Monday, May 16, 2011

CMBA Presents: The Films of 1939 Blogathon: "The Gorilla" A Photo Review

When I decided to do more than one review for this Blogathon I went and did a search for the worst films of 1939 hoping to find a real stinker to snark on.  Well, "The Gorilla" jumped out at me right away.  The second thing I obviously needed was to find the film which I had never even heard of and low and behold a friend was able to find it (thanks Claros) so I was off to the races.  I was so excited about finding it that I jumped right in to it that same night.  Boy, was I surprised! "The Gorilla" was actually very entertaining and Patsy Kelly was so hilarious then there was Bela Lugosi playing the straight faced butler sidling up to everyone at this scary old mansion where Lionel Atwill's character is up to no good. Call in the Ritz Brothers to try and solve all of the mysteries unfolding and you've got yourself a fun little film. So it really does go to show that one persons opinion (well okay, a few million) on a film being terrible doesn't always mean you won't find it likable, and in this case down right delightful.

Lastly, since there is actually a great copy of this film available to view online I'll provide the link after this review and I'm not going to spoil the ending so hopefully some of you will actually go watch it sometime and hopefully enjoy it as much as I did.

the CAST:
Anita Louise as Norma Derby
Patsy Kelly as Kitty 'the maid'
Lionel Atwill as Walter Stevens
Bela Lugosi as Peter 'the butler'
Joseph Calleia as 'the stranger'
Edward Norris as Jack Mardsen
Jimmy Rtiz as Garrity
Harry Ritz as Harrigan
Al Ritz as Mulligan
Paul Harvey as A.P. Conway
Director: Allan Dwan
Released by Twentieth Century Fox

We've got a killer on the loose who or may not be a gorilla.

A creepy old mansion is always a fun place for murder and mayhem.

Our adorable maid Kitty is trying her best to get some rest when it's interrupted by something delivering a note.

Of course she's terrified as she runs around the old mansion. Luckily, the gorilla was kind enough to pin the note to her robe since her arms are flailing about like broken rubber bands.

Bela sidles up out of nowhere, which I have a feeling he does a lot. (I'm glad to see he's had some eyebrow waxing done! White Zombie anyone?)

I appreciate notes that get right to the point. Walter just happens to be the owner of the house. 

We get our first glimpse of Walter who doesn't appear that concerned. Okay, his butler is Bela Lugosi to be fare so what's there to fear 

Kitty's scared but also a bit angry! She was hoping the note was from a nice chap interested in going steady.  You know who's single Kitty?, Bela!

Walter decides to call down and let his niece know he can't pick her up at the boat dock.  She's on her way to the house with her fiancée.  I'm guessing this her first visit otherwise she better be Elsa Lancaster. 

The guests arrives, and frankly if they look this terrified now just wait until a certain someone ask for their coats.

Awww! Everyone looks so happy. They're getting married in a matter of days so good for them. Obviously they don't see a lot of old films otherwise they would realize how that turned out for Madge Bellamy in 1932 after spending a few minutes around Bela in an old mansion. I think this calls for a toast. Cheers!

Oops! No time to celebrate. Uncle Walter wastes no time showing the note. 

Kitty isn't up for another night so she decides it's time to go.

When Lionel Atwill tells you you're safe  thats your cue to wait by a well lit curb for a cab.

The Ritz Brothers show up in their cartoon car to save the day. What's hilarious is they run into the back of Norma and Jack's car when they pull up. 

We get our first glimpse of this trio who look like a discount version of Abbott and Costello plus a spare.  You better be funny since I've raved about this film, boys.

Poor Bela! He's just trying to settle in to a quiet little town and allow Lon Chaney Jr. to take the reigns.  Show these idiots your cape Bela.

Oh, Whew! I thought for a second they were going to try their version of the "Who's on first" routine.  Not cool boys....know your place.

We get some back and forth banter as they get details about the note, murders and where to find Kitty's nerve pills. 

