DVD review | Horrors of the Black Museum | The British 1950s sado-voyeuristic thriller still chills


A series of macabre murders leaves Scotland Yard baffled, but gives crippled crime writer Edward Bancroft (Michael Gough) great copy for a sensation-hungry public. But what is not known is that Bancroft is actually hypnotising his devoted assistant Rick (Graham Curnow) into carrying out the murders (mainly on the women who have humiliated him) using binoculars, equipped with spikes that go right into the victims’ eyes, a home-made guillotine, an acid vat and a pair of ice tongs. Bancroft then displays the murder weapons in his own private museum. But Rick finally turns on his master when he is ordered to kill the woman he loves (Shirley Anne Field).

Horrors of the Black Museum

This unforgettable sick 1959 chiller was a box-office hit for Anglo-Amalgamated, and the first in their ‘Sadian’ trilogy (along with Circus of Horrors and Peeping Tom), in which the draw was sensational, sexually charged violence. The critics, however, saved their outrage for Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960), whose take on similar sado-voyeuristic themes was a much more intelligent exercise.

Saying that, Horrors of the Black Museum still has the power to shock, with Michael Gough giving a totally overwrought performance as the sexist sociopath, and director Arthur Crabtree (Fiend Without a Face) making effective use of the colour and widescreen format to bring the grisly Grand Guignol spectacle to life.

In the US, it was advertised as being filmed in HypnoVista, which referred to a 13-minute lecture prologue on hypnotism by psychiatrist Emile Franchel (included as an extra here).

The Network Region 2 PAL DVD release

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