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BLACK ZOO
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Reviewed by: Ammon Gilbert

Directed by: Robert Gordon

Starring:
Michael Gough
Jeanne Cooper
Rod Lauren
Virginia Grey

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
A Zoo owner / animal trainer (Michael Gough) uses his animals as weapons against his enemies. When he’s not doing that, he’s trying to keep his wife and his servant-boy down while simultaneously making them do his bidding. A bizarre and often horrific romp through 1960s cinema ensues.
Is it good movie?
Being a child of the 80s, Michael Gough is and will always be Alfred from the original BATMAN film franchise, as kick-started by Tim Burton. He’s this kind, wise, and gentle old man that had this good-natured quality about him that made you wish he was your grandpa or the old geezer who lived next door. However, my image of Gough has now been completely turned upside down now that I’ve seen him in his prime in 1963’s BLACK ZOO. And while it’s somewhat time by today’s standards, if you watch the flick with the mindset of the early 1960s, the film’s actually a bizarre and horrifying tale of man-eating animal horror and a portrait of domestic abuse.

If there ever was a movie that could be slapped with the title of “wild cat exploitation”, BLACK ZOO would be it, as much of the movie showcases lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, and other wild animals roaming around their cages in the zoo, lounging around Gough’s living room, attending a funeral for one of their fallen brethren, or being asked to murder some unlucky soul who made enemies of Gough’s Zookeeper persona. Part of me thinks the film only exists because the producers had a shitload of exotic animals at their disposal for them to do what they wanted, and making a movie about killer animals seemed like the best and most obvious choice. And while the animals killings are pretty savage and cool (and even gory by ‘60s standards), the real meat-and-potatoes is Gough’s woman-hating persona.

While subtle at first, Gough is damn scary as a controlling hot head who must keep his boy-servant in check and his wife in line by any means necessary. Slapping them around, belittling them in front of others, and getting into heated arguments because they’re not doing exactly what he tells them to do escalates to a point where it’s almost hard to watch how horrible he is to those around him. Of course, if he really doesn’t like you, he’ll sic his pet lion on you for a feeding frenzy. Gough rocks the creepy yet powerful persona that channels the very likeness of Vincent Price here. He’s well spoken, articulate, controlled, and yet there’s something so damn unsettling about him that would make you scared to ever cross paths with the guy.

Video / Audio
Video: Presented in 2.35:1 and popping in vibrant colors, the picture looks damn good. Maybe it’s the Panavision or the glorious Eastman Color that was used to make the flick, but whatever it is, it has that ‘60s glow that makes everything rich and bright.

Audio: The audio is fairly lackluster, being presented in a boring 2.0 Mono mix, but at the same time, it’s pretty standard for the time. I always prefer the more dynamic 5.1, but sometimes you can’t always get what you want. Right???

The Extras
Nothing, Nada, Zero, Zilch!
Last Call
BLACK ZOO is a slow build that is a man-eating animal exploitation film on the surface that is much darker (and in some ways), much more bizarre than it initially appears. And while it’s far from being a contemporary film classic, it’s definitely one to check out, especially if you’re a fan of Michael Gough or of films that push the envelope.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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