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"Horror of the Black Museum" is incredibly dated, unimportant and overly silly but it remains great fun to watch and watch it again. The opening sequence is delicious and definitely the best part of the entire movie. It involves the supposedly third strange and random murder in the London region and shows a poor woman getting her eyes gouged out by a pair of ingeniously spiked binoculars. A better opening to a colorful horror movie is hard to imagine and you're automatically preparing yourself to see a blackly comical and sadist horror gem. The quality-level of this intro naturally can't be held up throughout the entire movie but the script remains involving and surprising enough to keep you amused for a good 80 minutes. Scotland Yard hasn't got a clue where to begin their investigation and on top of that they're constantly annoyed by the vain columnist and pulp-novelist Ed Bancroft. The mysterious killer's identity isn't kept secret for long (I even assume it wasn't meant to be a secret) but his/her insane persona is imaginatively deepened. The "Black Museum" is a technical term to describe the police archive of bizarre and unusual murder weapons that were used in murder cases. The killer here has such a private collection himself which provides the film with a couple of utterly cool gimmicks, like the previously mentioned binoculars, an acid-bath and even a mini-guillotine! Michael Gough is seemly having a great time portraying the cripple cynic Bancroft. His performance is more than decent yet I agree with another reviewer here who already claimed that this role would be even more fit for Vincent Price. This film was the first entry of a Sadian horror trilogy, the others being the 1960 "Circus of Horrors" and "Peeping Tom". "Horror of the Black Museum" is the weakest of the three but still a terrifically odd and sensational genre highlight.
The Horrors of the Black Museum is a diabolical film. I was not more
than eleven or twelve when I saw it. Dropped at the curb to enjoy
Quarter Saturday at the Movies.It left me so traumatized that I was
sitting in the lobby when my mother came, uncharacteristically silent.
I had spent most of the time after the "binocular" murder, trembling
alone with the thought, " What grown-up dreamed this stuff up for a
child to watch? What are grown-ups really like?" I knew some of them
didn't care what they exposed kids to to make a quarter! I remember
trudging to the lobby as if in a fugue state, afraid to turn my back on
I know there are folks who love this genre, and as long as they are grown-ups, they can do the backstroke in ketchup blood and wallow in sadism. Free country. But this movie gave me nightmares into adulthood. It's probably still lurking in my psyche today. It is why I know that children must be sheltered from material adults can handle.
I guess it was effectively gruesome and twisted for the fans of the genre.
I caught an interesting horror flick on TV the other night called "Horrors
of the Black Museum" (1959) and all I could ask was WHERE IS VINCENT
Why? Starting with first things first, let's examine the opening of the
movie. A gimmick called "Hypnovista" is employed. Hynovista? Yes,
Hypnovista. Before the film starts, a "psychologist" with a specialty of
Hypnotism appears. He leads the audience through numerous hypnotic
suggestions. Starting out by demonstrating just how contagious a yawn can
be, he goes on to "Hypnotize" the audience with the power of suggestion
they are feeling cold ( blue tinted screen / sound of an icy storm) and
feeling hot (orange tinted screen / sound of flames). Guess what? It
OK, well kinda. Ok It doesn't! Presto chango, he announces you are
hypnotized and will experience the movie as though you are actually there!
Gee, why does this remind me of a William Castle film gimmick? (William
Castle is the same guy who devised those amazing movie house gimmicks for
Vincent Price films "House on Haunted Hill" and "The Tingler").
Ok kiddies, hang on, that's not all! Now let's consider "The Phibes Factor" NOTE: The Abominable Doc doesn't make the movie scene till 1971. The plot of this movie has a demented crime writer hypnotizing an assistant and sending him out to kill people with torturous and bizarre methods, just to prove he can. Death by binoculars with spikes NOTE: This particular device was inspired by an actual device that exists in a Scotland Yard Museum, Ice tongs through the neck, guillotine, knife in the heart whilst in the tunnel of love, electrocution ray and last but not least, death via vat of acid. What kind of a hill did you say that house was on?
Finally, let us examine the mad crime writer's hobby. Can you guess what it might be? He just happens to be the curator of a very private museum of wax figures, the figures of famous murderers!
