The Gorilla (1927 film)

The Gorilla is a 1927 American silent horror film directed by Alfred Santell based on the 1925 play The Gorilla by Ralph Spence. The film stars Charles Murray, Fred Kelsey and Walter Pidgeon. It was an early production of Edward Small.[2]

The Gorilla
Directed byAlfred Santell
Produced byAlfred Santell
Edward Small
Written byAlfred A. Cohn
Harry McArthur
Based onThe Gorilla
by Ralph Spence
StarringCharlie Murray
Fred Kelsey
Alice Day
Tully Marshall
Walter Pidgeon
CinematographyArthur Edeson
Ascher, Small & Rogers[1]
Distributed byFirst National Pictures
Release date
  • November 13, 1927 (1927-11-13)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent film
English intertitles

The plot of the film revolves around a series of murders committed by a man in an ape suit. The film today is considered lost. It was remade with sound in 1930 (The Gorilla) which is also a lost film, and again in 1939 (The Gorilla) starring Lionel Atwill and Bela Lugosi. [3][4][5]

The play was a huge success on Broadway, which led to producer Santell's making an almost immediate film deal. The story had the same mix of horror, suspense and comedy that made The Cat and the Canary such a hit with the public, in step with the "old dark house" films that were popular at the time. The film starred a young Walter Pidgeon who would years later win a number of Oscar nominations, and featured the work of cameraman Arthur Edeson who went on to shoot a number of classic horror films such as Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933).[5]


When a man is murdered by a killer wearing a gorilla costume, the victim's daughter Alice Townsend is accused of the crime.



Variety commented "Except in a few serious instances, the story is done in broad comedy. Sets are highly atmospheric. Effective direction by Santell."[5]

The New York Times opined "Excitement and amusement are linked in (The Gorilla), Ralph Spence's burlesque on the mystery play....but here are there, this film slumps into horseplay and silly stunts. Very much as if Mack Sennett had turned to Edgar Allan Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue and decided to adapt it to the screen."[5]


  1. Loew's Inaugruate Change Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 05 Nov 1926: A11.
  2. Small 'Picks the Winners': Discoverer of Many Favorites Plans "Quickies" With Unknown Casts to Unearth New Talent Miller, Barbara. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 05 Dec 1926: C18.
  3. The Gorilla at database)
  4. "AUSTRAL THEATRE". Recorder (Port Pirie, SA : 1919 - 1954). Port Pirie, SA: National Library of Australia. 21 June 1928. p. 4. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
  5. Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era. Midnight Marquee Press. p. 313. ISBN 978-1936168-68-2.

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