About Me

My photo
This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Murders in the Zoo

Some years ago, I enjoyed the early (1933) Loretta Young film Zoo in Budapest.

Last night, from the same year, Svengoolie's pick was a bit more gruesome. He noted in his introduction that they would warn people before scenes that might upset some (the Hollywood Production Code not being enforced as strictly at the time) -- maybe, he should have done so at the opening since the film started with the twisted villain sewing a (live/awake) guy's mouth shut for flirting with his wife. His wife (actress famous for her role in Island of Lost Souls) was surprised when told the guy went out alone and asked what he said before leaving. The husband calmly noted "nothing." Do think that the two scenes we were warned about -- the wife dying in an alligator pit and some animals fighting (and perhaps the attempted murder of a scientist, also in that segment) actually might have been a bit less gruesome in a fashion than that one. Still, the "code" should have been happy -- adultery was not left unpunished here!

[Update: My DVR had a glitch a few times and apparently missed the reference regarding the first scene according to people here.]

Svengoolie is on at 10P.M. (EST) on ME (Memorable; a classics station) TV on Saturday nights over here and that is a pretty good time -- back in the day, and perhaps for some today, that sort of would be a "late show" for many people. Do think the midnight hour is the best time for this sort of thing and if you DVR the thing, you can fast forward past the commercials. OTOH, I have repeatedly actually watched the movie on Sunday morning, watching a half hour here, a half hour there while doing other things and waiting for afternoon sports. As noted in the past, find these films a mixed bag, some not paced or otherwise of the style that I prefer. This would include some fairly classic films. Others have been rather good, including this one as a whole. The Svengoolie bits also were pretty amusing and since the actual film was only around an hour, he added an "on the road" segment at a convention.

Classic stations, now even more prevalent with extra channels, and VCRs etc. allow people these days to enjoy old films, even a few silents. As with today, of course, the films are a mixed bag, but have seen a decent number of films from that decade over the years. For instance, I noted enjoying Fay Wray (who had a credit as late as Gideon's Trumpet, almost fifty years later from her most well known role in King Kong) as a lawyer. The film had various interesting aspects, including her first big moment in a trial involving a guy caught in a breach of contract suit that turned on a woman "passing" as white. After reading about her in a book on film censorship, I also checked out Hedy Lamarr (no, not the guy in Blazing Saddles) in the 1941 romance Come Live With Me (the title turns out to be a bit of a spoiler). Didn't quite like how the film developed, but the early scenes were good and Lamarr (with her accent and brunette hair etc.) definitely was enjoyable, even if she was not quite as risque as in Ecstasy. The ending aside, the early adultery does seem contrary to code.*

The charm with Murders in the Zoo included good pacing, a wickedly good lead, a doomed wife with a nice touch of style and an amusing bit of comic relief in a goofy press agent for the moment off the bottle. Various supporting characters rounded things out, including two rather bland roles, one an early role for Randolph Scott -- that scientist that appeared to be doomed. Given the similar times, I wonder if the zoo in the two movies were set in the same place. From what I recall, the entry-way looked alike, but perhaps gates at zoos would look alike. (As for zoos overall, I'm wary of them, at least for confining certain animals in small enclosures. Guess there is a way to have some animals that wouldn't mind the set-up, but others clearly rather not be so confined). Scott might have survived, but really shouldn't have -- he figures out a guy has killed at least two people (not clear if he knew about that other guy), who already accused him of negligence connected to the deaths and even brought a civil suit against the scientist. And, then invites the guy to his office to have it out!

Luckily, off-screen, the scientist did figure out how to develop a serum (which the villain ironically helped him with by bring back a poisonous snake) so his assistant (and love interest) was able to save him after he was attacked with the same toxin that killed the wife's lover (per the footnote, well, they did "love" each other and "made love" in the Jane Austen sense!). He might have been played by the person that turned out to be the biggest star (though others had some success too) but here was a rather bland sort of character. The villain was suitably killed by a large snake (the on screen summary of the film on Fios' listing saying just that would happen!) while trying to escape the zoo as some police or guards looked on without trying to do anything really.

The wife vaguely suggested the husband had some reason to blackmail her to stay, even though she didn't love him, but we never find out what. The movie ended (after we see the scientist is okay) with a comic bit of the press agent, now off the wagon, running into a large cat and bumping him on the head to shoo him/her (not it!) away. All and all, it was an enjoyable film. And, Svengoolie's Captain Spaulding (a Groucho Marx character) bit was quite good. Plus, the final joke about a contest where you try to get at some "steaks" high on a bar -- you either win or have to pay for everyone's drinks ... the "stakes" were too high! -- was pretty clever. Next week's movie is The Car, sometimes a later film included (here a forgettable 1970s thriller).


 * Lamarr's character is "from the country that used to be Austria" (thus the film has a bit of an edge), whose visa ran out. She hides under an assumed name, but immigration catches up with her. But, the agent is impressed when she takes the news calmly, and when her male admirer pleads with him to help, the agent suggests she get married to an American citizen. As you see, that is a well worn plot device.

She finds a willing party in a down on his luck Jimmy Stewart, who is so unwilling to take advantage of the opportunity, he doesn't even let her round up from $17.80 (itself a very conservative figure of his needs) stipend. An early scene includes Stewart interacting with a profession bum that turns out to have a wad of cash -- a bit harsh given many people around then begging for money really were in need. Though the male admirer (today it would be more easy to call him a "lover") was the one who was the very catalyst of the idea, she doesn't tell her about it, saying the reason she was able to stay was "a secret." Jimmy Stewart stays in his cheap flat but soon (who wouldn't?) falls in love with her.

But, the admirer tells her he actually is willing to divorce his wife, so she goes to JS asking for a divorce -- something without travel (the other guy's route) to Nevada a tricky thing in NY then and later. OTOH, if the authorities found out they weren't even living together, figure the whole thing would likely be annulled anyhow. That might help her immigration status though. Jimmy Stewart's honorable man routine (including not willing to take a buck from the bum that clearly didn't need it) was a bit much but again Hedy Lamarr was quite fetching.

My classic movies guide suggests many of her films as a whole weren't that good, but why need they be with such a draw?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your .02!