Murders In The Zoo (1933)

A. EDWARD SUTHERLAND

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

USA, 1933. . Screenplay by , . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by , .

The opening scene has one of the most shocking images of any movie made in the early thirties, the sight of a man whose mouth has been sewn shut by a jealous husband who is angry that he dared kiss his beautiful young wife. The husband, , is in Indochina trapping exotic animals for the American zoo he works for, and while making the ocean voyage home realizes that his wife () has fallen in love with another man ().

The zoo that Atwill works for is looking to improve its revenue and hires a press agent () who comes up with publicity-generating events to help the place out; one of them is a fancy dinner for the zoo’s wealthier patrons, where guests eat with the caged animals as their backdrop (one can only imagine how great that smells), but during which Burke’s lover drops dead of a snake bite. Did a creature get loose, or is our mad hunter up to his evil tricks again? It’s up to animal scientist to figure out what’s going on, but in doing so he brings danger upon himself as well.

This one isn’t as stylish as the somewhat similar Cat People from a few years later, nor is it as unhinged as the same year’s The Island of Lost Souls, but it has a meaner bite than both films and has no compunctions about sending major characters to their graves in the most gruesome ways. Also in the outstanding cast are as Scott’s colleague and lady love and an uncredited Jane Darwell as a banquet guest.

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