Wed 13 Feb 2013
HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM. American-International Pictures, 1959. Michael Gough, June Cunningham, Graham Curnow, Shirley Anne Field, Geoffrey Keen, Gerald Anderson, John Warwick. Director: Arthur Crabtree.
Horrors of the Black Museum is a gaudy comic book of a movie, best enjoyed if you park your good taste and critical faculties with the gum under your seat. The story, by Herman Cohen and Aben Kandel (the team that brought us such classics as I Was a Teenage Werewolf, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and Berserk) posits that a best-selling True Crime writer (Michael Gough, masticating the scenery with sadistic relish) gets his insights by committing the crimes himself — or having them committed by a young assistant in hypnotic thrall to him.
The murders themselves are fairly grisly, including the opening bit (featured in all the previews) with a pair of booby-trapped binoculars, and are all practiced against lissome young ladies, but they have the redeeming value of being so far over the top (like Gough’s acting) as to provoke the odd chuckle.
At one point, for instance, we are asked to believe that the killer snuck into a woman’s apartment and built a guillotine over her bed which she doesn’t see until she lies down in just the right position for it to — well you get the idea. Even better is Gough’s sanctum sanctorum, filled with acid vats, S/M apparatus and some sort of machine mounted with dials, lights and levers that seems to serve no function at all.
Okay, admittedly the writing is perfunctory, and the acting mostly capable but undistinguished. There’s also some fairly prominent homophobia running through all this, what with the tastefully appointed bad guy keeping his handsome young assistant enslaved so they can victimize women. But I found Horrors suffused with a redeeming energy and engaging carelessness that kept me entertained throughout.