Murders in the Zoo (1933)

Murders in the Zoo (1933)

“I can promise you a really unusual evening.”

An insanely jealous animal collector (Lionel Atwill) plots to murder his wife’s lover (John Lodge) at a fundraising dinner for the local zoo; meanwhile, the zoo’s new press agent (Charles Ruggles) is on hand for comic relief.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Horror
  • Infidelity
  • Jealousy
  • Lionel Atwill Films
  • Randolph Scott Films
  • Revenge

At just over an hour in length, this early Paramount horror film zips by in its depiction of a psychopathic husband who wreaks creative revenge on his unfaithful spouse (Kathleen Burke). Unfortunately, the inclusion of Ruggles as a comedic supporting character is both annoying and unwelcome — whenever things start to look appropriately gloomy and creepy, Ruggles appears and ruins the effect. While it’s enjoyable to see Burke (so memorable as the Panther Woman in Island of Lost Souls) in a non-feline role, Atwill himself overacts, turning what could have been a deliciously creepy portrayal into a ham-fest.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The truly gruesome results of Atwill’s first bout of torture
  • Kathleen Burke as Atwill’s perpetually fearful wife

Must See?
No. While Peary lists this as a Sleeper in the back of his book, I don’t think it’s necessarily worth seeking out.


One thought on “Murders in the Zoo (1933)

  1. First viewing. Not a must.

    ‘MITZ’ has an intriguing opening scene – and pretty much goes downhill from there. I don’t think it “zips by” particularly; it feels longer than its length. Though I don’t usu. mind Ruggles – and sometimes like him very much in movies – I agree that he’s on the annoying side here. He seems to be overplaying out of desperation a bit – when an actor does that, it’s usually because he’s trying to compensate for an inferior script. ‘MITZ’, in fact, does not have a particularly good script. I’ve seen Atwill overact more obviously elsewhere; his creepiness here is garden variety. The ones who come off best are Gail Patrick (so good a few years later in ‘My Man Godfrey’ and ‘Stage Door’, as well as other films) and Randolph Scott: the two underplay well considering they don’t really have all that much to do as ‘the love interest’.

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