Not to discount Michael Gough as mad writer, Edmond Bancroft. Gough, who has appeared in numerous horror films, such as: "Horror of Dracula (1958), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), Black Zoo (1963), Berserk (1967), Horror Hospital (1972) and in a series of mad-scientist roles, Konga (1961), The Skull (1965), and They Came From Beyond Space (1967) and many more, does a marvelous job in the role. But there is no denying it would have been wonderful fun to see Vincent Price as the mad Edmond Bancroft. Upon viewing this film, it becomes obvious why he was so wonderful in roles with similar themes like "House of Wax", "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" and "House on Haunted Hill". Woulda, coulda, shoulda considered, "Horrors of the Black Museum" is a wonderful film. It should NOT be missed by any fan of this type film.
This seems to be fondly remembered by many other users, but I'm not a
huge fan of it (same thing happened with director Crabtree's "Fiend
Without a Face"). Still, its entertaining enough for vintage monster
movie fans. And just as it was with "Fiend Without a Face", the film's
best qualities are the blood. The murder scenes in "Horrors of the
Black Museum" are both inventive and surprisingly grisly for the time.
The film is worth watching just for the memorable death sequences. Its
interesting to note that the British b-films of the time were pushing
the boundaries a lot more than their American counterparts (up until
"Blood Feast" that is).
The rest of the film isn't as fun however. The scenes in between the murder sequences often move slowly and seem incredibly silly by today's standards. Plus, a lot from the film is never really explained (just how did Gough's assistant transform into a Mr. Hyde-style monster?). Michael Gough is fun to watch, but is no match for Vincent Price (the man overplays but not enough to make it a campy delight). Still, this is an entertaining little b-film and may be worth watching if it turns up on television. (5/10)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Edmond Bancroft a famed crime writer/columnist wanting to make sure his
next novel captures the accurate depiction of such vicious murders and
to get some public notice. Goes about it by getting his inspiration
from Scotland Yard's "Black Museum", where he has his own "Black
Museum" filled with unpleasant devices he picks up at an local antique
shop and he uses them randomly to murder unexpected victims. His
assistant Rick, is the one who does his dirty business when he injects
him with some substance that turns him into some monster who performs
Edmond's bidding. Edmond constantly shows up at Scotland Yard to gloat
on how they aren't getting anywhere with this case.
This little British b-grade low-end shocker is crudely exploitative and effective when it's going for the throat. Sure time hasn't been kind on it, but the ghoulish ideas are inspired with a delicious blend of black humour, and the few unusual deaths have impact, as they are very daring, nasty and imaginative. Michael Gough turns in a splendorous lead performance of smarting arrogance as Edmond Bancroft. These aspects are the selling points. The story is effortless, but branching off from it is plenty of distracting sub-plots, which can lull about. Some things seem contrived, rushed and a little questionable. Especially how Gough's character leaves himself open to be caught a number of times and how stupid some of his victims are. However writers Herman Cohen and Aben Kendal do strike up some interesting concepts and morbid themes. In between the deaths and Grand Guignol moments, it can becomes overly talky, but this compact script smoothly rolls off the cast's tongues. Director Arthur Crabtree's pastel touch is competent and some suspenseful surprises and gimmicks are neatly handled. The film really does have a musty look that is nabbed by its brusque photography, and settling in is a resounding music score with an ominous sting. The rest of the performances were reasonably sound.
It could've been better, but it's cheaply lurid and preposterous horror fun.
'Horrors Of The Black Museum' is a dated but still entertaining Brit chiller that will most appeal to fans of William Castle's gimmick filled movies from the same era ('The House On Haunted Hill', 'The Tingler', '13 Ghosts', 'Homicidal',etc.) The late Michael Gough plays Edmund Bancroft, an eccentric writer and amateur crime expert, who irritates local police baffled at a spate of brutal and sensationalistic crimes, apparently without motive. Bancroft actually knows a lot more than the police suspect, and his meek protege Rick (Graham Curnow) is also involved, but not in the most straightforward way. The movie was originally released in "Hypnovision" but the reason to watch it today is Gough's larger than life performance, and the inventive killing methods, which include the much talked about binoculars-with-needles-in-the-eyepieces. Not a great movie by any means, but an amusing one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As another reviewer mentioned, this film was horrifying to those of us
who saw it as kids when it first came out. Horrors of the Black Museum
was produced before technical effects became morph-driven and so fake
they're not believable (even though they might be scary). Unlike Fiend
Without a Face (also mentioned in these reviews) or The Blob, this
movie doesn't rely on mechanically produced monsters. which means an
imaginative child or paranoid adult could perhaps picture its horrors
actually happening. A stretch, surely, but still . . .
