MURDERS IN THE ZOO
The entire film has been structured around the novelty title concept of a series of zoo animal related murders mambas loose under the dinner table, lions and Lionel Atwills end in an alarmingly convincing scene where he is crushed by a boa constrictor. What strikes is the wonderfully lurid nastiness of the film there being one good shock scene where Lionel Atwill throws his own wife off a bridge into a pit of crocodiles. Although the nastiest scene the one that upset everybody at the time and had the film banned in England is the first scene where we see Lionel Atwill having a mans mouth sewn shut.
Murders in the Zoo was a vehicle that starred the great Lionel Atwill, an actor who had come to prominence in Doctor X (1932) and Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). Atwill was a fabulous actor in fact, more talented than Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr and John Carradine put together although, apart from a few glorious moments like the aforementioned films and his memorable appearance as the wooden-armed inspector in Son of Frankenstein (1939), he spent the most of the rest of his career up until his death in 1946 in throwaway parts playing mayors and burgomasters in Universals monster sequels.
It is Lionel Atwill who gives Murders in the Zoo a wonderfully demented charge. The character is supplied with a sublimely droll sense of acid humour: You dont think I sat there all evening with an eight foot mamba in my pocket? Why, it would be an injustice to my tailor. There is more obvious comic relief with Charlie Ruggless bumbling reporter. However, the scenes with Atwill frequently work on wonderfully cool levels beneath the surface, such as Atwills visit to John Lodge to find his wife has been there. I was surprised to find a man like you had taken an interest in something outside his province. On the boat you and I seemed to have a mutual interest, he taunts Lodge. I dont understand. I refer to my animals.
Director (A.) Edward Sutherland hailed from England and had a long history in screen comedy going back to the silent era and worked with Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello and W.C. Fields during his career. Sutherland had delved into genre material several times with the screwball comedy International House (1933), the light fantasy Beyond Tomorrow (1940) and The Invisible Woman (1940), one of Universals Invisible Man sequels.
Clip from the film here:-