Friday, 18 July 2008


This was the first of what is often referred to as Anglo-Amalgamated's "Stabbing trilogy", the other two films being Sidney Hayers' CIRCUS OF HORRORS and Michael Powell's PEEPING TOM. These films introduced a nastiness that was virtually unknown in British films. Powell particularly, because he was regarded by the staid English critics as a "respectable" film director, was especially singled out for vilification (although, as often happens, his film is now regarded as a classic.) As for CIRCUS OF HORRORS and HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, today they are what Vincent Price laughingly called "classics of their kind!" Much loved by fans for reasons that totally bemuse more serious minded cineastes.

HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM is directed by Arthur Crabtree, a former cinematographer, who turned to directing to embrace the artificiality of the Gainsborough Studios. It is debateable whether Crabtree ever directed better films but he certainly didn't direct anything more deliriously entertaing than BLACK MUSEUM and FIEND WITHOUT A FACE - the two horror movies made at the end of his cinema career before he disappeared into television episode land. FIEND had wonderfully animated brain creatures leaping on people and sucking out their brains while BLACK MUSEUM has Michael Gough spitting out his venom at everybody as a crimewriter who murders people with exhibits from his own Torture and Murder museum before writing bestselling true crime books about his own crimes. To be honest its all a bit crappy but great fun in garish colour and awful acting (which may or may not include Gough's scenery chewing performance, depending on your taste in such things, but most certainly includes young Shirley Ann Field giving the first of what became a whole career on monotone performances). It's all here : spiked binoculars, guillotines, acid baths, ice tongs, fun fairs, sexy dances, book siignings (what?) and make sure you count the number of scenes where Michael Gough ends a scene by walking out of a room closing the door behind him. And can anybody explain how he kept gaining access to the detective's office in Scotland Yard to taunt the cops with their inefficiency ? Rating ***

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM is indeed a delirious lark; one's enjoyment of the movie hangs entirely on how "seriously" one is going to take this movie. It's perfectly enjoyable for what it is. I do in fact also own the other two in the "trilogy" CIRCUS OF HORRORS (La la la la Look for a staaaaaaaaaaar...) and PEEPING TOM but I have as yet been incredibly remiss in NOT HAVING EVER SEEN FIEND WITHOUT A FACE. I know. I know. I'm hanging my head in shame.