Pre-movie sequence demonstrating colors and hypnosis was funny and hokey even when the film was first released. The horrors, however, had many children (me included) suffering from nightmares for years. The binocular scene was particularly frightening, but not as frightening as the beheading scene. I cautiously checked the tall bedroom ceiling in the old farmhouse where I grew up for a long while after seeing this flick.
Overall, after getting over the heebie-jeebies that lingered for years afterward, I have fond memories of this film. Anyone who is a fan of the 1950s chiller genre might enjoy the dated look and feel of it as well as the scare-factor it can generate in a viewer.
It was only after looking at the director of "Fiend without a face" that I realised that 'Fiend' and "Horrors of the Black Museum" were directed by the same person. Both movies are very good British horror movies (though it's a pity that it's so difficult to find 'Fiend' and it doesn't look like the BBC will show it again - maybe this prayer will work). Because it's so hard to find 'Fiend", I chose to review 'Horrors' because you should get the chance to watch a Crabtree movie. Apart from the plot of "Horrors of the Black Museum" (which I won't go into here - if you're interested, you can always read the plot summary) the movie has a special feature (Hypnovista) which probably is one of the reasons why it's still around now. Hypnovista was a gimmick like the ones William Castle liked to use (think of the color scene and the moving theatre seats in 'The Tingler' or the Fright Break which paused 'Homicidal'), but certainly not the only reason to see the movie (unless, of course you are totally into hypnotised people). I agree that some of the stunts could have been better (I never believed the skeleton), but the movie was made in 1959. Indeed, they don't make them like they used to do... "Horrors of the Black Museum" is one of the movies which make you add "...unfortunately". (the same goes for 'Fiend')
A series of gruesome murders in England have Scotland Yard baffled.
Crime journalist Edmond Bancroft mocks the police for not finding the
killer. Since he's played by Michael Gough we all know he's the killer.
I saw this film constantly on TV when I was in high school and have very fond memories of it. Seeing it again on DVD it's lacking. The script is REAL stupid, the dialogue terrible and most of the acting is dreadful--Graham Curnow as Bancroft's assistant is especially bad (no surprise that he never made another movie). But it's still worth seeing.
The murders are very bloody and gruesome--by 1959 standards. The opening one is especially sick. But they're so over the top (and completely impossible) that they become fun to watch. Also Gough chews the scenery in every scene he has--especially towards the end. So it's worth seeing for Gough and the murders.
Also this originally opened with a 13 minute prologue about hypnotism which plays a part in the film. It's real silly but hysterically funny. It's available on VCI's DVD (which has an incredibly good print of the movie).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ordering the very good Horror Noir Cat Girl from Network during their
sale,I stumbled upon another British Horror film. Becoming aware of the
title after reading a positive review from Kim Newman,and knowing
Michael Gough as one of the main character actors from Hammer Horror,I
got a ticket for the museum.
For the last few weeks someone has been going around killing women in London and the police have no clue who it could be. Being a best selling True Crime writer, Edmond Bancroft pushes into the station and gets details for his next book. Laughing behind their backs, Bancroft falls in love with doing the killings himself,and knowing that there is no chance the cops will catch him (with the bonus that he can included the murder in his next book!) Going to buy his next murder weapon from the antiques shop,Bancroft is taken aback,when the seller asks him what has he been using the objects for.
View on the film:
Including the US " Hypnovista" intro as an extra,Network deliver a sparkling transfer,with the picture retaining its vivid shine,and the soundtrack ringing with crisp screams.
Made when British Gothic Horror was at its peak,the screenplay by Herman Cohen and Aben Kandel breaks the castle walls down with an almighty thump.Taking inspiration from Film Noir,the writers dismantle the English "Gentlemen" cad of British Horror for the scum of the earth,who wallow in darkness as Bancroft pens a new murderous tale.Taking delight in keeping the cops completely out of their depths,the writers axe the flick with a mischievous dark sense of humour, throwing bonkers methods of killing (a bedroom guillotine!)and acid-tongue,spiteful dialogue at the viewer.
Bowing out for the final time,director Arthur Crabtree stakes the most kitsch aspects of the film with a sheer delight.Giving Bancroft his own "Batcave" Crabtree paints Bancroft's novel with the most garish colours possible,grinding in wet blood being dropped on the streets by Gerard Schurmann's roaring score,to Bancroft's lair being soaked in brightly coloured blocks. Curling his lips at every wickedly chewy one liner, Michael Gough gives a raging, bouncing off the wall performances as Bancroft,thanks to Gough knocking his wooden co-stars down with a sly smile which breaks out into shrieks and howls,as the Black Museum closes its doors.
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