It's storming like mad which has everyone a bit on edge. Please let Bela sidle up..I love when he does that.

N: Just look at those three idiots. J: And you know they have wrecked our car. N: If I didn't know any better I would swear you're a bit materialistic dear.  J  Well, and your only living relative is nuts and menacing so we're EVEN!

J: Don't be nervous dear. N: I found Kitty's stash of hash  J: Oh, well don't be stingy N: Meet me in the basement in five minutes but bring a snack. J: When you mentioned your first beau was Robert Mitchum I should have been more cautious. 

Bela shows back up after finishing his 4 a.m. paper route.

Awww Norma, leave Bela alone, he's trying to retire.

Walter is off hiding papers in cubby holes. 

I'm starting to not like Norma..she's trying to get Bela fired plus theres her questionable taste in men.

More sidling...

which scares the pants off of Kitty who's still a ball of nerves.

Being the dogged detectives that they are, the dimwits decide it's time to harass Kitty. 

I don't know who is who so I'll just say Dummy #1 stumbles around the kitchen

Bela has had enough so he flips Harrigan or Mulligan in one swift move. 

Nope! Still not funny...which is really a shame for Patsy Kelly who is very funny while possibly high.

It's time for dinner but if you notice Bela carving candles or squeezing his hands together just skip dessert and get the heck out of there.

All of a sudden we get flickering lights and another note thrown through the window.  Get in there Kitty and wear your fancy dress just in case.

We've got more guests! This is really turning into a party.

Hey! I've seen this mangy gorilla before. Boris Karloff is that you?

He's looking a bit rough. You would think the prop department would clean that costume every few movies.

We get an announcement over the radio. Norma doesn't seem all that concerned being Walter's sole heir and all.  Now who's materialistic?.

K: If we can talk a second, someone has stolen my stash. Dummy #3: We found a brick of hash in the fridge...don't you ever cook or talk without your hands flying everywhere?  K: Don't you wish you were Bud Abbott? 

The Ditz Brothers decide to try stair climbing which proves to be too much. Darn those clever architects.

Ha Ha! Bela is still sidling up to everyone which I could watch him do for an hour. Flip Dummy #2 again Bela.

We get another radio announcement and apparently Walter is dead in 15 minutes. I just hope the killer isn't waiting up stairs otherwise he's on his own.  

Oh, times about up! I hope you loaded enough bullets to take Harrigan and Mulligan out with you.

This is Norma trying her best to act like she really cares about losing Walter. I saw Madge Bellamy as a zombie recently and she managed to pull off more emotion.

Bela's amused and happy he no longer has to carry a film. 

Even he's confused about the idiotic lines Twentieth Century Fox gave the Ditz Brothers.  Flip him again Bela.

Walter has now disappeared and the D. B's still can't navigate stairs. Pretend you're a baby and crawl up..Just go somewhere.

Lets check in with Norma who's still attempting emotions and facial expressions. (Don't ever try hash kids)

We've got another body.. The Ditz Brothers are going to need another six weeks to solve this one. I've already forgotten why they came in the first place.

The guy in the closet isn't dead but once he wakes up and realizes Bela carried him upstairs then questioned him it's doubtful he'll ever be the same.  

These two have finally come to realize they're in danger.

Let's check in with these three...Nope still bumbling fools.

We get a few scenes of them sitting in Walter's chair and disappearing one by one when the lights go out. Am I sad that they are disappearing?  Uh, not really but where were was Abbott and Costello in 1939?. They would have been great in this one. Well I guess we can't have everything, where would we put it?

We're down to one Ditz Brother so he volunteers Kitty to have a seat. Flip him Kitty!

Kitty has the best lines!

When the lights come back on Bela is there of course and the last Ritz is gone.

Bela doesn't say much but when he does it's hilarious in that magical accent of his.

Kitty's coming unglued with the realization that Bela might be up to no good. Of course thats not really fair since he hasn't bitten anyone.

I think it might be time to sedate Kitty! 

