From The Vault: Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) Simon Fitzjohn December 2, 2012 From The Vault 1890 There are certain actors in the horror genre that remain watchable no matter what the material they are given to work with. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are two names of that ilk that immediately spring to mind when discussing films of yesteryear. But I reckon Michael Gough also deserves to be in that company, having shared the screen with both Lee and Cushing in Hammer’s Dracula, as well as taking the lead role in enjoyable creature feature Konga. He then obviously went on to find substantial fame late in his career thanks to his role as Alfred in the Burton Batman movies, before sadly passing away last year. One of Gough’s better efforts was the intriguing Horrors of the Black Museum, a murder mystery flick that offers plenty of ideas, only to be let down by too much bad acting. Not from Gough though, who chews his way through a meaty script as Edmond Bancroft, a crime writer that has made a good living out of providing sordid copy regarding real-life murders. Bancroft starts sniffing around Scotland Yard as they struggle to get to grips with a serial killer stalking London, murdering women in inventively gory ways. We get one of those murders to kick off the film, with an unfortunate blonde skewered through the eyes by a pair of binoculars that conceal a pair of deadly blades. The police have no idea or clues, and the bodies begin to pile up at regular intervals. We quickly learn that the killings are actually being carried out by Bancroft’s sidekick Rick (Graham Curnow), using implements held in his boss’s basement crime museum. In case you are wondering, the Black Museum is a genuine collection of real-life murder weapons and evidence held at Scotland Yard. Bancroft reckons his collection is better though, and Rick sets about proving it with guillotines, antique blades and the like. Things get more complicated when Rick gets involved with a girl, Angela, and unsurprisingly Bancroft gives him an ultimatum – get rid of the girl or our work is through. It all leads to a climax at a funfair that ties up all the loose ends and makes sure everyone goes home happy. As stated earlier, Gough is on fine form, all ranting mumbo-jumbo about the poetry of murder, and he is joined in fine work by Geoffrey Keen as police chief Superintendent Graham. But, sadly, the rest of the cast fail to follow suit, with Cunrow proving a particularly wooden presence. A number of the victims overact wildly detracting from the film’s credibility, and there is some bizarre moments of poor logic – one murder sees the killer have the victim in darkness, away from prying eyes, yet he waits until they are back out in the light, and in full view of everybody else before he stabs her! The film also slides when it tries to push home a hypnosis angle, with Bancroft seemingly controlling Rick thanks to some sort of serum. But these are minor quibbles thanks to a decent storyline, Gough’s tour-de-force and pacy direction from Arthur Crabtree, who also helmed memorable monster movie Fiend Without A Face. Horrors Of The Black Museum may not be as well known as it should be, but for fans of the Hammer films and the like it comfortably ranks alongside their better efforts.