Horrors Of The Black Museum (1959) (DVD film review).

Be careful when putting binoculars directly in the eyes, as they can become really blind and fatal. At least in this 1959 film, ‘Horrors of the Black Museum’. The third of three murders and specialist reporter Edmond Bancroft (actor Michael Gough) fills in the details, discussing with the police, Super-Intendant Graham (actor Geoffrey Keen), and Inspector Lodge (actor John Warwick), which must have saved some filming. The pertinent detail for all three murders is the murderers’ weapons, similar to those in the police’s Black Museum.

Bancroft has medical problems himself, passing out when he hears about murders, which is an odd contradiction to what he does for a living. I wonder if the viewers back in 1959 were as attentive as we are now, realising something isn’t quite right before being shown. Speaking as someone who started seeing horror films at the cinema in the early 1970s, I would say we weren’t. The media reviews were limited to the film mags, and they weren’t regular buys. Bancroft also has his own Black Museum, known only to himself and his assistant, Rick (actor Graham Curnow). Bancroft seems to have a charmed life; he even has a girlfriend, Joan Berkley (actor June Cunningham), although she is hardly cordial as they break up. A lot of the script is used to tell the viewer about the characters, often by themselves. Oh, she also becomes murder victim number four.

We don’t exactly see how they arrest Tom Rivers (actor Howard Greene), but when we meet him, he seems to be confessing to everything. definite loony, but Graham thinks they’ll keep him locked up and still look for the real murderer.

Antique dealer Maggie (actress Beatrice Varley) realises that Bancroft is involved in the murders and tries to blackmail him, but fails graphically. The list of people who suspect him continues to grow and die. Bancroft’s assistant Rick is also being controlled, but now we are getting spoilers.

A rather sharp ending in more ways than one. It stops short before running out of ideas for killing people, and there is hardly any real detective work from the police. They just turn up to see the events end and keep the gawkers back. If it wasn’t for the final mistake, he might still have gotten away with it.

Audio Commentary

This is with Kim Newman and writer/editor Steve Jones, who point out that it was the sleaziest British horror film until the late 1960s and really mean. An edited cut was sent to the USA for television use. Both reviewers trade off their knowledge here, especially of the uncredited character actors. Sally Ann Field’s character is the only one who is not a loose woman. They don’t know what Bancroft’s basement machine is for either. The film is essentially ‘I Was a Teenage Jekyll and Hyde’. Jones’ memories of Battersea Fun Fair are illuminating.


There are quite a few extras. The ‘Interview With Kim Newman’ runs 21 minutes and discusses the film. Producer Herman Cohen was also behind the ‘I Was A Teen-Age-‘ fill in the creature. I agree with him that the plot is essentially a string of murders. I’m less sure about his comments about the use of red. Red post office vans and buses, for example, were quite common in London then and now. You would hardly have to wait long to film a bunch together.

‘Hypno Vista Introduction’, at 11 minutes, is a piece about hypnotism as Emile Franchel explains about suggestibility for the American audience and was shown before the film. I can beat the yawning trick simply by smiling, so I guess this also proves I’m not a good hypnotic subject.

For its time, ‘Horrors of the Black Museum’ was very graphic, although no one in the extras points out if any of the murder weapons also reside in the real Black Museum. If memory serves and Google confirms, you need to become a police officer even to get permission to see the exhibits. What gives the film its punch or cut is how the murders are sprung at you and surprise the victims. Just be cautious about befriending dominant writers.

GF Willmetts

April 2024

(pub: StudioCanal, 2024. 79 minute colour film with extras DVD. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ASIN: OPTOD4546R0)

cast: Michael Gough, June Cunningham, Geoffrey Keen, John Warwick, Graham Curnow and Sally Anne Field

check out website: www.studiocanal.co.uk/title/crime-in-the-museum-of-horrors-1959/ 


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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