Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Gorilla (1939)

Wikipedia informs me that the stars of this film staged a very public walk-out over the poor quality of the script.  As recommendations go, that's not one.

Said stars are the Ritz Brothers, a trio of comedy siblings who enjoyed a successful film career with Fox through most of the 1930s.  That probably immediately puts you in mind of the Marx Brothers - it certainly did me - but the Ritz's don't seem to be copying the other group's act (or vice versa, I guess).

The premise of the film is that there is a serial killer on the loose.  He goes by the sobriquet "The Gorilla", because 1930s Hollywood sure did love its anthropoid antics.  Something of a prima donna, the murderer has publicly announced his planned victims in the past, and the movie begins with another such threat being delivered.  Walter Stevens, a businessman, is the target.

Despite the pleas of his niece, Stevens declines to inform the police.  His argument is that doing so did not help the previous victim.  Instead, he hires three detectives (the Ritzes, of course) to protect him.  Given how incompetent they swiftly show themselves to be, you might start to wonder if Stevens actually wants to die.  Or maybe, just maybe, there's more to the situation than meets the eye?

Meanwhile, in one of those only-in-Hollywood coincidences, a real gorilla escapes its pen and ends up at Stevens's house.  Shenanigans inevitably ensue.

This is another film that I suspect has ended up in the boxed set because Bela Lugosi has a role in it.  It's certainly not actually a horror film - not even a comedy horror like some of the others in the pack.  It's a comedy whodunnit.  Alas, the comedy part is pretty terrible - the same handful of jokes wear very very thin by the end of its 65 minute run time.  The mystery element actually had one more twist than I expected, but by the time it is revealed I doubt you will care any more.

Mindbogglingly, this is the third movie adaptation of this story, which began life as a play.  You'd think they'd have done a better job of it after so many attempts.

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