Review: Horrors of the Black Museum / Cert: 15 / Director: Arthur Crabtree / Screenplay: Herman Cohen, Aben Kandel / Starring: Michael Gough, June Cunningham, Graham Curnow, Shirley Ann Field, Geoffrey Keen / Release Date: Out Now
Hats off to the folks at Network DVD, their recent release schedule of late has been magnificent for fans of obscure cult British films, the latest being this fabulous forgotten horror from the end of the '50s.
The film opens with one of the most memorable setpieces in vintage horror cinema, as a beautiful young woman receives a pair of binoculars as a gift. Obviously thrilled (flowers and chocolate are so passé), she tries them, only to have two spring-loaded spikes pierce her through the eyes. It turns out this is the third murder carried out utilising a style from Scotland Yard's infamous Black Museum. Crime writer Edmund Bancroft (Gough) mocks their attempts at finding the culprit, while his doctor thinks his health is suffering through his morbid interest. Now obviously, not everything is as it seems with Bancroft, not least because he possesses a black museum of his own, one which he prides himself as being better than the Yard's (chiefly due to the large computer which fills one wall).
This tawdry contemporary horror has often been overshadowed by the Gothic fare Hammer had started producing at the same time, but it certainly delivers some fabulous shocks. Gloriously filmed in colourful CinemaScope, the crimes may take place just off-screen, but the impact is certainly felt.
There's a standout scene with Howard Greene (father of TV's Sarah Greene) as a psychotic but harmless chap who confesses to the murders (“You know what I'll use next? A death ray!”) and Keen (Minister of Defence in several Roger Moore Bond films) is solid as Scotland Yard's Superintendent. However, it's Gough who steals the show, as always; effortlessly portraying Bancroft's arrogance and malevolence. The only weak link is Field, whose stilted acting is almost as pointed as her sweater.
As well as some great shocks, there's a definite sense of humour, with several intentionally funny moments to complement the camp delights.
Extras: Trailers / Image gallery/ Oiginal US HypnoVista introduction (almost 12 minutes of a hypnotist explaining and demonstrating his art)