Black Zoo (1963)


(director: Robert Gordon; screenwriter: Herman Cohen/Aben Kandel; cinematographer: Floyd Crosby; editor: Michael Luciano ; music: Paul Dunlap; cast: Michael Gough (Michael Conrad), Jeanne Cooper (Edna Conrad), Rod Lauren (Carl), Virginia Grey (Jenny Brooks), Elisha Cook Jr. (Joe), Jerome Cowan (Jeffrey Stengle), Edward Platt (Chief of Detectives Rivers), Marianna Hill (Audrey), Byron Morrow (Coroner), Douglas Henderson (Lt. Mel Duggan), George Barrows (Man in a gorilla suit); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Herman Cohen; Warner Home Video; 1963)

An obscure and ridiculous gory horror pic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An obscure and ridiculous gory horror pic effectively helmed by Robert Gordon(“Tarzan and the Jungle Boy”/”Best of Enemies”/”Revenge of the Red Baron“). Writers Herman Cohen and Aben Kandel ineptly script this macabre chiller in a plodding manner. The star, Michael Gough, overacts. But there are a few mind-blowing scenes that make it worthwhile, such as the one where Gough is in his sitting room communicating with a lion, tiger, panther and cougar by playing a lullaby on the organ while they sit and listen.

Michael Gough plays Michael Conrad, an over-the-top animal lover, obsessed over big cats. He’s the owner of a private Los Angeles zoo. The zoo owner is a member of a cult called the “true believers,” who believe beasts and humans are soul mates and that animal souls can be transferred to one another. His wife Edna (Jeanne Cooper) is locked into a miserable marriage with the human hater. Also living with them is a mute son named Carl (Rod Lauren), from the zoo owner’s first marriage.

Because property developers scheme to take over his land, the pressured zoo owner cracks and trains one of his lions to maul to death the detested speculator (Jerome Cowan). With that success, the animal lover gets the lion to take care of the zoo keeper (Elisha Cook Jr. ) who mistreats the animals and a showbiz agent (Virginia Grey) who offers his wife a circus job to leave her hubby. Those scenes have gay overtones. When his wife tries to get out of the marriage, she becomes in danger of also being eliminated.