Director: A. Edward Sutherland
Genre(s): Crime, Horror, Thriller
Runtime: 62 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Murders in the Zoo is a short and sweet horror-thriller from the Pre-Code days of Hollywood, before the Production Code was enforced. Its plot concerns a big-game hunter named Eric Gorman (Lionel Atwill) who uses animals to kill the men who have affairs with his wife, Evelyn (Kathleen Burke). It’s not quite up there with the very best of the Pre-Code era, but it’s still worth checking out for horror fans.
There are a few familiar faces in Murders in the Zoo, including Randolph Scott as Dr. Jack Woodford, the zoo’s lab technician, and the aforementioned Kathleen Burke, who played Lota in the horror masterpiece Island of Lost Souls (1932). The actor who gets top billing, though, is actually Charles Ruggles, who plays the zoo’s new publicity agent, Peter Yates. He’s the film’s comic relief character, and focusing on him so much may have been a minor misstep on the movie’s part.
Another little error is that its most shocking act of violence is the very first one to take place in the runtime. Still, there’s some good stuff later on in the flick. The fights between the zoo animals towards the end are pretty disturbing, as it looks like the action wasn’t overseen by anybody who had the creatures’ well-being in mind. When the inhabitants of the zoo aren’t brawling, though, there’s some good footage of them.
Murders in the Zoo isn’t as out of control as some viewers may hope. It might not live up to its full potential, but this is still a fun, nifty, little horror picture (it’s not a mystery movie, as the bad guy’s identity is revealed in the opening sequence). It’s really, really short as well – running only about an hour – so, if you see that it’s on television or something, you should watch it.
My rating is 7 outta 10.