More company

He runs right in to one of the Ritz's (no I don't know which one and I doubt if I ever will know who's who) 

He's asked the wrong person if he ever wants to know what in the world is going on around here.

We've got humans who might be gorilla's, A gorilla that might be Boris Karloff but don't tell Bela...they've got history... then we have people disappearing and a butler who may or may not be up to don't just sidle up to people for no reason.

One of the Ritz Brothers gets knocked out and it may or may not be Garrity.  Thanks for stopping by buddy.

He's found the secret hiding place so at least he's there for an actual purpose.

Jack is back from his walk and comes upon one of the Ditz's handcuffed.  Who are these people?

More company with guns and secrets. So far not one mystery has been solved and we are almost to the end. Boy I hope theres no cliffhanger and a sequel to watch.

It appears Walter has been doing some shady business dealings 

I fear she might be broke Jack so it's time you find a fiancée with a pulse.

Guess who still hasn't managed to navigate stairs?.

They eventually find their way into the basement where one of them gets terrorized by a dress form.

Okay, that was kind of funny.

Bela's still trying to get Norma to drink something. We all know how that turned out for Madge.  Sadly, would we know if Anita changed over?

Never mind the drink...Do you like my hair?  Theres this wonderful actress over at MGM who gave me styling tips.

If her initials are N.S. do yourself a favor and ignore her advice. Excuse me, I've got to go flip one of those Ditz Brothers.

Come closer my dear

This is Anita being terrified.

and hanging out a window after the gorilla grabs her. Thats better.

Bela sure gets a lot of work done for someone being accused of every sinister acting occurring. 

If  Bela had kidnapped your fiancée you wouldn't have her back in this lifetime.   

Let's see what the Ritz's are up to. Very little!

In the meantime Kitty has run into the detective who's been wandering around looking for secret rooms. I'm doubting Kitty does much cleaning otherwise she would know this place is full of secret passages. 

A zoo keeper shows up to retrieve his gorilla. Don't waste your time talking to these three buddy.

Everyone keeps leaving poor Norma alone to fend for herself. He looks like he smells really bad too. Not to mention the constant shedding.

Oh dear! What did you go and do to your hair?

Kitty finds herself locked in a cage down in the garage. I'm guessing she'll blame the butler.

Oh, this entire thing was over stolen monies. I would have never imagined Wall Street would be behind theft, unpaid debts and blackmail. Norma better make sure the house isn't in foreclosure since thats about all thats left.  Oh, and so glad she found a scarf.

They follow the radio wires down into a hidden room.

Where Walter is tied up but still alive.  He really is the worst host.

We really do need to have a talk about your butler, he looks oddly familiar.

Get out of here you three! Worst detective agency EVER!

Well thats my take on The Gorilla. Obviously I wasn't that crazy about The Ritz Brothers (I had never seen any of their films prior to this one) but overall the film is quite entertaining.  I couldn't find any fun facts about the film but I welcome comments and I'm very interested to see if anyone else has seen this one.  See you back here tomorrow for The Ice Follies of 1939 and more snark. (Poor Joanie is having a bad week but I do love her and all of her wonderful flaws.)  Oh and if this review seems short it's because I left out a few scenes towards the end as not to ruin the ending for those wanting to see it.  Heres the link for those interested The Gorilla.


  1. Lionel, Bela, and the Ritz Brothers--what a cast! I haven't seen this movie since I was a kid, so it will be fun to check it out again. I love that line of dialogue: "I guess the party's over, my gorilla friend." I need to use the next time I host a party (and it's about to end).

  2. Rick,
    That's a perfect line to use at a party as long as you don't have a hairy guest. : )
    This really was a good film.

  3. page...absolutely blog is 10 times better than the movie...almost every film with THE RITZ BROTHERS was sub-par...I am going to post this on facebook and tumbler!!!

