“Horrors of the Black Museum” was a shocking late ’50s British B-movie filmed in “HypnoVista”

By on October 18, 2018

Halloween Night is just a few weeks away, and we’re pretty sure more than a few of you Night Flight fans have already started celebrating your favorite night of the year, but for the rest of you who still need to get into the mood may we suggest popping up some corn and settling in to watch the British B-movie Horrors of the Black Museum, which was filmed in “HypnoVista.”

Watch Horrors of the Black Museum and some of the other Halloween-ish horror features we’ve got streaming for subscribers over on Night Flight Plus!

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In the film’s thirteen-minute prologue, Emile Franchele (registered psychologist – specialty: hypnotism) basically tells the audience that the only ones who can’t be hypnotized are imbeciles, idiots, and fools, but don’t let his warning stop those of you who aren’t imbeciles, idiots and fools from checking this one out.

Horrors of the Black Museum begins with one of the most shocking scenes of murder in a B-movie up to that point, when a young London woman named “Gail Dunlip” (Dorinda Stevens) receives a pair of binoculars via a delivery to her doorstep. She takes them out of the package and looks through the lenses, adjusting their focus.

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Just then, her roommate “Peggy” (Malou Pantera) — she’d been pretty curious about the parcel before it had been opened — hears an audible “click” sound as a spring-loaded latch located inside the binocular lenses unhooks, shooting two long steel spikes straight into Gail’s brain, right through her eyes.

Blood pours through her fingers as she silently mouths her last words: “My eyes, my eyes.”

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Best-selling murder mystery author and local celebrity “Edmond Bancroft” (Michael Gough) learns of her death — the third of three hideously sadistic murders in the last two weeks — while he’s signing copies of his newly-published book, Terror in the Dark.

Bancroft, an obviously misogynistic crippled-up crime tabloid reporter (he walks with a limp, relying on a cane) seems obsessed with this series of grisly murders of single, attractive women in London within the past two weeks.

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Scotland Yard’s “Superintendent Graham” (Geoffrey Keen) and “Inspector Lodge” (John Warwick) both seem baffled at the savagery of these motive-less unsolved murders.

We soon learn later that Bancroft becomes so desirous of creating accurate crimes for his gruesome tales of murder — writing about them to show fellow Londoners just how clever he is — that he hypnotizes his manservant “Rick” (Graham Curnow) to make him commit the required murders.

These murders include the death of Bancroft’s secret girlfriend, a flouncy, fun-seeking bosomy blonde named “Joan Berkley” (June Cunningham) who meets her grisly end when a guillotine blade over her bed falls, lopping off her head.

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After each murder, Bancroft pays visits to his physician, “Dr. Ballan” (Gerald Andersen) but the good doctor eventually begins to realize his stressed-out patient needs psychological help. When he confronts Bancroft, he ends up getting electrocuted and thrown into an acid vat.

Bancroft also ends up having to deal with “Aggie” (Beatrice Varley), an elderly antiques collector who has been selling him unusual weapons for his private “Black Museum,” the secret, locked room in his home filled with his collection of lifesize wax figures modeling the weapons found at crime scenes.

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After she puts two-and-two together and realizes Bancroft is actually the local serial killing murderer, she decides to blackmail him, but it just leads to her meeting her grisly end when Bancroft uses a pair of ice tongs are used to strangle her.

Finally, there’s Rick’s girlfriend, “Angela Banks” (Shirley Anne Field) who meets her end at the point of a dagger, her murderer escaping into the Hall of Mirrors at a local carnival.

Read more about Horrors of the Black Museum below.

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Horrors of the Black Museum, directed by Arthur Crabtree, was the very first color film released by its co-producer, American International Pictures.

It was also one of the very few horror films released in Cinemascope.

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The film’s title comes from American co-writer/producer Herman Cohen, who got the idea for the film after reading a series of newspaper articles about Scotland Yard’s actual “Black Museum,” which he later visited, thereafter writing a treatment and collaborating with Aben Kandel on the film’s screenplay.

“Every instrument in the Black Museum,” he would recall later, “was from an actual murder. The murder with the binoculars happened in the Thirties, in Kent, and those binoculars are in the Black Museum at Scotland Yard. The ice tongs, the portable guillotine — people don’t realize it, but these were used in actual murders in England.”

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Crabtree had first worked as a cinematographer before turning to direction, lensing mostly glossy costume dramas, until he directed the 1958 sci-fi-horror film Fiend Without a Face.

He retired from filmmaking shortly after the release of 1959’s Horrors of the Black Museum (Crabtree died in 1975).

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Horrors of the Black Museum — budgeted at just $400,000 — ended up making $3 million in box office receipts for its U.S. film distributor, American International, by the end of 1959.

It’s success was surely noted by director Michael Powell, whose equally-lurid and yet more-accomplished film Peeping Tom arrived in theaters just a few years later.

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Horrors of the Black Museum was, in fact, considered part of the Anglo Amalgamated’s Sade-ian trilogy — alongside Powell’s Peeping Tom and Sidney Hayers’ Circus of Horrors, all three of which were vilified by contemporary film critics — for its emphasis on sadism, cruelty and violence with sexual undertones.

Watch Horrors of the Black Museum on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.