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Logan Adams
Logan Adams

Gorilla At Large(1954)

Cyrus Miller's carnival has come to town. Its chief draw is a big, bad gorilla named Goliath. Each night, Goliath is teased by a tantalizing trapeze artist named Laverne (Anne Bancroft). She swings back and forth, just out of reach from the simian's upraised arms. Naturally, this frustrates Goliath, but audiences are thrilled. However, Cyrus (Raymond Burr) thinks the act is getting old. So he promotes carnival barker Joey (Cameron Mitchell) from pitchman to performer. Joey will don a black, hairy gorilla costume and become Goliath's replacement. The difference is this time Laverne will fall from the trapeze and into the arms of a grunting, bellowing Joey. The idea seems promising to everyone but Kovacs (Peter Whitney), Goliath's trainer, who's about to become unemployed. Joey has a fiancée named Audrey (Charlotte Austin), and she's not happy either. She knows Laverne's a hot little number with a reputation to match. This new act means Laverne will be working closely with her intended.

Gorilla at Large(1954)

That evening, the carnival's crooked concessionaire, Morse, is found dead near Goliath's cage. Police speculate he ventured too close to the dangerous gorilla. But Joey becomes a suspect when it is learned he once threatened Morse for molesting Audrey. However, Joey believes Cyrus, who's sweet on the luscious Laverne, is out to frame him. In the meantime, Goliath escapes from his cage. Audrey's screams are heard from the Hall of Mirrors, and the carnival's crew rush to her aid. They find her safe, but another associate lies dead nearby. Nevertheless, the show must go on, so Laverne proceeds with her act. The only problem is the simian figure she's performing with is not Joey. It's actually Goliath. When the unsuspecting Laverne does her planned drop, she realizes too late that she is in the arms of Goliath, who carries a screaming Laverne to the top of the carnival's roller coaster. The gorilla dies in a hail of bullets. And the murderer? (Don't read further if you haven't seen the film.) It turns out to be Laverne, who reveals she was one of Morse's blackmail victims. As she is led away by police, Joey and Audrey resolve to quit the carnival.

George Barrows impersonated Goliath, one of many gorilla roles in his film and TV career. The most famous of these was as the alien Ro-Man in Robot Monster (1953), also a 3-D production, in which he wore a gorilla suit with a diving helmet on his head.

THE MOVIE: Gorilla at Large provided a wealth of material for Randy and Richard to work with. Remember, their previous show had been The Trivia Guys and this film about a murderous gorilla at a circus was packed with opportunities for pop culture shoutouts. To cite just a few:

* George Barrows, the man in the gorilla suit as our title monster Goliath, was the same guy who wore the ape/robot outfit as Ro-Man in that staple of Bad Movie shows Robot Monster (previously shown on The Texas 27 Film Vault).

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.

Despite the fact that Morse was found mangled in a gorilla containment area, Garrison seems interested in the fact that Joey is currently equipped with his own ape suit. This is a rather unconvincing element of the film, but the fact that Joey is supposedly under suspicion is what drives him to solve this and the other (oops, sorry) murders. Needless to say, one of the future victims is Somebody Who Knew Too Much, and is done in just before they planned to alert the police.

An above-average chiller, though probably not a film that star Anne Bancroft would regard as one of her career highlights. She still cuts a fine figure in her trapeze artist catsuit, in this tale of bizarre killings seemingly linked to fellow amusement park employee Cameron Mitchell (resplendent in a crummy gorilla costume). Director Harmon Jones uses as his backdrop the technicoloured splendour associated with fairgrounds and swells the story with a superb supporting cast, including Lee J Cobb, future Ironside actor Raymond Burr and, in an early career break, Lee Marvin. This was originally released in 3D, so if things hurtle at you for no apparent reason, you'll know why.

The postwar period featured more rapid expansion as well as a growing incorporation into municipal society. Buoyed by municipal bond issues in 1948 ($800,000) and 1960 ($150,000), the zoo completed a diverse set of new facilities, including an Animal Health Department (completed 1953) and the Great Ape House (completed 1957). A longtime inhabitant of the latter building was a male lowland gorilla named Bobo, who was the zoo's most famous resident from 1953 until his death in 1968. The zoo's profile was raised further in 1954 by the new KCTS children's program "Buttons and his Buddies," which followed zoo animals and staff during its 17-year run on the air. The most consequential development of this time, ultimately, may have been the 1965 founding of the Seattle Zoological Society (later Woodland Park Zoological Society) as a promotional and fund-raising organization auxiliary to the Parks Department. 041b061a72


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