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The most savage animal in a garden of beasts, animal-worship cultist and private zoo owner Michael Conrad (Michael Gough) has trained his lions well, siccing the big cats on any fool who dares get in his way. First it was a snoopy secretary, then a scheming realtor (Jerome Cowan). But only when his unhappy wife (Jeanne Cooper) runs off with his beloved chimps does Conrad unleash his inner beast, and the fur really flies. Shot by Academy Award(r)-winning* cinematographer Floyd Crosby on a soundstage stocked by famed animal behaviorist and Marine World creator Ralph Helfer, Black Zoo is the third and final collaboration of Gough (who later played Alfred the butler in four Batman movies) and producer Herman Cohen (Horrors of the Black Museum and Konga), a furocious last trip to the maul.
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While technically inferior to the first two, BLACK ZOO is graced by a number of fine performances from Jerome Cowan's sleazy developer to Gough's tormented wife as played by future soap opera star Jeanne Cooper. Former child star Virginia Grey is very good in her small part as Cooper's agent and Elisha Cook Jr is...Elisha Cook Jr. There are a couple of outstanding scenes that linger long after the film is over. One is the sequence where Gough entertains his big cats with an organ recital while they lounge on furniture just like domestic ones. The other is the funeral of a tiger which is staged as if it were one of Roger Corman's Poe films. When I first saw this back in the mid 1960s it was on TV and it was in black & white (which probably "colored" my view of it). This Warner Archive DVD-R is a high quality transfer that preserves the original widescreen aspect ratio as well as the 1950s color scheme. I only wish that it contained subtitles so that I could really follow and enjoy the "remarkable" dialogue. While not his best, this rarity is still a must for fans of Michael Gough.