Saturday, February 11, 2012

GORILLA AT LARGE - Lionel Newman - "That's What Laverne Said" (1954)

This is an awesome title card that makes you sense immediately that there's going to be something different about "Gorilla At Large," and you would be right!

Brilliant portrait of a man and his amusement park!! In this case, it's Raymond (Perry Mason) Burr as owner Cy Miller, and the park is none other than what used to be one of the most interesting amusement parks in the country, and one of the stars of this film, The Pike in Long Beach, California!

Cameron (Buck Cannon) Mitchell is the star of the movie, but Goliath the gorilla is the star of the show! I did a search of our site, and if you put a couple of names in the little search window over there, their numbers come up like this so far, Boris Karloff 32, Vincent Price 28, Bela Lugosi 17, and after tonight Cameron Mitchell will be 12. Not bad for The Camster!

The music for "Gorilla At Large" was written by Lionel Newman, and is mostly a mixture of circus, and carnival music, but looking at Lionel's credits made my head spin like a carousel! As conductor and music supervisor, he worked on everything from "Dobie Gillis" to "Star Wars," from "Batman" to "Lost In Space!" The list goes on and on!

Everybody loves a guy in a gorilla suit, so why not make the movie in 3D? Goliath the gorilla swings or walks directly into the camera a number of times!

That's right, "Gorilla At Large" was originally released in 3D, and so it has more than it's share of thrills, spills, and moments like this!!

The always amazing Anne (Mrs. Robinson) Bancroft has the role of the swingin' wife of Raymond Burr, Laverne Miller!

Right now Laverne's act consists of pendulating over the gorilla, and awing the crowds with her moves, but they need a new gimmick, so they are going to recruit Cameron's character into wearing a gorilla suit, and then, in the new act, they'll switch out gorillas, and Laverne can actually drop into Goliath's arms! Well, that's the plan anyway!

This is a great shot of the main cast members all together. On the left is Cam and his girlfriend Audrey, who was played by the star of another gorilla movie, Ed Wood's "The Bride And The Beast," the lovely Charlotte Austin! There's Raymond Burr and Anne Bancroft, and on the far right are George Barrows in the gorilla suit, and Peter Whitney as Kovacs! Peter was in The Brute Man" with Rondo Hatten, and his credits read like an encyclopedia of TV westerns! In the middle doing all the questioning, is Lee J. (Judge Henry Garth) Cobb as Detective Sergeant Garrison! That's a whole lot of talent in a very small space!

A worker in the park has been murdered, and it looks like it might have been done by a large beast! In this scene, Goliath tries to get a little friendlier with Mrs. Miller!

The hard working cops are all over this murder case! Warren "Forbidden Planet" Stevens has the role of sidekick detective Joe!

The Miller's relationship is a little strained, he's just not the man he used to be, if you know what I mean, and they both carry around some heavy baggage from the past!

But then on a whole different level, Ain't Love Grand? A great actor that we never get a chance to write about because of our choice of genres is Lee (Detective Lieutenant Frank Ballinger) Marvin as the police officer named Shaughnessy, the guy who has got it all figured out!

The "Crazie Maize" house of mirrors is put to good use! As a kid, my parents took us to The Pike once or twice, and besides all the sailors and tattoo parlors, I remember there was quite an array of sideshows that featured acts like a sword swallower, or Zuzu The Monkey Girl, and I believe there was something like Adam and Eve that I just couldn't take my eyes off of! The Pike was also the location for the filming of a few other movies, most notably here would be Ray Dennis Steckler's "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?"

More murders lead to more questions! I love this shot!

I also remember going on this "Sharks Alive" submersible diving bell ride. In the movie, Kovacks is hiding the Gorilla in there for safe keeping because he's being accused wrongly of the murders! Big thinker Shaughnessy accidently leans on a lever causing the bell to resurface, which in turn allows Goliath to escape and run amok like a crazy monkey through the whole park!

This wouldn't be the only time that George Barrows would doff a monkey suit! George was also a gorilla in "Robot Monster," "Black Zoo," "Hillbillys In A Haunted House, and on "The Addams Family," and "The Lucy Show!" Have you ever priced a good gorilla suit? Well, I have, and they ain't cheap!!

In a big game of hide and seek, Goliath wanders around for what seems like forever, and the cops just can't seem to find him! It's Goliath by the Carousel, Goliath by the Tilt-A-Whirl, and Goliath by The Scrambler, and then in the end of the sound clip, you'll hear that the best music in the film, was by these two groups of mechanical performers!

To say that the ending was not anything like the tale of another much larger silverback gorllia character would be a lie!!

Kovacs shows Joey the correct way to hoist Laverne over his head! There was only one problem, he didn't want to set her back down! As it turns out, Kovacs was Laverne's first husband!!

Joey finally puts all the pieces of the puzzle together, but it's too late.......

.....Goliath's got Laverne and he's hightailing it to higher ground, and since there are no skyscrapers on the pier, he decides to climb to the top of the next best thing...............

...."THE CYCLONE RACER!!" "The Cyclone Racer" was a rickety old wooden roller coaster that went out over the Pacific Ocean. I never got to ride it, but it scared me just to look at it! There were stories of up to 17 deaths on the "Cyclone Racer," none of them due to gorillas, but mostly due to the rider's blatant disregard for the rules! The "Cyclone Racer" was unique in the fact that it had dual tracks, that allowed two cars to go at once! It was demolished in 1968, the last of it's kind in the United States!

Probably one of the happiest endings in all of Cameron Mitchell's portfolio!

I'll leave you with this fantastic production still of Anne, George, and Charlotte! Now that 3D has made a comeback, maybe we'll get lucky, and they'll release "Gorilla At Large" again some day!


Douglas McEwan said...

The Cyclone Racer in The Pike was the first rollercoaster I ever rode. When, in 1968, they closed t to tear down, a friend and I made a special point of going out to ride it one lsat time. (Well, 5 last times.)

It's also the rollercoaster in The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. It's supposedly Coney Island in New York, but the scenes with Lee Van cLeef and the real coaster were shot at The Pike.

Christopher said...

some great screen shots here..With the current big 3D craze..its time for a new GORILLA picture! :o))

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