Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Old School Quick Reviews: Murder in the Zoo (1933)

A special thanks to Svengoolie for sending a strange gem my way.  This is some old-school, pre-Code goodness...
In this Film, a crazy guy (Lionel Atwill) is a super-jealous Big Game Hunter (before the Game Series) that does a horrible thing to a guy who dares talk to his wife.

To note, the infamous Hays Code put rules (sometimes Racist) in place to control content.  This was before said Code...
Basically, situations keep arising that put Atwill's wife near other men.  To be fair, she does plan to leave him later, so it's not like he's paranoid for nothing.

Unfortunately for the other people, there's a snake involved (even if it is from the wrong Continent).
The guy is so crazy that he kills a suitor at a Party designed to raise money for the Zoo he helped fill...thus ruining everything.
To break up the vicious killings- which include tiger attack, alligator attacks and poisoning-, there is lots of random Comedy from this guy.  He's not subtle.
As things escalate, he even kills his wife!  All of this can't come to a good end, can it?
Nope.  He tries to escape by setting the big cats free (letting them legit fight on-screen...damn!), but is killed by a snake.  He truly was a pioneer.  The End.
Damn!  For a Universal Film older than any living relative I have, this one is dark.  Mind you, this is actually a Paramount Film sold to Universal for...well, you know.  In any case, this Story sure is bleak and not as dated as you'd think.  The only parts that stand out (for the wrong reason)- the Charlie Ruggles bits.  Don't get me wrong- I can see why many people found him funny.  Here, though, his presence is just plain bizarre.  It would be like if you had Carrot Top working at the Murder Hostel in Hostel to cut back to between bleedings and maimings.  Mind you, Carrot Top's plastic surgery-shaped face is scarier than most things in Hostel- boom!  The Hays Code is controversial for a number of obvious reasons.  It set arbitrary guidelines for Films, led to censorship and talked quite a bit about adhering to 'divine law.'  Yeah, that's just code for 'Racist White Folks hiding behind the Bible.'  That said, stuff like this shows you that there was at least some sort of controversy to inspire it.  It is certainly 'worse' than Dr. Frankenstein referring to himself as God or Scarface (the original, kids) being a glamorous criminal.  Censorship is still wrong, but damn this stuff can be dark at times.  It makes you wonder how it would work in the 1960s...
Dark stuff- even by today's standards.  Sometimes the stuff that freaked out your Grandparents still has some life.

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