Gorilla at Large (1954)
The 3D craze continues in the wake of House of Wax’s success with this Rue Morgue like tale featuring a number of well known faces and a couple of future Oscar winners. It’s a carnival backdrop for this tale of a man in a gorilla suit wreaking havoc and snapping necks while the real gorilla is implicated in the killings. I know, I know! Even the real Gorilla is still just a man in a monkey suit.
Top billed Cameron Mitchell is a young carny worker who serves as the barker for Goliath, the oversized Gorilla. For thrills and scares, Anne Bancroft does a flying trapeze act over top of the cage with Goliath climbing to the top of his man made mount in hopes of clutching his very own Fay Wray. Things get a bit hairy when her hubby and carny owner Raymond Burr fires an employee who turns up mangled and quite dead in the gorilla cage.
How about Lee J. Cobb and that other guy named Lee to show up as the detective and the beat cop. I’m referring to Lee Marvin as our other Lee, the beat cop, Shaugnessy. “The ape that can outsmart Shaughnessy just ain’t been born.”
Now that I’ve seen the film I’d have to say the jury is still out on that one Lee.
It won’t be long before another murder takes place in the house of mirrors. This right under the nose of Cobb. We know there’s an impostor running around in a gorilla suit so surely it must be the real Goliath’s handler. The large and suspicious looking Peter Whitney. Whitney rarely read a script that he wasn’t marked to play the thug within.
Then again, could he be the red herring? Warren Stevens is in here to but not a likely suspect. This time out he’s a good guy and trainee of Cobb. There is of course Burr who made for some of Noir’s great villains. Not much of a stretch to see Burr as the killer.
Lee J. Cobb is pushing hard when it comes to Cameron Mitchell. Cam is slated to be in on the act with Bancroft and the real gorilla. So much so that he does in fact have a gorilla suit in his locker. Sometimes it’s there while other times it goes missing thus seemingly incriminating Cam in the process. By the time the killer confesses we arrive at the one hour mark of this 84 minute feature.
There’s still an unlikely twist to come and let’s not forget the film’s title. We still need to have Goliath cause a ruckus at the carnival. Dare I say he grab onto to his lady love and start climbing something tall and handy on the carnival grounds?
Could be and thanks to the MGM Midnight Movie series that released some fine genre titles a few years back, you too can tune in and see just who is wearing the monkey suit and the reasons why.
Corny as this title plays, it’s still a fun technicolor adventure that one can easily spot the intended 3D thrills. Watch out for that gorilla on the vine swinging his way towards the camera and right off the screen into your lap. It’s sometimes ironic to look at the range of work an actor can either be given in the studio era or just the films he collects a payday in. Look no further than Lee J. In 1954 he appears in this kiddie scare picture that is but a blip on the map of film history while during the same season he starred as Johnny Friendly in what one could argue is the best film of the decade, On The Waterfront. I’d at least argue it may be the most influential.
A noteworthy cast within makes the whole mystery a hoot.