Today, as we posted earlier, is the birthday of director Eddie Sutherland. Usually associated with comedies, he did make a couple of horror movies, the straighter of which was the 1933 shocker Murders in the Zoo. (His later horror outing The Invisible Woman was much more tongue in cheek). Murders in the Zoo was made right in the thick of the vogue for Gothic horror in the pre-code era and it contains some genuine shocks.
Lionel Atwill plays a millionaire/ big game hunter with an insane amount of jealousy concerning his wife. While in safari in Africa, he sews a man’s mouth shut and leaves him to die with his hands tied behind his back in the middle of the jungle…all for supposedly trying to attract his wife.
Atwill then brings several big game animals (mostly deadly predators) on an ocean liner and transports them to the “Municipal Zoo” where a young Randolph Scott works as a scientist and Charlie Ruggles is the comic relief p.r. man. Now there is a serious rival for his wife’s affections and Atwill dispatches him with deadly snake venom. When the wife goes to blow the whistle, he throws her into a pit of alligators. When Scott confronts him about what he thinks is going on, Atwill stabs him with the snake venom too…little knowing that Scott had already invented an anecdote. When revived, Scott sounds the alarm. Cops comb the zoo looking for Atwill. He frees all the animals…but they start to chase HIM, so he crawls into a cage, where, maybe something very bad happens involving a deadly python.
To find out more about show biz past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc