreen to him.

“You’ll never lie to a friend again.” “You’ll never kiss another man’s wife.” It’s then horrendously revealed that the man’s mouth has been sewed shut. The man is Lionel Atwill and he has suspicions that his wife is cheating on him with that man. Atwill had taken the man out into the jungle and returns to tell his wife that the man has moved on to another village. It’s later reported to the couple that the man was eaten alive by tigers. On the boat trip back Atwill’s wife, Kathleen Burke starts messing around with another fellow (John Lodge) but decides not to let go any further being suspicious of her husband and what happened to the last guy.

Back in America, the zoo that Atwill supplies is in financial trouble. The curator has hired a press agent (Charles Ruggles, the comedy relief who gets top billing for some strange reason). They want to have a fundraiser supper and wouldn’t you know it, Atwill has returned with a bunch of new animals including the poisonous mamba. Ruggles goes to interview Atwill but stumbles across Burke with Lodge. He then informs Atwill about it. During the dinner party Lodge suddenly dies from a mamba bite. While everyone is trying to figure out what’s going on, Atwill is planning the next horrendous zoo related death.

This is an awesome pre-code horror movie. There are horrible, grisly deaths and the film has a dark grim feel to it. The treatment of the animals is questionable but that’s unfortunately the way they treated animals back then. Still a cool, underrated pre-code horror.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good.