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From the video case: London is fear struck, and Scotland Yard is baffled by a series of strange murders that have plagued the city. Stories of the atrocities, by crime journalist Edmond Bankcroft (Michael Gough), come to their own conclusions missed by the “Yard.” This is because of the fact that Edmond is behind these horrible crimes in order to create material for his writing. Along with his assistant, Rick (Graham Curnow) who helps him run a private “Black Museum” filled with murder and torture devices. (1959,color)

Mark says: This film features the amazing gimmick of Hypno Vista, a technique which “actually puts you in the picture.” Ok, so maybe it’s not that amazing, and maybe it doesn’t really put you into the picture, but it is a bit of fun. What Hypno Vista is exactly, is a psychologist (Emile Franchel) who, at the beginning of the movie, gives a lecture on the power of suggestion. Then, before the film starts, he “hypnotizes” you so you feel the full shock and terror of the picture.

Hypno Vista doesn’t work, of course, but it does provide some amusement. Unfortunately, it is not entertaining enough, and it lasts too long, to withstand repeated viewings. You’ll most likely fast forward through this section of the film after watching it once or twice.

The movie itself is a ridiculous contrivance, but very watchable and entertaining. The opening scene where Dorinda Stevens gets her eyes gouged out by a pair of nefariously rigged binoculars is the spectacle most people remember, but there are other memorable murders portrayed, as well. I won’t ruin the suspense for you, though.

As in the later film, Konga, it is primarily Michael Gough who makes the movie worthwhile. He’s a fantastic bad guy, full of arrogance and cold-blooded self-righteousness. He has no qualms about having people killed to advance his career and ego. If I ever do a dramatic reading (and I have no idea as to why I would) I would use Mr. Gough’s tirade on evil and the unreliability of women from this film as my piece. It’s so incredibly over-the-top.

Also of some note is June Cunningham, who plays Michael Gough’s paid lover, Joan Berkley. She has some great lines in the scene where they are haggling over money, and her dance routine has to be seen to be believed. I am constantly reminded of the line from a Beatles’ song, “You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer,” as I watch her cut a rug.

Other players are Graham Curnow as Mr. Bancroft’s assistant, Rick, and Shirley Anne Field, who plays Rick’s fiancée, Angela Banks. Mr. Curnow plays a significant role in the movie, but Shirley Anne Field is little more than window dressing.

Horrors of the Black Museum is directed by Arthur Crabtree (Fiend Without A Face), and is produced by Herman Cohen (Konga, I Was A Teenage Werewolf), who also co-wrote the story with Aben Kandel.

Scene to watch for: Beware the man with the portable guillotine.

Line to listen for: “One must never place any trust in a woman. It was no secret that Satan was able to tempt Eve before Adam.”

Bonus: Herman Cohen, The Man and his Movies.

Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ½ out of 5.

IMDB Link

2 Comments

  1. The first time I saw “Black Museum” was sometime after midnight, during a small New Years Eve party. I was the only kid present and the adults were toasting with some sort of cherry wine. They even let me have a sip and I felt like a grown up. I was probably 12 or 13 at the time. (Now the only time I drink alcohol, is when I have to take cough syrup.) The TV was on, because we had been watching Guy Lombardo. Shortly after that, someone must have changed the channel, because I remember hearing a blood-curdling scream come from the set. I looked up to see a woman holding her hands over her face and blood running down between her fingers. Then the camera panned down to show the evil binoculars. From that point on, I was hooked! My eyes were glued to the set for the remainder of the movie. One thing I remember thinking after the movie was over was that none of the other murders matched the shock value of the first one. Maybe it was because I knew to expect another gruesome scene, while the first one came as a complete surprise.

    Although I have seen this film several time after that night, it wasn’t until I purchased the video that I first saw the Hypno Vista segment. For me, once was enough. Now I have it on DVD and can skip that part completely.

    As for that Binocular scene, if a list were made of the most shocking moments in movies, it should rank close to the top.

  2. Paul: That binocular scene is definitely a classic! And you’re right, after that scene the other murders seem rather tame.


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