powered by AFI
One evening, carnival owner Cyrus Miller wanders through the fairgrounds and listens to barker Joey Matthews tempt the crowds to see Goliath, the world's largest gorilla. Inside the tent, the audience enjoys being frightened by the ferocious animal, and their terror grows when Miller's wife, the beautiful Laverne, does trapeze tricks over Goliath's open-topped enclosure. After the show, Miller informs Joey that Laverne wants him to join her act and orders him to put on the costume in his locker. Laverne petulantly asks Miller to fire Kovacs, Goliath's brutish handler, but Miller refuses, as Kovacs is the only one who can control the beast. Miller then checks the receipts of lazy concessionaire Morse and realizes that they are short. He leaves just as Joey enters, wearing a gorilla costume. Laverne informs Joey that she is changing the act so that while she is doing her trapeze tricks, Goliath will secretly be taken to his cage below the enclosure and Joey will emerge wearing the costume. Laverne will then do a "drop," placing her within Joey's reach so that he can grab her and lift her over his head. Laverne seductively clings to Joey as they practice and tells him to use the judo that he learned in the Marines to lift her up. Meanwhile, Miller quarrels bitterly with Morse and fires him. Joey then tells his fiancée, ticket taker Audrey Baxter, that he will be making extra money, which will help to build their "nest-egg." As he reveals the details of the new act, Joey escorts Audrey into Goliath's tent and they are horrified to discover Morse's body impaled on the the cage. The police are called, and the coroner informs Detective Sgt. Garrison that Morse's neck was broken and that he was already dead before being impaled. Spotting an empty gin bottle, Miller theorizes that Morse got drunk after being fired and attempted to hurt Goliath in retaliation, but Goliath killed him. Kovacs disputes Miller's theory, proclaiming that Goliath never left his sight, while Garrison becomes suspicious of Joey because his gorilla costume has disappeared. Garrison orders the fairgrounds closed, and later, Owens, Miller's right-hand man, tells Miller that the gin bottle was a "plant" because the ulcer-ridden Morse never drank. Owens also notes that the gin is the same brand as that in Miller's liquor cabinet. Meanwhile, Garrison interrogates Joey, who admits that he threatened Morse after he harrassed Audrey. Joey protests his innocence though, and reveals that he and Audrey joined the carnival for the summer only, as he intends to return to law school in the fall. The next morning, Miller's assistant, Mack, learns that Miller, Laverne, Kovacs, Owens and Morse worked for a circus that went bankrupt several years ago, and that Laverne was married to Kovacs when he was a prominent animal trainer. Laverne left Kovacs for Miller, although their trapeze act ended tragically when their partner, Kewpie Adams, fell to his death after Miller failed to catch him. At the park, Joey tells Laverne that he will be leaving the carnival to alleviate Audrey's fears, but she persuades him to stay. Miller interrupts the couple and jealously warns Laverne to stay away from Joey. Later, at Goliath's cage, policeman Shaughnessy falls asleep, and someone wearing a gorilla costume knocks him unconcious and frees Goliath. Outside, Owens informs Garrison about the gin and says that he knows who the killer is. Before he can tell Garrison, however, they hear screams from Audrey, who is lost in the mirror maze attraction and is being followed by Goliath. After they dash inside, Owens' neck is broken by a gorilla, while Kovacs finds Goliath and silently leads him away. Garrison smashes the mirrors until he finds Audrey, then takes her to the medical tent. When Joey visits her, Audrey begs him to leave in the morning, but Joey insists that he must prove to Garrison that he is not the murderer. Meanwhile, the police desperately search for Goliath, who has been hidden by Kovacs. The bumbling Shaughnessy unwittingly frees Goliath, and after the gorilla wanders through the circus, turning on the rides, he is captured and returned to his cage. Later, as Garrison questions Laverne, Miller enters and confesses that he killed Morse and Owens because they knew he had deliberatly allowed Kewpie to fall to his death. Later, as the carnival prepares to re-open, Laverne and Joey practice their act, and Kovacs hoists Laverne over his head to demonstrate how it is done. Laverne becomes frightened when he refuses to release her, convincing Joey that Kovacs is the real killer and that Miller confessed to save his own life. Joey reveals his theory to Garrison and proves that Miller would be incapable of breaking anyone's neck because of a weak right arm. Garrison and Mack accompany Joey to the carnival, where Joey begins to put on his costume. In the costume's hands, however, Joey finds tape such as that which Laverne uses to wrap her wrists, and realizes that because Laverne knows judo, she could have killed Morse and Owens. Kovacs admits that Morse was blackmailing Laverne because she was the one responsible for Kewpie's death, and Owens because he was aware of what she had done. Saying that "she has it coming to her," Kovacs refuses to bring Goliath down and when Laverne does her drop, the gorilla grabs her. Carrying Laverne, Goliath escapes his cage and climbs to the top of the roller coaster. Joey climbs the rigging and prompts Garrison to distract Goliath with fireworks. While he tries to grab the fireworks, Goliath puts Laverne down, and as Joey helps her to safety, the police shoot Goliath to death. As Garrison then arrests Laverne, Audrey rewards Joey with a kiss.