It’s an old rule in show business that you shouldn’t work with kids or animals – but that’s exactly what we are going to do right now, because this is
The Animals in Film Blogathon
Hosted by the blog In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood, this is a celebration of animal actors… or acting animals… anyway, non-human stars of the silver screen.
Please refer to the Good Old Days website for a full list of the blogs taking part in the blogathon, and be sure to check out the wealth of famous and obscure movies they will be covering.
Then come back here, because here we will be dealing with a
Gorilla at Large
… a movie filled with super-charged suspense.
And of course we are cheating – for all its bombastic title, there is no gorilla in Gorilla at Large.
The titular great ape is in fact George Barrows, a screen legend in his own right – a man famous for his ape roles in a number of movies and TV series1.
The gorilla suit Burrows used was his own creation, and is currently preserved in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
But on with the show.
Set in an amusement park called “The Garden of Evil”, the opening of the movie might seem to set up a noirish love triangle between barker Joey Mathews (Cameron Mitchell), acrobat Laverne Miller (Anne Bancroft) and her husband and manager Cyrus Miller (Raymond Burr).
And here we might as well pause and point out that the real interesting bit about this 1954 3D movie is the cast.
Not only we get Bancroft (beautiful), Mitchell and Burr (two great character actors), but also two screen legends in the making: Lee J. Cobb and Lee Marvin.
And Warren Stevens. And Peter Whitney.
In other words, there is enough talent in this little movie to bend space-time.
What are they doing here?
Paying the rent, probably – legend holds that Anne Bancroft was so ashamed of this movie she did not allow stills of hers from it to be circulated while she was alive.
But back to the plot – which soon takes a very pulp-style turn.
The main attraction of the show is Goliath “the largest gorilla in the world”, “the most infernal beast that man has ever seen” that supposedly claimed the lives of 1000.
Only Kovaks (Whitney) can control the beast – and when dead bodies start piling up, with broken necks and gorilla-connected circumstantial evidence, the Police comes to the conclusion that
there’s a couple of gorillas around here and one of them’s a killer
Or is it?
Gorilla at Large was shot in the Nu Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach, California – over a single week.
The movie is fun, silly, basically harmless entertainment, and in the end finding out who the killer really is honestly surprising.
Also, the cast is so good it’s still a pleasure watching them wrestle with the not-so-good script and squeeze out any last drop of entertainment.
And Anne Bancroft is gorgeous.
On a personal note, I remember watching this with my mother, on a summer afternoon so many years ago.
It was just simple family entertainment, and it remains a fond memory of mine.
The Internet Archive holds a fair copy of this movie – but be warned: it’s the original 3D version, so you should equip yourself with a pair of those green/red glasses.
You’ll get a hell of a headache, but that was part of the fun of 3D movies, too.
- most famously, Barrows was the Robot Monster in the eponymous movie – the one in which the Earth is menaced by an ape wearing a deep-sea diver helmet. ↩