Halloween Harvest 2011 --- Black Zoo
|If Newspapers Were Like This, I'd Have Chosen a Career in Journalism|
|The Best Thing About Black Zoo May Have Been Reynold Brown's Varied and Vivid Poster Art|
Tony was right in guessing I'd not see Black Zoo and expose his perfidy. Once a show left town, it was gone, especially in a small berg where management was disinclined toward second runs. It's only in a just past week, and thanks to Warner's Archive, that I've finally caught Black Zoo, forty-eight years not an unreasonable wait, I suppose, to know once and for all that no such scene as Tony described appears in the film. Is there primal need we all share to watch humans set upon by wild beasts? I admit looking forward to realization of lurid art shown here, even if Black Zoo but fitfully lived up to its promise.
|Show Me The Nine-Year-Old Who Doesn't Relish Seeing Men Eaten By Lions|
Recent news tells of a private zookeeper who loosed lions, tigers, and bears to panic an
town. Born showman Herman Cohen might have wished for like serendipity to coincide with his promoting tour for Black Zoo, but the sales job Herman did was near as startling, and ranks tall among grassroot promotions headed for a mid-sixties fade. Maybe Cohen knew his kind of bally was last round-up'ing, but he'd been at it since age twelve and beginnings as youngest member of Ohio 's theatre usher fraternity. Herman as eventual filmmaker was more for selling than creative ends, being like Bill Castle in that respect, but give him a tingly title and HC knew how to run with it. I Was a Teenage Werewolf and Horrors Of The Black Museum were hard-sold in partnership with AIP's wunderkind Jim Nicholson, these two a Barnum and Bailey at shock-peddling. Cohen produced a dozen for AIP by the time he jumped to Allied Artists for Black Zoo's distribution. AA needed summer chillers same as any industry player, and for 1963 slated Zoo and Brit-lensed Day Of The Triffids to fill exploitation dates. Detroit
Broidy Predicts AA Upbeat, said trade headlines reporting '63 plans for the company as optimistically conveyed by topper Steve Broidy, still reaching for glory now in a second decade of eluding Allied Artists. Hopes rested on what he called the keystone of all our plans, 55 Days At
Peking, plus deals with John Huston, Samuel Fuller, and Blake Edwards for coming projects. For the meantime, there was sure thing of Black Zoo for May release, to which Herman Cohen lent his wild animal cast for whirlwind touring, this begun with a sixty theatre saturation in New York, Jersey, and Long Island, Zoo's lion and tigers aboard a float driven past venues hosting the pic. Cohen got further ink entering hotel lobbies accompanied by said beasts, one of which, "Zamba," had already distinguished himself by mauling a trainer during Black Zoo's production. This went unreported at the time, but was recounted years later for an interview Herman Cohen did with historian Tom Weaver.
|Lions and Tigers In a Cemetary --- Why Didn't Anyone Think Of That Before?|
Zoo yielded a whopper $260K for that opener
Gotham week, Variety crediting Cohen's intensive push, plus personal appearing, on four legs, by cast members. Herman was flush with the praise, enough as to unload on distributors very undermanned in their advertising and publicity departments. Instead of trimming staff here, he said, they should lop off some of the top executives who are sitting on their backsides and doing nothing. Exhibitors came in for a Cohen blast as well. (They) do nothing either to try to contribute or help. They run for the big grossers or sit and do nothing. Herman felt horror films were an industry's salvation not properly appreciated, but you couldn't just send one out without proper exploitation.
|Guess We'd All Take a Pass On Attacks Like This, Nocturnal Or Otherwise.|
"Working Touter" Cohen knew his Black Zoo customer base. It's primarily a weekend audience ranging in age from 12-30, this group, he said, making up 72% of the viewing total. Herman, who was in large part author of teen slant scripts he produced, was careful not to put in anything that would offend or talk down to youth. Cohen added that the teeners in my pictures are basically good, moral youngsters, and never do anything bad except under sinister influences, and nothing that the audience can imitate. A
homecoming found the city's mayor declaring "Herman Cohen Day" at a luncheon attended by HC and tethered Zamba, the latter visiting schools and shopping centers before taking up caged position in the Fox Theatre lobby. Detroit
|Micheal Gough Enacts Tender Black Zoo Love Scene|
|Elisha Cook Gets Comeuppance For Tiger Taunting --- He'd Later Call Black Zoo "A Terrible, Awful, Picture"|
|How Many Of You Out There Still Have Your Copy?|
Possibly the most clever of Herman's tie-ins was the Charlton-published Black Zoo photo magazine, a thirty-five cent start-to-finish telling of the film's narrative in stills and frame blow-ups. Showmen were invited to buy in bulk at reduced wholesale of twenty-one cents per copy. I doubt many small town theatres participated ... for the
it was enough that patrons could buy theirs across the street at Horton's Drug Store (where, in fact, I scored mine after Black Zoo had come and gone). Charlton paying tribute lent Black Zoo status few horrors shared at the time ... I went years thinking the film must be good to have merited such coverage (even as subsequent picture-mags devoted to The Mole People and Horror Of Party Beach should have disabused me of such notion). Liberty
Now we at last have Black Zoo on DVD, properly wide and colorfully rendered. It's a handsome show for one done on modest budget. Herman Cohen told Variety in 1963 that Zoo cost a million, which seems hardly likely ... cutting that by two-thirds might get closer to the actual tab. Still, there's nice photography by veteran Floyd Crosby of more recent AIP accomplishment (he made their Poes look like the million Herman aspired to) while hired-for-a-day-or-two faces Elisha Cook, Jerome Cowan (Wilmer Cook and Miles Archer together again!), along with Virginia Grey, made Black Zoo inviting as a curl-up with late, late movies at home, said comfort zone being what Cohen no doubt had in mind when he cast these players.
|Michael Gough and Ill-Fated Rod Lauren With Looks-To-Be-Drugged Cub in Black Zoo|
Michael Gough is pretty much Black Zoo's whole show, onscreen verbal abuse his specialty in those waning years when horror movies still revolved around personalities rather than blood squibs. Juve support Rod Lauren's March 1963 burglary arrest (he crashed in on a sleeping Black Zoo cast-mate in her apartment) foresaw tragic events to come in that young actor's life. Herman Cohen snuck his own cameo into an extended chimp act that eats up much of Black Zoo's opening reel. As with later Berserk, the producer felt bound to let routines, however unrelated to narratives at hand, play out beginning to end, giving patrons, if nothing else, opportunity to stoke up on concessions before getting down to horrific business.