Gorilla at Large (1954)

Gorilla at Large (1954)

“All I know is a couple of gorillas around here, and one of them’s a killer.”

A carnival barker (Cameron Mitchell) hoping to earn enough money to marry his girlfriend (Charlotte Austin) agrees to be part of a trapeze act involving a daring aerialist (Anne Bancroft) and a huge gorilla (George Barrows) cared for by a brooding keeper (Peter Whitney). But a brutal murder brings a detective (Lee J. Cobb) to the scene, and soon everyone — including Bancroft’s husband (Raymond Burr), owner of the carnival — is a suspect.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Anne Bancroft Films
  • Cameron Mitchell Films
  • Carnivals and Circuses
  • Lee J. Cobb Films
  • Lee Marvin Films
  • Murder Mystery
  • Primates
  • Raymond Burr Films

While Anne Bancroft may be best known for her award-worthy dramatic work as Anne Sullivan in The Miracle Worker (1962) and Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1967), she starred in quite a few lesser-known titles in her earlier career, including this luridly-titled drama set in the colorful world of carnivals. Bancroft plays an intrepid, lusty trapeze artist with a wandering eye, and is nicely supported by some big-name co-stars (including Lee Marvin in an unexpectedly buffoonish role). The storyline is reasonably engaging and filled with plenty of twists, even if you’re likely to guess the culprit in advance. Scenes involving a Kewpie doll are suitably surreal, and the cinematography and sets are nicely done. Worth a look if you’re curious.

Note: Was Burr (type)cast because of his previous starring role in Bride of the Gorilla (1951)? One wonders…

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Good use of carnival sets and atmosphere

  • Some amusingly surreal imagery

  • Fine cinematography
  • An effective whodunit script with plenty of twists

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look for its curiosity value.


One thought on “Gorilla at Large (1954)

  1. First viewing – not must-see.

    Ape or no ape, this movie’s a dog. Over the years, outside of Peary’s book, I’ve never heard of it…anywhere.

    Getting this main cast together was certainly a coup on someone’s part (by this time, they had all – more or less – done A-list projects). From the look of the film (which is pretty gussied up and glossy for such a tepid script), it seems there was enough money to make it worth the actors’ time, if not their reputations.

    A murder mystery should never be dull. This one is.

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