Big Top Pee-yew

GORILLA AT LARGE should really have been called GORILLA IN DEPTH, shouldn’t it, to capitalise on the whole 3D thing. Except really it ought to have been called CIRCUS OF ASSHOLES, since everybody in the movie, near enough, is some variety of jerk, blowhard or swine. I’m suspicious of movies that fail to provide any interesting sympathetic characters, because it tends to suggest a filmmaker with an unappealing approach to life. The crowd of gits in front of the camera is standing in for one big git behind it.

Now, casting your eye over the subject and talent here, one would imagine that the real 3D attraction would be Raymond Burr, wouldn’t you? The prospect of his massive form heaving itself towards you in 3D is an irresistible one, isn’t it? Yet, due perhaps to director Harmon Jones’s lack of interest in, well, the film, Burr’s bulk never gets to loom in a Hank Quinlan manner, thereby allowing us to watch the movie as if through the watery eyes of a cowering twink.* A missed opportunity. Perhaps Raymond is more suited to widescreen, anyway.

Passing swiftly over Cameron Mitchell  — Me, watching WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS: “The bad gargantua looks like Cameron Mitchell. Fiona: “What does Cameron Mitchell look like?” Me: [points at gargantua] — we come to Anne Bancroft, and here we stop for a while. Although screenwriters Praskins and Slater, like the director, stopping off briefly at the movies en route to episodic TV purgatory, see fit to write Bancroft as a cheating sexpot, she still commands audience respect with her awesomeness. Rather than play for our sympathy, she just relishes her hotness, and walks off with those parts of the movie not pinned to the floor by Burr. And since her cheating tart character is cheating on Raymond, we can kind of see where she’s coming from.

But the actual element of the movie that justifies the 3D is none of these, and no, it’s not the gorilla, swing as he may into the camera with a permanent neutral expression on his ersatz face, nor even is it Lee Marvin as a skinny cop, making faces through the bars before being ape-chopped to the ground, nor is it Lee J Cobb, proof that one bulky man with a cigar is not enough for a movie as brashly obnoxious as this. The star effect of the film appears when they blast fireworks at the escaped ape. The fireworks themselves are nothing much, but the smoke trails they leave drifting in the extreme foreground are really nice.

*Have absolutely no knowledge of Burr’s bedroom activities and the above is sheer lurid imagining.

21 Responses to “Big Top Pee-yew”

  1. Who would’ve guessed that a film with as generic a title as GORILLA AT LARGE would have Raymond Burr, Anne Bancroft (just crossed my mind, no relation to George?), Lee J. Cobb and Lee Marvin (okay, and Cameron Mitchell). Amazon has this for sale as one of a twofer, but no sign of it being offered in 3D. And yes, Anne looks fetchingly awesome in your grab, I’d see the film for her alone. I relish her hotness too.

  2. David Boxwell Says:

    I pray Raymond’s ex-wives and children don’t see this commentary on him; they would be hurt.

  3. There actually is one ex-wife, but I don’t know if she’s still with us. If she is, I imagine she knows the score.

    My 3D copy isn’t terribly good (by the way, I hope I’m not the only person with 3D anaglyph specs at home) so it’s hard to say — maybe this looked a lot better originally. But the dimensional effects are a little disappointing. A pity, since “an Anne Bancroft in your lap” would be an enticing ad-line.

    Real name: Anna Maria Italiano. As Buck Henry put it, “pure New York guinea.” So no relation to George.

  4. Of course she knows the score. JEEZ!

    Raymond Burr is the most fascinating of Hollywood Closet Queens. Being Raymond Burr no one in the general mainstream public thought of him in sromantic “leading man” terms to start with. Yet he not only had a brief cover marriage, he invented several more our of thin air — including children who never were!

    If you want to know the real story all you have to do is get out your DVD of A Star is Born (I am of course assuming that everyone in here has one) and go directly to the kinescope of the premiere. There you’ll find Burr with his beard du jour AND the most drop dead gorgeous sailor you’ve ever laid eyes on outside of Sam Steward’s tattoo parlor. Frozen with a delicious deer-in-the-headlights expression the kid looks out at the mob of swells as Burr says “I’m just showing this young man some of the glamour of Hollywood.”

    Well that’s one way to put it.

    According to a recently published Burr bio the kid wasn’t a one-night stand but in his life for some time aterwards. There was an A&E “Biography” show about Burr a few years back featuring his surviving boyfriend (not that sailor, someone else) who got all the money and property — which as Burr was a wise investor was considerable.

    Extra Gay Jeopard Bonus Points: Like Dusty Springfield, Raymon Burr is a figure of fascination to both gay men AND lesbians. In fact creative lesbian cross-dressers — “Drag Kings” — hail Burr as a fashion icon.