  4. Bela is sure the star of this show! Your references to White Zombie were hilarious. I have always just HATED the Ditz Brothers (I like that name better.) I don't know why anybody would hever hire them in the first place for a movie. Again, laugh-out-loud good, Page. Did you know there is an alternate ending, where Boris Karloff turns out to be one of the Ditz Brothers in disguise, and he and Bela duel to the death? Well, there isn't...Snark!

  5. Doc,
    Thank you! I'm glad to hear honest opinions on those who didn't care for a certain film. Other than the Ritz Brothers being in the way I thought it was pretty good with an interesting ending.

    Dang you! I can't believe I still fall for your tricks after you set me up about Bruce Dern. Ha Ha That would have been a great ending.

    I'm glad you are still able to laugh and haven't keeled over partner.

  6. This movie kind of looks...amazing!

  7. I love your 'meta-commentary' technique on the film! Maybe the Three Stooges should have been cast instead of the Three Ritzes (now THERE'S a might-have-been scenario!)- looking forward to your Ice Follies post!

  8. Thanks for your Ditz-alicious review! You really can't stop until you review all Bela Lugosi films. Or all of the Ritz Brothers films. You flipped all of them single-handedly with your devilish comments.

  9. Kendra,
    It's actually pretty fun so hopefully you'll watch it sometime.

    Grand Old Movies,
    Thank You! This one was so opposite from The Women with it's dark scenery and attempt at horror. I became an even bigger fan of Patsy Kelly after watching it and those Ritz Brothers are a mess.

    Thank You for hanging in there for a second snarky review. I wasn't sure where to go with Bela's character after recently snarking on White Zombie but he really was one cool character in this one. I'm not sure I could sit through another Ritz Brothers vehicle but ya never know.

  10. "Giggles", you've done it again!

    I've always felt that "The Gorilla" needed songs. Whaddya think?

  11. Caftan Woman,
    I'm not sure if my nerves could have taken music. Those Ditz Brothers had me a bit on edge. I'm glad you got a laugh out of this one.

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. Hey, Page, I think there's a spammer in our midst! Anyway, my mad love for your hilarious pictorials continues with THE GORILLA; your witty, snarky captions are truly laugh-out-loud funny! It's like MST3K in a blog!

    Some of my favorites among your quips:

    "When Lionel Atwill tells you you're safe thats your cue to wait by a well lit curb for a cab."

    "Please let Bela sidle up..I love when he does that."

    "Well, I guess we can't have everything, where would we put it?"

    Judging from that photo of the stairs in your “Ditz Brothers” caption, they'd give M.C. Escher a run for his money!

    I've heard of The Ritz Brothers, since my late mom adored them. I've never seen any of their films myself, but they're certainly great foils for your blog captions, to say nothing of Bela Lugosi. Great job, Page!

  14. Dawn,
    Thanks for the heads up on the spam. That's the first time having to delete a comment. I've been working to get the Ice Follies post up.

    I was a bit disappointed that Atwill wasn't more prominent in this one since he plays the villain so well. Bela and Kelly are what saves this film and when Bela flips that Ditz brother for getting too close I couldn't stop laughing.

    I'm so glad these lighter reviews are being well received. As a lover of old cinema I can also have a laugh at the studios, actors but it is all in fun and done with love.
    Thanks for your nice comments.

  15. I'll probably be asked to leave the CMBA with this admission, but I (hangs my head in shame) kinda like the Ritz Brothers. I think they're funny. They make some faces in the "Let's Go Slummin" number from "On the Avenue" (1937) that kill me every time I see it.

    There was a box set of Ritz Brothers movies that were suppose to come out from Fox several years ago, but that was before the economy went south and the studios curtailed their catalog titles. I still hope some of them get released some day as MOD titles.

    I like "The Gorilla" too, but then I think there's not any movie that can't be improved by a guy in a gorilla suit.

  16. I really enjoyed this review! I don't know what it is about your pictorial reviews...but they really are powerful. I don't even want to THINK about how long it must have taken to write!

    Great job!