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The Gorilla

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The Gorilla (1939) starring the Ritz Brothers, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill
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The Gorilla (1939) starring the Ritz Brothers, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Edward Norris, Anita Louise

In short,  The Gorilla is a “haunted house” mystery. Lionel Atwill’s character is threatened to become the next victim of “The Gorilla” — a serial killer.   His niece drops in to visit with her fiance. And she announces that they’ll be married in two days. Adding to the creepiness of the house is the butler, Peters, and Patsy Keller as the easily-frightened maid round out the household staff.  Peters is played by Bela Lugosi. He is half the reason to watch the film.  As I watched  The Gorilla with my children, they were all convinced that he must be doing something villainous … Lionel Atwill has hired detectives–the Ritz Brothers–to safeguard him … despite their comical ineptness.

Edward Norris, Bela Lugosi & Anita Louise in The Gorilla

There’s the normal hidden passages, frightened panic, mysterious strangers, etc.–as well as a “real” gorilla (named “Poe”) who just happens to have escaped and walked into the house; all of which results in a disappointingly average film.   In short,  The Gorilla is average–enjoyable, but not very memorable.   I rate it only 2.5 stars out of 5.

I’d heard good things about the Ritz Brothers, and this was a poor introduction to them. Thankfully, I later saw them in The Three Musketeers with Don Ameche — where they were hilarious!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Cast of characters

  • The Ritz Brothers (The Three Musketeers 1939) … Defective Detectives
  • Jimmy Ritz … Garrity
  • Harry Ritz … Harrigan
  • Al Ritz … Mulligan
  • Anita Louise (The Devil’s Brother) … Norma Denby. Stevens’ niece. She’ll inherit her fortune when she gets married. Money that Stevens is in charge of.
  • Patsy Kelly (Merrily We Live, Freaky Friday 1976) … Kitty. Very funny comedy relief.
  • Lionel Atwill (The Vampire Bat, To Be or Not to Be) … Walter Stevens
  • Bela Lugosi (Dracula 1931, Return of the Vampire) … Peters
  • Joseph Calleia (Five Came Back) … Stranger
  • Edward Norris … Jack Marsden. Norma’s fiancee.
  • Wally Vernon … Seaman
  • Paul Harvey (Calamity Jane) … A.P. Conway
  • Art Miles … Poe the Gorilla

Editorial review of The Gorilla, courtesy of

Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, the Ritz Brothers. A killer known as The Gorilla” threatens the life of a wealthy insurance broker who solicits the help of a detective agency to stop him. Instead he gets three investigators who stumble and bumble their way through the entire house while a real live gorilla arrives on the scene. 1939/b&w/67 min/NR/fullscreen.

Movie quotes from  The Gorilla

Kitty (Patsy Kelly): Why couldn’t all of this have happened tomorrow?
Norma Denby (Anita Louise): What difference would that make?
Kitty (Patsy Kelly): Tomorrow’s my day off!

Peters (Bela Lugosi): Did I hear somebody scream?
Kitty (Patsy Kelly): Well, if you didn’t, you oughta have your ears cleaned out!

[Harrigan opens a door]
Harrigan (Harry Ritz): What’s this?
Kitty (Patsy Kelly): That’s a door.

[referring to the gorilla named “Poe”] Poe’s keeper: Don’t you know Poe hates women?
Kitty (Patsy Kelly): So does Kipling.

Kitty (Patsy Kelly): We’ll all be murdered in our beds!

[at a huge crash from the cellar]
Jack Marsden (Edward Norris): Peters, what’s all that commotion?
Peters (Bela Lugosi): It sounds like our friends the detectives.

Jack Marsden (Edward Norris): Why is it something always happens when YOU’RE not here?
Peters (Bela Lugosi): Unfortunate coincidence, sir.

[repeated line]
Harrigan (Harry Ritz): Mark that down, Garrity.

Kitty (Patsy Kelly): The Gorilla? HIM? Oh, I’ll never trust another man if I live to be a thousand!

Trivia for The Gorilla

  • This was the last The Ritz Brothers film directed by Allan Dwan, and their last for 20th Century-Fox (they would move on to Universal).
  • Bela Lugosi’s first role following Ygor in  Son of Frankenstein  (1939).

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