The Gorilla (1939) Review

The Gorilla (1939) ReviewHorror and comedy often go together- sometimes successfully… and sometimes not so much.

During a rash of killings by someone calling themselves, “The Gorilla,” Walter Stevens receives a death threat from the killer.  For protection, he hires a group of three bumbling detectives to protect himself.  Secret passage ways, an escaped gorilla, and a strange butler soon complicate the case… and put their client at risk...

Not only am I a fan of older horror films, but I’m also a fan of old comedies.  Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers,  and Abbot and Costello especially.  This film is the first time I’d heard of The Ritz Brothers (who play the three bumbling detectives), and I was hoping for the same type of charm and lightness of humour that I enjoyed from the other groups.

Unfortunately, even though I smiled once or twice at their antics, I didn’t really laugh, or feel entertained by them.  Instead, I just felt like I’d seen the same sort of pratfalls, facial expressions, and  running around that the others had done… except the others did it better.  This could be due to the fact that all three of their characters were pretty much the same.  Don’t get me wrong- there are some decent lines from them in the movie, but just not enough to leave me feeling good at the end of the film.

There are some good lines delivered by Patsy Kelly (playing the maid, Kitty), but overall, her voice winds up grating on you by the end of the movie. Lionel Atwill was enjoyable to watch as Walter Stevens- though his role was actually somewhat limited, which was a shame in my opinion.

And of course, there’s Bela Lugosi as the butler.  As usual, he turns in a great performance- but, like Atwill, his role is limited and he’s essentially there to add a big name to the cast.  I really loved his straight faced delivery of his lines though- those I actually chuckled at.  If you really want to see him put out a good comedic turn- watch the 1944 mystery/comedy movie, “One Body Too Many“, where he gives a brilliant performance again as the butler.  Originally, Lugosi wasn’t signed up for “The Gorilla“.  His role was originally meant to be played by Peter Lorre.

Even though “The Gorilla” is categorized as a comedy/horror,  the horror elements are few and scattered.  The storyline itself is a jumble, and pretty much a thin excuse for one piece of disconnected silliness after another.

I will say though, that I did enjoy the musical scoring- which is actually something I seldom pay any attention too.

In the final analysis, this isn’t one of those films that I’d watch more than once… even as a Bela Lugosi fan.

Click to rate this!
[Average: 0]