Movie Review: Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) – VCI Entertainment

December 11, 2023

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

After a lengthy intro to the Hypno-Vista process courtesy of hypnotist Emile Franchel (and the film’s U.S. distributor A.I.P. who added this hokum to provide more bang for your movie-going… or watching buck), during which we are given a large swath of bullshit to wade through regarding how we, the audience, will become part of the movie at hand… things get down to brass tacks when a woman receives the ultimate “drop them panties” gift of binoculars from a secret admirer.

As is so often the case, the binoculars shoot needles into her eyes (just another in a continuing series of murders plaguing the city), which leads her roommate to seek the assistance of the local police… but who should barge in and offer his two-cents on the matter but journalist and crime writer Edmond Bancroft (Michael Gough, whom you may recognize from Tim Burton’s Batman films where he played loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth).

Ol’ Ed states the binoculars look like they originated from Scotland Yard’s Black Museum, a collection of murder relics from various cases. As fate would have it, Edmond has his own private Black Museum which he curates, and with his quick temper, rather abusive treatment of the ladies, and strange mental and physical state that whips up anytime the murders are mentioned he seems like Suspect Numero Uno… but before long a culprit is discovered, but the elaborate murders continue.

Who is behind the continuing murderous mayhem, and does Edmond have a connection to it all?

The first thing that flew into my beastly brain as I watched Horrors of the Black Museum is how absolutely baffling that Vincent Price wasn’t the star of this picture. The outlandish murders, the cultured author character, the home-based collection of killing devices… this shit screams Price, but alas it wasn’t to be…

Instead we get a very capable replacement in Gough who manages to imbibe the character of Edmond with charm and sophistication, but still maintains an edge of danger (his facial expressions are worth the price of admission alone)… which is a definite plus given the demands of the story, and if placed in less capable hands, Edmond may have been intolerable to follow through his adventures.

Speaking of said “adventures”, they certainly are creative (and at times based on real cases investigated by Scotland Yard), and feature not only the aforementioned spike-binoculars, but also features death by portable guillotine (?!!), electric shock, ice tongs… it’s a real who’s who… or more accurately what’s what  of gnarly means of demise!

The supporting cast is solid here as well with the most memorable performance going to June Cunningham as Edmond’s hard boozin, suggestive dancin’, Jayne Mansfield-esque lover, Joan… trust me her barroom gyrations are a ridiculous delight!

And all of the above looks fantastic as F, as VCI have utilized one hell of a nice transfer for this release that boasts a clear image, plenty of detail, and eye-popping lurid colors (especially those killer reds) to tickle those ol’ eerie eyeballs!

Adding to the good times to be had here, there’s more than a miniature guillotines worth of bonus material present which kick out the jams with two audio commentaries; an archival track from Horrors of the Black Museum‘s writer/producer, Herman Cohen and the other courtesy of film historian/artist Robert Kelly. Taken together we get an information packed journey through just what it took to bring this thriller to the silver screen… originally… I mean it’s presumably on your TV if you purchase this, so that too…

Also included are archival phone interviews with Cohen and Gough, an archival chat with actress Shirley Anne Field, European and U.S. theatrical trailers for the film, a video tribute to Cohen, and a photo gallery.

Packed with over-the-top characters, garish color, and inventive kills, Horrors of the Black Museum is a fine fright flick, and this edition looks like devilish dynamite!





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