Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) by #ArthurCrabtree
To provide material for a new book, a crime writer hypnotizes his assistant into committing grisly murders.
“SEE! The Fantastic Binocular Murder! SEE! The Vat of Death!”
I thought that I knew what Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) was about. I definitely watched it a few years back, and in my memory, it was about people visiting a museum and getting trapped there (or something like that). Apparently, I was remembering a different movie.
Horrors of the Black Museum is actually about a “museum” or rather a “black museum” which is owned by Scotland Yard. It is basically a collection of weapons that have been used in past crimes. Sort of like an educational resource for police to use to help them solve crimes.
“i wonder what could have killed this guy?”
”Hmmm… Let’s check the black museum to see if we have anything that fits.”
According to Wikipedia, the Black Museum “came into existence at Scotland Yard sometime in 1874, arising out of the collection of prisoners’ property gathered as a result of the Forfeiture Act 1870 and intended as an aid to the police in their study of crime and criminals.”
In Horrors of the Black Museum, there is also a second Black Museum; one owned by a private citizen who is building an impressive collection of murder weapons. Why? To kill people of course.
His name is Edmond Bancroft (played by Michael Gough), and he is a journalist and crime writer. It seems like he needs some inspiration for his next book of true crime stories, so he hypnotizes his young assistant into murdering people in sick and disgusting ways. Some of the murders are so odd and imaginative that they bring to mind later films like The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971).
Horrors of the Black Museum feels like it’s ahead of its time. More like a giallo or a slasher film than most of its contemporaries, which tended to be sci-fi monster movies. It’s edgy and disturbing at times, while still maintaining a sense of good fun. It predicts where horror films would be going in the future, rather than simply rehashing the ideas of the past. It came out one year before Psycho (1960) and Peeping Tom (1960) and it’s definitely more related to those films than, say, Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959).
Perhaps because the movie reminded me of The Abominable Dr. Phibes , I found myself thinking that it would have been a good vehicle for Vincent Price. Apparently producer Herman Cohen had considered hiring Vincent Price, but his British partners felt that it would have been too expensive. So, he hired Michael Gough instead, and went on to make five films with him. Cohen considered Gough to be a “cheaper” Vincent Price.