Sometimes there is just not enough crime. In fact, Edmond Bancroft played by Michael Gough, just finds that most of it is pretty bland and boring. If he is to write more exciting articles and books worthy of the public’s notice, then there needs to be something remarkable, and hopefully morbid enough, to inspire him. Well, why not just commit some crimes? Would that not solve everything? In Horrors of the Black Museum, that is exactly what happens, though not exactly as you might think.
Gough is inspired as Bancroft, the writer who seems acutely interested in the murders that have been taking place. Of course, he is writing his articles for the public as they have the right to know what is going on even if the police do not. And as each murder gets progressively worse, it seems to pique Bancroft’s interest even further, including his erratic behaviour. At times, Bancroft can seem so perfectly normal and at others, completely manic. He is more excited and agitated, and after each crime he experiences a sort of breakdown that his doctor warns him is affecting his health negatively.
Bancroft also happens to have a strange habit of buying objects of murder and torture for his own personal Black Museum, an alternative to the one that is housed within Scotland Yard, where he and Graham Curnow who plays his hapless assistant Rick, works. Anything that Bancroft asks, Rick will do, following his orders blindly, including getting rid of bodies like Bancroft’s doctor who thinks he has pieced together what his patient is doing, only to get himself killed for it. Curnow does an all right job of the role, though he does not have a lot to work with and his lines are few.
There are many inventive crimes that take place in this film, at least for the time period that is. With the passing years, horror has gotten more complex and far more creative in the way people are killed or murdered. This film, for what it is though, steps it up a notch from the usual off-screen killings to give us some actual blood and on-screen death. There are the famed ice-pick binoculars, death by electrocution, by guillotine, a classic stabbing and some ice tongs through the neck. Gough and Curnow even dispose of a body by boiling it in a vat of acid.
On the negative side, the movie does run a little slow when there are no murders being committed. Gough’s charisma makes up for it a little, but the script by Herman Cohen could have been cut down just a little. June Cunningham plays Gough’s mistress in the film and left a lot to be desired with her performance, most especially her dancing. That dancing is the most haunting image in the whole movie.
So while the film might seem dated, and it does, it is quite enjoyable as far as horror films go. It is definitely not as scary as some of the fair that would be offered up in the years that would follow, but watching Gough is always a good time and the movie keeps you interested enough to continue watching. It might not be the first choice you make when looking for something of the horror persuasion to watch, but it is worth a view if you have never seen it before.