7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Gorilla at Large
Gorilla at Large is directed by Harmon Jones and jointly written by Leonard Praskins and Barney Slater. It stars Cameron Mitchell, Anne Bancroft, Lee J. Cobb, Raymond Burr and Charlotte Austin. Out of Panoramic Productions and filmed in Technicolor, the music is by Lionel Newman and cinematography is by Lloyd Ahern.
An amusement park/circus is rocked when a freshly sacked employee is found brutally murdered inside the cage of the star attraction, Goliath the Giant Gorilla. The evidence points to it being the short tempered beast, but many of the human employees also had reasons to commit the crime......
Well it sounds like a Z grade picture, both in title and synopsis, and with it originally released in 3D during the short lived 3D boom of the mid 1950s, it was hardly going to be the Citizen Kane of Schlocky Horrorville. Yet it's a picture that is far better than it has any right to be, oozing a fun vibe coupled with the "who done it?" mystery element, pic doesn't lack for effort or genuine intrigue. Yes it's unintentionally funny at times, and there was never going to be a time when a man in a Gorilla suit (George Barrows) wasn't going to be corny, but it's a very good production (lovely Technicolor) and boasts a super cast of actors into the bargain. Is it scary? Well no, not really, that is unless you suffer from Agrizoophobia? Yet there's enough suspense and iffy character shenanigans to more than lift this above the ridiculous.
Anne Bancroft spent the rest of her career denouncing the film, like many others who were tied into studio contracts back in the day, thus "having" to do films they would rather not do, she forgot that this type of film still had many fans. She looks a picture here, very slinky and shapely, OK so she's not pulling up any acting trees as the central lady character, but it's a nice performance that sits well with the tone of the story. Burr files in for one of his imposing "possible" villain roles, and Mitchell is at home in the genre. There's much fun to be had with Cobb's performance as cigar chomping Detective Sergeant Garrison, mainly because he seems to be the only male actor taking it seriously! Unlike Lee Marvin, who in a secondary supporting cop role plays it with tongue in cheek and appears to be enjoying himself into the bargain. Nice to see the chiseled features of Warren Stevens (Forbidden Planet) on board as well.
Filmed at Nu Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach, California, Harmon Jones (The Pride of St. Louis) makes good use of the funfair location. With rides and stalls colourfully forming the backdrop, there's a big sense of fun and adventure as the bustling public carry on about their business oblivious to the murder, love ratting and suspicion that's going on behind the scenes. It also allows the director to slot in some staple (good) funfair sequences, namely the Room of Mirrors and the Rollercoaster. While Newman's score isn't found wanting as it builds up a head of steam for the more dramatic periods. As for the outcome of this murder mystery? Well it's a doozy, nigh on impossible to figure out because it's suitably bonkers. And that's just one of the many beauties of Gorilla at Large. 7/10
Mystery on Monster Island
It makes Plan 9 from Outer Space look a masterpiece.
Jules Verne must turn in his grave every time this daft adaptation of his story is shown any where in the world. As a lover of creaky creature features and sci-fi schlockers myself, I can understand to a small degree why the odd genre fan will stick up for this as a piece of fun and harmless entertainment, but they shouldn't kid themselves that this is not the lowest of the low of Z grade monster movie world. Something like Plan 9 has viable budget excuses, this, however, does not.
In Terence Stamp and Peter Cushing you have two of Great Britain's most elegant actors appearing, and location work comes from the Canary Islands, Asturias and Puerto Rico. There was money there, definitely. But what follows is a crude attempt at a comedy/adventure movie that just embarrasses every one involved. In fact with Stamp and Cushing only really bookending the picture, you have to feel that they drugged them and never let them see the hour and half of film in between!
Again I have to say that there are many a "man in rubber suit" movies that I enjoy and gladly have as part of my own DVD collection, yet this sullies the good name of low budget schlock creators. The bad "monster" creations aside for a moment, the acting reaches new levels of awfulness, so bad in fact that Ian Sera, David Hatton, Gasphar Ipua and Blanca Estrada are out acted by a chimp! The monsters are laughably bad, the sort you see when your 8 year old nephew makes a 5 minute monster movie short in your back garden. At one point our hapless castaways are menaced by seaweed monsters, they are all wearing gabardine trousers! (pants for our American friends). Funny? Yes it was. Insulting? Without doubt.
Amazingly there's a real nice print on the DVD, with Andrés Berenguer's lovely location photography sticking out like a sore thumb (filmed in Dinavision Technicolor no less!). There's even the joyous site of a Gatling Gun firing bananas, while the presence of some genuine wildlife animals briefly lifts the spirit. Yet there is every chance that if those animals could talk? With all things considered...they too felt embarrassed to be in this hopeless waste of time and money. 1/10