I did a lot of reading over the month of October on movies made before the Hays Code went into effect. Hollywood movies were allowed to be a little more violent, or a little more sexually liberated, until the code was passed in the early 30's, which was filled with all sorts of ridiculous rules and limitations that haunted movies until the late 1960's. You know, how a man and woman weren't allowed to be seen in a bed together? Stuff like that.
Murders in the Zoo was made just before the time these rules started being enforced. It's a relatively minor film, but there is at least one scene that is one of the most messed up I've seen in a movie this old. It is the very first scene of the movie, where we are introduced to our villain, sewing a man's mouth shut and setting him loose in the jungle to fend for himself. The act of sewing is conveniently happening just below the frame, but you do see the results, and you know from the very beginning what this guy is capable of.
This villain is an explorer and zoo owner who is extremely jealous and vengeful when it comes to men making eyes at his wife. Which appears to happen quite a bit. His wife really wants out of this marriage. On the way home from the very expedition that he sewed a guy's mouth shut, another guy falls for her, against her warnings.
When they get back home to the zoo, the murders of the title start happening. The zoo guy has devised a murder weapon that can make the cause of death look like a snakebite. There are several other characters, some destined to be victims, some not. There isn't really a hero, everyone is pretty much a good guy compared to this monster. There's a scientist, and a jittery guy who is afraid of all the animals (rightly so in this movie). The fun of the movie isn't watching the good guys stop the bad guy, it's watching the bad guy bring about his own comeuppance.
Murders in the Zoo is only an hour long, which is actually pretty nice. It's a fun little horror movie that breezes right by. And by fun, I mean uncharacteristically dark and grisly for its time.