Horrors Of The Black Museum (Studio Canal)

Way back in 1959, as with all the best horror movies, there were calls for Arthur Crabtree’s ‘The Horrors Of The Black Museum” to be banned, but not for it’s gore or scare factor, more for it’s shock value. Even by 2024’s standards the jarring “binoculars”opening scene comes at you from left field, so in 1959, it really must have been a shocker when the movie’s idyllic 50’s middle class backdrop is rudely disturbed by a fantastic bit of violence. But how does the rest of the flick hold up?

The quick answer is very well indeed. Future Alfred Pennyworth for Tim Burton, Michael Gough stars, in his first feature as the troubled and slightly unhinged journalist and black museum collector, Edmond Bancroft who makes a nuisance of himself around Scotland Yard and more specifically around Superintendent Graham, played by Geoffrey Keen, in an authority figure role not to dissimilar from his turn in several James Bond movies. As the bodies of beautiful women pile up in ever more inventive ways, suspicion turns towards the (scandalously) unmarried Bancroft who has a somewhat contemptible attitude towards women and his young assistant Rick who’s predisposition for the macabre, may go further than simply collecting items for his underground museum.

With Hammer Films tying up the supernatural element of British filmmaking at the time, it was down to Anglo-Amalgamated Productions to provide us with more scandal to their brand of horror and they did not dissapoint. The acting relies on a few stellar performances to bring it through, but the lavish sets in glorious technicolour are a work of art unto themselves and the blood is plentiful, even when it looks like nursery school poster paint. But that’s the charm of movies like this.

Originally shown in the gimmicky ‘Hypno-Vista’ format, and now presented on Blu-Ray,this is primed for the modern film goer to see where the likes of Saw and Hostel originated. There’s a couple of nice extras as horror critic and writer Kim Newman adds a few words, along with audio commentary and there’s a few lobby cards thrown in to the mix too, making this a splendid little bundle of 1950’s shock horror….Chris Andrews

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