The Gorilla (1939)

Article #52 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 5-7-2001
Posting date: 9-20-2001

A man finds himself threatened by a mysterious killer known as the Gorilla. He hires three bumbling detectives to protect him.

As a horror movie, this is a pretty conventional old-dark-house type of movie, enlivened by the presence of Lionel Atwill and Bela Lugosi. It even has a twist at the end that catches me a little off guard, so I give it points for that.

As a horror comedy, I consider it an atrocity; not merely lame, as I find most other horror comedies, but painfully frustrating. The Ritz Brothers are IMHO the worst of the movie comedians, but not because I think their timing is bad or their jokes are lame; it’s because I don’t think they have any jokes. With most comedians, I can at least point to where the joke is and say “That was supposed to be funny.” With these guys, I see only big empty spaces where I sense jokes should be. The comic relief maid doesn’t help any, though I think she’s a little better than the Ritzes. As it is, the best comic performance comes from Bela Lugosi, who, as an obvious red herring, walks around with a slight grin on his face as if he’s fully aware that everyone in the audience already knows he’s not the main villain.

To paraphrase my wife’s description of the movie, in most bad comedies you don’t laugh; in this one, you feel you may never laugh again.

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