THE GORILLA (1939) Reviews and overview


the gorilla menaces 1939

The Gorilla is a 1939 American comedy horror film directed by Allan Dwan from a screenplay by Rian James and Sid Silvers for Twentieth Century-Fox  The movie stars the Ritz Brothers, Anita Louise, Lionel Atwill, Bela Lugosi, Patsy Kelly, Joseph Calleia and Wally Vernon.

The film was based on a play of the same name by Ralph Spence – which had already been made into films in 1927 and in 1930 – and is now in the public domain.

the gorilla ritz brothers 1939

When a wealthy man (Lionel Atwill) is threatened by a killer known as The Gorilla, he hires the Ritz Brothers to investigate. A real escaped gorilla shows up at the mansion just as the investigators arrive. Patsy Kelly portrays a newly hired maid who wants to quit because the butler, played by Bela Lugosi, scares her.



“It’s all supposed to be either really funny or shockingly thrilling, depending on how you look at it. We couldn’t see it either way.” The New York Times (May 1939)

” …even you sick bastards who find the Three Stooges amusing will have a hard time with this one, in that the Ritz Brothers are further hampered by their close mutual resemblance and the much lower level of distinction between their onscreen personas as compared to the Stooges … The other faint lights in the darkness are Lionel Atwill and (surprisingly) Bela Lugosi, both of whom put in tasteful, proportionately understated performances…” 1000 Misspent Hours… and Counting

“The storyline itself is a jumble, and pretty much a thin excuse for one piece of disconnected silliness after another. I will say though, that I did enjoy the musical scoring- which is actually something I seldom pay any attention too. In the final analysis, this isn’t one of those films that I’d watch more than once… even as a Bela Lugosi fan.”

“Hairy gorilla arms reach out from behind hidden panels in the walls, people disappear without trace, contorted faces peer in through windows and bodies fall out of cupboards. I personally found the Ritz Brothers’ fast firing humour to be very lame, but this may have had something to do with it being the last film in their contract with the studio.” Giles Clark, Psychotic Cinema



Cast and characters:

  • Jimmy Ritz as Garrity
  • Anita Louise as Norma Denby
  • Harry Ritz as Harrigan
  • Al Ritz as Mulligan
  • Patsy Kelly as Kitty
  • Lionel Atwill as Walter Stevens
  • Bela Lugosi as Peters
  • Joseph Calleia as the Stanger
  • Edward Norris as Jack Marsden
  • Wally Vernon as a Seaman
  • Paul Harvey as Conway

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