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Horrors Of The Black Museum (1958)

Ah, the 1950s - pastel colours, a decent postal service and one nutter for every busty, jumper wearing bobby-soxer. And it's that very postal service which sees the downfall of our first peroxide toting floozy, as she takes delivery of a particularly nasty pair of binoculars within the first three minutes of Horrors Of The Black Museum.

"Beautiful…" she exclaims on opening the package. "They must have cost at least £20!"

Before her French room-mate can say "sacre bleu!" a brace of six-inch nails have shot out of the bins, through her eyes and into her brain, in what would be a nasty on-screen death even in this day and age.

"She thought eet was to take 'er to zee races," her fiend tells the police later on. "But eet was to keel 'er!"

Enter Edward Bancroft (Michael Gough in lip-smackingly arrogant form), a journalist who's been following this latest murder spree with relish. "Have I published anything that isn't true?" he asks the police inspector leading the investigation. "Three young women have been killed in London… each murder more horrible than the last!"

Adding, without a hint of irony (considering Gough's career to date and what was to come): "Not that I enjoy being sordid…"

According to the police, they're dealing with a "brilliant maniac", who appears to be using the ideas housed in their own "Black Museum" as the inspiration for the killings.

As we find out more about Bancroft, it turns out that he goes into a state of shock after each murder (his doctor puts it down to him reporting on them) and that he has his own "black museum" in the cellar of his home, which he stocks with gubbins from a nearby junk shop.

However, his museum is better than the police's apparently, mainly due to a bank of flashing disco lights in the corner.

"Eddie-baby" goes to visit a girlfriend of his, who judging by her breathless delivery, top-heavy figure and bright yellow hair, wants very badly to be Marilyn Monroe. After a brief exchange of sparkling banter ("Let's not have an ugly scene" "Ugly is the word, alright"), she clears off to a nearby bar where she entertains a group of bored-looking men with some terrible dancing (judging by the weak applause it wasn't entertaining in 1958, and it certainly isn't to these 21st century eyes). On returning home and climbing into bed (how did all that underwear fit under that red dress?), a silver-faced loon appears and drops a guillotine blade on her.

Luckily, as the murderer makes his escape he's spotted by the girl's neighbours. Unluckily, their combined descriptions sound absolutely nothing like him. "A horrible old man… the face of evil… speed and strength of the unholy… old and wrinkled, steeped in evil… and eyes boring in his head!"

Come off it, you lot - it's only Bancroft's assistant Rick with some silver face paint on and sticking his jaw out a bit!

"That's the most gruesome sight I've ever seen! We can't find her head, either."

The scenes of crime officer is pretty useless as well, exclaiming on seeing the headless body: "That's the most gruesome sight I've ever seen! We can't find her head, either."

Hilariously, the next scene involves a fellow called Tom Rivers, who's turned up at the police station to confess to all the murders. "It was like a ringing in my head - kill! Kill!" he tells the policemen, who begin to realise halfway through his brilliant monologue that he might not be telling the whole truth. "You know what I'll use next? A death ray!"

Meanwhile, Rick (sans silver make-up, obviously) has met up with his girl Angela (Shirley Ann Field - bloody awful, as usual) and Bancroft has been blackmailed by, and dealt with, the old crone who runs the junk shop.

Next for the chop is Bancroft's doctor, who has also sussed that his patient's connection with the murders goes slightly deeper than professional journalism. Astonishingly, he's prepared to allow a man who he believes to be a mass murderer and psychotic finish his notes before he carts him off to the police - and pays with his life (Bancroft happens to have a handy acid bath in his basement).

Later on, when Bancroft arrives home early, he finds Rick and Angela canoodling in his beloved (and supposedly secret) black museum.

"Rick!" he yells, on catching them. And he's even more annoyed when they announce their intention to marry. "A woman can't begin training her husband too soon," explains Angela, in a very 50s way. "He tells me everything!"

"Everything?" murmurs Bancroft, raising an eyebrow.

Once Angela has left, Bancroft explains to his cowering assistant: "This goes deeper than anger, Rick! No woman can hold her tongue - they're a vicious, unreliable breed!"

Apparently, Bancroft is keeping Rick under his control with drugs, and explains: "Some day, you will go deep into the black soul of man, deeper than anyone on earth!"

The film's ending is great, with bloody Angela getting hers (hooray!) and Rick's "killer at bay" performance coming across like a bad Norman Wisdom impersonation ("Mr Bancroft! Mr Bancroft! I did what you told me!").

Horrors Of The Black Museum is a great example of 50s exploitation - nasty deaths, a bit of female flesh (but not too much, obviously), some great black humour and lots of excuses for Gough to let rip in fine style - about journalism, the nature of man, how all women are evil, etc.

Great stuff.

Last updated: February 11, 2010

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Horrors Of The Black Museum 1958

Horrors Of The Black Museum 1958

Horrors Of The Black Museum 1958

Horrors Of The Black Museum 1958

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