BLACK ZOO (1963) Director: Robert Gordon.
This long-unseen horror thriller is one of three films producer Herman Cohen did with star Michael Gough (the other two are Konga and Horrors of the Black Museum). Like the others, Black Zoo is lurid, somewhat campy fun. Gough is owner of a zoo as well as member of a weird cult of animal worshipers. Threatened with losing the zoo and his beloved tigers and lions -- who lie around his living room like treasured and pampered guests -- Gough sics his pets on anyone who dares to get in his way. His wife Edna (Jeanne Cooper) has a trained chimp act and wishes that hubby were kinder to the handsome mute boy Carl (Rod Lauren) who helps him with the murders. Gough is florid and easily enraged, but as an actor he puts on a lively, energetic show, and Cooper is excellent and equally energetic. The interesting cast also includes Virgina Grey as a booking agent, Jerome Cowan as an entrepreneur, Elisha Cook, Jr. as a zoo worker, and even Ed Platt ("the chief" on Get Smart) as a detective. One of the most interesting scenes is an funeral for the dead tiger Baron that takes place in a misty forest by night. Cooper and Gough have a great, lively dinner scene that ends in an hysterical (in more ways than one) fight. Cooper now plays Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless; one of her co-stars on that show is Jerry Douglas, who plays a police lab man in Black Zoo. [He's not very good at his job, however, as he thinks a gorilla is "a member of the chimp family!"] What's most surprising about this entertaining picture isn't the final revelation as much as how moving it is. Rod Lauren hasn't a word of dialogue but his expressive face says volumes. (Ironically, the actor-singer was accused years later of hiring someone to murder his wife.) Script by Herman Cohen and Aben Kandel.
Verdict: Lions and tigers and apes, oh my! ***.