The Gorilla (1939)

Genre: Gorilla Movie


...scream newspaper headlines at the prelude to the film. Now those are the type of newspaper headlines I would like to see while I’m drinking my morning coffee.

I must admit, I have a penchant for gorilla movies. Not the movies with giant gorillas as in King Kong (although I do like those, too), but the movies featuring angry, murderous near life-size gorillas, such as Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) or The Ape (1940). I don’t know why I have this fixation – it must be something from my past, although one of my earliest childhood horror movie memories was watching a gorilla movie which I think was probably Konga (1961). Also the gorilla movie stills in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies was another major childhood influence – well, I hope that’s what the reason is, or maybe I’m just plain weird.

Rich tycoon, Walter Stevens (Lionel Atwill), receives a note informing him that he will die tomorrow at midnight and the note is signed by “The Gorilla”.

Bela Lugosi is taunted by a Ritz Brother
Instead of calling the police he calls three useless detectives, played by comedy threesome The Ritz Brothers. He also calls for the help of his beautiful niece Norma (Anita Louise) and her fiancé, Jack (Edward Norris).

Bela Lugosi plays Peters, the butler, and is great in his role – typically creepy and obviously a prime suspect. Patsy Kelly is Kitty, the maid, who has one of those ear-grating screams that was so prevalent with the comedic female characters in 1930’s horror movies.

The whole film takes place in the mansion which has that dark creepy atmosphere that was so well done in the 1930's, with plenty of rain and lightning outside.

There are plenty of strange goings on as the Ritz Brothers bumble around trying to solve the mystery. Hairy gorilla arms reach out from behind hidden panels in the walls, people disappear without trace, contorted faces peer in through windows and bodies fall out of cupboards.

I personally found the Ritz Brothers' fast firing humour to be very lame, but this may have had something to do with it being the last film in their contract with the studio.

Directed by the accomplished Allan Dwan, who first began his directing career in 1911, this was a remake of an earlier version originally adapted from a stage play.

Not so much a horror movie, but a murder mystery, this will still appeal to all fans of 1930’s horror movies – as well as gorilla movie lovers.

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