At sinister carnival The Garden of Evil, the main attraction is Goliath, "world's largest gorilla...cost the lives of 1,000 men before his capture." Barker Joey Matthews is about to enter the gorilla act, teamed with seductive mantrap Laverne, the owner's wife. Then a man is found dead of a broken neck. Was it Goliath or someone wearing Joey's gorilla suit? Detective Sgt. Garrison finds four interlocked romantic triangles among the suspects...
Something For Everyone
This semi-indie murder mystery from the fifties has a little bit of something for everyone. For one thing, it has an amazing cast: Anne Bancroft, Cameron Mitchell, Lee Cobb, Lee Marvin and Raymond Burr. It captures perfectly the tail-end of the amusement park era that was drawing to a close at this time due to television and Disneyland. Men dress in garish suits in this one, and smoke cigars, and there is, as always seemed to be the case with films with a circus or carnival setting, the air of an alternate reality just around the corner, in a sideshow or a funhouse.
This picture was an oddity even when it was new, feeling at times more like an episode of Superman than a movie. The gorilla looks exactly like what it is, a man in a gorilla suit, yet somehow this is acceptable, the way painted backdrops in silent movies are acceptable. If the big ape were presented realistically it would throw the whole film off. Method actors Mitchell and Cobb deliver fine B movie performances that give no hints that they were in fact classically trained, not to mention that they had once played together as father and son in the original Broadway production of Death Of a Salesman. Miss Bancroft was a babe, yet restrains her natural talent to give the sort of Suzanne Pleshette performance her part demands. Raymond Burr, still a few years away from Perry Mason, draws on his natural and inscrutable saturninity. His occasional moments of smiling and bonhomie remind me a little of Peter Lorre at his most forlorn, as he comes off like a grim, serious man trying awfully hard to be a good sport, which in turn makes him a perfect red herring. Lee Marvin plays a dumb cop named Shaughnessy, a good indication of the cleverness of the script.
Yet the movie works on its own terms. The color is well above average for this basically small-scale picture. Director Harmon Jones was a seasoned Hollywood veteran and knew how to slow down the action to create a sense of place, whether a policeman's office, a pier, a trailer or the ersatz jungle set, complete with trapeze. This sort of stylized, non-realistic movie was, like amusement parks, going out of fashion at the time it was made, and yet it has its virtues, notably a commitment to artifice rather than a representation of the real world, which freed the imaginations of the men behind the camera, allowing them to make little experiments with color, space and lighting. The movie is much better than camp. It's more like Edward Hopper Goes To the Circus.
Better than I expected
I had heard about "Gorilla at Large" for years, but avoided watching it because of the campy title and brief clips I had seen, usually of the gorilla swinging on a vine. Recently, this movie was broadcast on Fox Movie Channel. On a whim, I recorded it with my PVR and watched it the next day. To my surprise, I found "Gorilla at Large" to be an entertaining movie. It's not a monster film at all, or even a jungle themed movie. Rather, it's a crime/detective story that keeps you guessing. "Gorilla" has a very good cast and interesting story. A young Lee Marvin has an amusing role as a policeman. The sexy Anne Bancroft is the main star....although some might claim it is the gorilla.
Perfect film....for a drive-in
One of the "gems" from Anne's first stab at Hollywood. Drive in fodder would be completely forgotten if not for its cast. Anne Bancroft, looking sensational in Technicolor, is as good as the script allows-meaning she manages to keep a straight face during the ridiculous contrivances that the movie presents. Raymond Burr and Lee J. Cobb also put in professional performances, although Lee must have been longing for the days of the Group Theatre during production of this lulu. It's fun to see Lee Marvin just starting out as a clumsy cop. The whole thing is nonsensical but harmless unless you count the mystifying decision to make the usually brunette Cameron Mitchell a bleached blond, it does him no favors.
Now that was fun!
From what little I can find on the internet about Gorilla at Large, it seems that Anne Bancroft viewed the movie with disdain and wasn't at all proud of her appearance. Well, as far as I'm concerned, you can have your Academy Award for The Miracle Worker and you can have the incredibly dull The Graduate - who needs them? You can look down on Gorilla at Large, but I'd rather watch it any day over either The Miracle Worker or The Graduate. Why? It's just more fun! Call it cheesy, call it campy, call it whatever you want - bottom line, Gorilla at Large is one entertaining movie. What's not to like? A Technicolor 3-D (though I saw it in 2-D) murder mystery where a gorilla is one of the prime suspects - how cool is that? I mean any movie with a gorilla that is so obviously played by a guy in a suit and a director that has the cajones to have a character put on another gorilla suit is okay with me. Two gorillas for the price of one - can't go wrong with that.
In addition to the dismissive Anne Bancroft, Gorilla at Large has a very impressive cast. The resolute Raymond Burr, the cigar-chomping Lee J. Cobb, a baby-faced Lee Marvin, genre favorite Cameron Mitchell, and the most famous man in a gorilla suit, George Barrows, are all on hand for the fun. I realize that most of these actors were in the early stages of their careers, but what's the likelihood of getting two or even three "names" in a movie. Gorilla at Large has a known name or face at every turn. Amazing!
Overall, I had a great time watching Gorilla at Large. It's too bad Anne Bancroft never saw the fun in this movie.
Great, fun flick
This is one of the best B movie thrillers of the 1950's. Apart from the hokie gorilla costume (there are places where you can see the fingers bend backward), it's a fun movie and worth watching. A great Halloween double feature with "The Deadly Mantis."
However, Cameron Mitchell is totally unbelievable as a young law student at age 34! A mere year younger than amusement park owner Raymond Burr.
A delight for fans of Anne Bancroft to see her as a bit of posh tottie! Lee J. Cobb is great as the crabby police detective. Lee Marvin is a riot as the bumbling cop. Kudos to whomever played the gorilla, Goliath! Great job!
If you like Raymond Burr as Perry Mason, this film is a must see. Lots of similarities in his delivery in this and in Perry Mason.
One of my all-time favorite "corny but great" movies. Enjoy!
Entertaining little B-movie
A huge and fearsome gorilla named Goliath (essayed with considerable growling'n'grunting gusto by veteran simian thespian George Barrows in a lovably obvious suit) with a bad temper becomes the key suspect after a murder occurs at the Garden of Evil carnival. However, after another killing happens it's made apparent that Goliath might not be the one behind the carnage. Director Harmon Jones, working from a tight and absorbing script from Leonard Praskins and Barney Slater, relates the enjoyable story at a steady pace, offers a flavorsome evocation of the funky carnival fairground setting, presents plenty of red herrings, and stages the scenes with the ape running amok with real flair and skill. The lively acting from the tip-top cast rates as another major asset: Cameron Mitchell as the amiable Joey Matthews, a ravishing Anne Bancroft as sexy and enticing trapeze artist Laverne Miller, Lee J. Cobb as the hard-nosed, cigar-chomping Detective Garrison, Raymond Burr as no-nonsense carny owner Cy Miller, Charlotte Austin as sweet ticket gal Audrey Baxter, Peter Whitney as Goliath's scruffy handler Kovacs, and a very young Lee Marvin as dumb, but eager flatfoot Shaughnessy. Lloyd Ahern's vibrant color cinematography gives the picture a bold'n'bright look. Lionel Newman's robust'n'rousing score hits the stirring spot. An immensely fun flick.
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