Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Arthur Crabtree.
Starring Michael Gough, June Cunningham, Graham Curnow, Shirley Anne Field.
Horror, UK/US, 82 minutes, certificate 15.


Released in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD from Studio Canal on 15th January.


Located in New Scotland Yard, the Black Museum is an all-encompassing archive of criminal memorabilia that has been collected over the years by the police; a ghoulish collection of various pieces of evidence including murder weapons that have in many ways left their mark on British society. Culturally it has a small number of fictional counterparts, a 2017 episode of Black Mirror and a far future equivalent located in Mega City One that features regularly in the Judge Dredd Megazine. One of the earliest examples however, and perhaps the one that cemented its place in pop culture is this 1959 British horror, nicely remastered and presented here on Blu-ray from Studio Canal.


The Yard’s own Black Museum only features here as a chilling inspiration for crime writer Edmond Bancroft, a smarmy individual who is covering the shocking killing spree he himself is responsible for with the help of his assistant Rick. Edmond revels in his crimes by collecting and storing his various fiendish murder weapons in his own Black Museum, a testament to his bloody accomplishments, which include a booby-trapped pair of binoculars and a cleverly concealed guillotine within one poor victim's bedroom. As Bancroft gloats in mystifying and taunting the law, young Rick struggles with his own part in these villainous proceedings as he struggles against Edmonds' dominating methods of hypnosis and a mysterious drug that brings out his own murderous impulses.


An entertaining slice of vintage British horror, the film is perhaps most memorable for the shocking and sadistic nature, for the time, of those murderous set pieces and the performance of Michael Gough. Maybe best known to younger audiences for his genial performance as Batman’s butler Alfred from the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher films, it is always a delight to see how gleefully villainous he could be when given the chance, with his vindictive and venomous outbursts here resulting in one of his most memorable performances.


It could be considered more of a curio for completists than an essential addition to a horror collection, but this is a nicely presented edition worth checking out. Although the extras may be considered slim, they do a fine job of presenting the film in a historical context. Included here is the film’s American ten minute introduction that heavily sets out the concept of “HYPNOVISTA!” where Emile Franchel, “REGISTERED PSYCHOLOGIST, STATE OF CALIFORNIA” wildly oversells the films hypnosis aspect zealously stating that “You will feel the damp chill of the tomb, the warmth and heat of true love… in fact all emotions!” in that entertainingly infectious huckster style that gripped horror cinema in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Also included is a twenty-minute interview with the ever present Kim Newman where he succinctly presents an informative discussion on the films place in British horror history then going further on the films enthusiastic commentary track with fellow writer Steve Jones.


While far from essential it is an interesting addition for serious collectors and enthusiasts, especially when considered as an early example of envelope stretching screen violence, that would then be eclipsed by the even more shocking PEEPING TOM released soon after by the same studio.


Iain MacLeod.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans