HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM(director: Arthur Crabtree; screenwriters: Aben Kandel/Herman Cohen; cinematographer: Desmond Dickinson; editor: Geoffrey Muller; cast: Michael Gough (Edmond Bancroft), Graham Curnow (Rick), June Cunningham (Joan Berkley), Shirley Ann Field (Angela), Beatrice Varley (Aggie), Geoffrey Keen (Superintendent Graham), Gerald Anderson (Dr.Ballan); Runtime: 95; AIP/Anglo Amalgamated; 1959-UK)
“This one is a must see for horror film fans.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Filmed in “Hypnovision.”
In the prologue, psychologist Emile Franchel says that the only ones who can’t be hypnotized are imbeciles, idiots, and fools. “Horrors” plays as a lurid oddity, an intriguing horror tale that anticipated Michael Powell’s more accomplished “Peeping Tom.”
The acting is stiff and the story relies on shocks to tell its Sadean tale about a successful crime writer who creates a reign of terror in London so he could write about it to show how doubly clever he is. The murders are of a perversely sexual nature and the shocks come by way of a series of particularly gruesome murders.
In the opening scene, an attractive lady receives a parcel from an unknown admirer. When she examines the binocular gift, her eyeballs are gouged as two steel spike needles were released by a spring attached to the lens when she held it up for viewing. Scotland Yard Superintendent Graham (Keen) is baffled by this, the third brutal murder in the last two weeks. There seems to be a madman on the loose in London, whose crimes have no apparent motive. Waltzing in to the superintendent’s office to gloat about the police incompetency in getting the killer is popular crime writer Edmond Bancroft (Gough), who writes for a tabloid and is also a best-selling mystery writer.
The crippled writer has an assistant, Rick (Curnow), whom he hypnotizes and turns him into a deformed monster to do the killings and all his other dirty work. When Bancroft’s secret girlfriend Joan (Cunningham), who looks like Marilyn Monroe, throws a tantrum and dumps him, he has Rick set up a guillotine over her bed using it to lop her head off.
In the writer’s house he has a secret locked room where he collects weapons and names his place the black museum after the real one in Scotland Yard. After every murder the writer is in the habit of visiting his physician, Dr. Ballan (Anderson), who notices that the publicized murders stress him out as if he were involved in them. Ballan finally comes to the conclusion that his patient needs psychological help. Unfortunately he tells this to Bancroft and for his misplaced trust he gets electrocuted and thrown into an acid vat. Bancroft uses an elderly woman antique collector (Varley) to sell him his future murder weapons. When she catches on that he’s the murderer and blackmails him, he responds by fatally putting a pair of ice tongs into her throat.
Warning: spoiler to follow in the next paragraph.
Things are beginning to get out of hand for the crime writer, who reveals himself as a madman to others. When Rick is caught in his black museum with Angela (Field), a girlfriend he wants to marry and share all his secrets with, the writer gives Rick another hypnotic treatment and tells him to take Angela to an amusement park. In the ‘tunnel of love’ Rick’s face turns into a monster and he stabs her to death. When the police surround him and he sees Bancroft yelling for the police to shoot him, Rick lunges at his master and stabs him to death.
This one is a must see for horror film fans. It was part of a trio of perverted horror films released by Anglo-Amalgamated studios, which included Circus of Horrors and Peeping Tom.
REVIEWED ON 5/7/2001 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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