    As for Gorilla at Large, a number of years back here in L.A. a revival hoiuse held a 3-D festival at which it was shown. For some reason it was sparsely attended. However the management noticed a couple down in front laughing hysterically through the whole things. So they went down to check and discovered —

    yes, you guessed it

    — Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks.

  5. A shame the movie isn’t well enough known for Mel to spoof it.

    Burr must’ve been very confident the press weren’t interested in outing him, since non-existent children would be relatively easy to expose, but hard to explain! I’m glad he got away with it and enjoyed such a long career. His presence in a movie is always both welcome and impossible to ignore.

  6. david wingrove Says:

    Inventing bogus marriages and children was quite a pastime for sexually troubled Hollywood stars. I once read an early interview with Katharine Hepburn…

    Q: Are you married, Miss Hepburn.

    A: No, I don’t think so. Of course, it’s quite possible I got married once and forgot.

    Q: Is it true that you have children?

    A: Oh yes, I have five children. Two white and three black.

    Of course, Kate was not trying to mask her bisexuality so much as get out of doing interviews altogether. The ploy stood her in good stead for the next 70 years.

  7. “Bisexuality”?


    She was as “bisexual” as Dorothy Arzner. Hepburn lived for many years with Laura Harding. The Spencer Tracy “affair” was a total fabrication. They were ‘friends” in that he was a mean drunk and she loved being a codependent.
    As for her romantic life her one great love was herself. Her sexual life has yet to be fully accounted for.

    Speaking of which I am in receipt of recent information about the whereabouts of Joy Bang.

  8. Lovely. Anne Bancroft hated interviews likewise, and her appearance on the BBC’s Wogan was a legendary ten minutes of discomfort and low-level teeth-gritting hostility.

  9. Really? The interview she gave me when Up at the Villa opened was the most fun I’ve had in all my years as a journalist. It was just her and yours truly have a nice long lunch — with no “handlers” or press reps about at all. And it was at this interview that she told me Mel was turning The Producers into a musical.

    Me: I have two words for you — Nathan Lane.

    A.B.: We’re already talking to him.

  10. […] This post was Twitted by Llanjen […]

  11. Heh!

    I think it was the public nature of Wogan’s chat show that made her uncomfortable. Her husband/producer talked her into it to promote 84 Charing Cross, where after all she was really the only publicity source available.

  12. There’s a clip of it here, but you don’t get the full toe-curling effect. She’s just being very frank about how much she hates this kind of thing.

    She appears about 4 mins in.

  13. Circus of Assholes (2010) Jeremy Piven, Lindsay Lohan, Kevin Spacey and Prince Frederic von Anholt, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.

    In this daring docu-drama Prince Frederic tries to replace his ailing wife Zsa Zsa Gabor with drug-addicted ex-starley Lindsay Lohan via the machinations of
    their agent and business manager, Kevin Spacey. With Eli Roth as Brad Pitt and Harvey Levin as himself. Shot entirely on location right outside The Ivy during lunch hour.

  14. Christopher Says:

    ann bancroft meets a brooklyn gorilla..

  15. The Bancroft, Brooks anecdote is a joy!

  16. My personal Circus of Assholes would probably feature Eli Roth, Mel Gibson and Paris Hilton, with Michael Bay directing. At least with him in charge we wouldn’t be able to see anything too clearly.

  17. david wingrove Says:

    David E – forgive me for being obtuse, but was does ROTFALMAO stand for?

    I was being polite when I referred to Kate Hepburn as ‘bisexual’. After all, she was a New England lady from an era that is now long gone. As for her and Spencer Tracy being a ‘fabrication’…surely no more so than her and Howard Hughes?

  18. Oh, I know this one — Rolling On The Floor Laughing My Ass Off.

    Since Tracy was married, the relationship with Hepburn would seem like an odd “cover story” for her at the time, one that could backfire and cause a scandal — did she only announce the supposed affair later in life, or what?

    As I understand it, the most reputable sources apparently dismiss rumours about Hughes being gay or bi, but I haven’t read much on the subject so I don’t know. Certain aspects of his strange behaviour certainly could read as closeted camouflage, I guess. He proposed marriage to nearly every actress at RKO, it seems.

    I got some Joy Bang info, but it was a while back. What’s yours, David E?

  19. In terms of color and clarity, GORILLA AT LARGE is one of the best looking 3-D films I ever saw. Young Anne Bancroft was built for 3-D.

  20. Wow, I wish my video copy reflected that! A lot must also depend on how well-cared for the print in question is.

  21. David proceeds from Pure Gay as the state of nature. Until proven otherwise, anyone with tendencies is Pure Gay.

    Ie, he tacitly approves of mainstream stereotyping because he can build a socially useful thesis around it.

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