Scotland Yard are chasing a murderer responsible for the deaths of three young women in London, where the killer evidently has no apparent motive but appears to be using the ideas housed in Scotland Yard's "Black Museum" as the theme for his murders. Edmond Bankroft (Michael Gougb) is a popular crime writer who uses his own "black museum" as the base for his stories. While Scotland Yard is baffled by the seemingly unstoppable murders, Bankroft seems to stay one step ahead of the murderer's every move. Which leads to the question of whether Bankroft's obsession with the murders goes deeper than professional journalism... But as the string of horrifying murders continue, innocent victims are stabbed, electrocuted, boiled and decapitated and Scotland Yard is left to wonder, is the killer right under their nose?
A Ripe Slice Of Ham
- Horrors of the Black Museum review by Count Otto Black
(0) of (0) members found this review helpful.
You rated this film: 3
Younger cinema-goers probably think that Michael Gough's career consisted of playing Batman's butler a few times before Alfred regenerated into Michael Caine. But back in the day, he was a prolific character actor who, though not exactly subtle, was one of the go-to guys if you wanted a magnificently arrogant mad scientist or a creepily suave serial killer and you couldn't afford Vincent Price. One time he even played the Emperor of the Moon.
This is one of several obscure low-budget outrageously over-the-top psycho killer or mad scientist movies he made at more or less the same time, and they're all worth a look if you can find copies. Plot? There isn't one! It's no spoiler to reveal that Michael Gough's character is responsible for all those horrific and ludicrously elaborate murders the police are baffled by, since the entire film focuses on him, and even before the disclosure early in the film that he's the killer, we've had plenty of very broad hints that he might have rather a lot to do with the murders. And not for one moment does he behave like a halfway sane person should.
So there's no mystery as to whodunnit. Nor are we in the dark about why he dunnit - as he explains several times, notably in one speech where he really pulls the stops out and throws all remaining shreds of subtlety to the four winds, he's just trying to prove how much smarter he is than the police. Though I'm not sure why he bothered - saying that the police in this movie are as dumb as a box of rocks is an insult to geology.
If you like movies in which the bad guy has a secret room in the basement where he keeps his collection of torture devices, oddly-shaped knives, and very cheap waxworks of people being executed in nasty ways, along with an acid-bath, a death-ray, and what appears to be a computer because every mad scientist has to have one, you'll probably like this movie. Oh, did I forget to mention that halfway through the film, he suddenly switches genres and turns out to be a mad scientist in addition to everything else? Yes, it's that plotless, and all the better for it!
What stopped it getting four, or even five stars from me is that, not being a Hammer film, it mostly chickens when it comes to the actual murders, which are few and far between to the point where they're almost incidental - the demented excesses of "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" or "Theatre Of Blood" are sadly lacking. But as a story about a crazy guy doing horrible things for no particular reason while overacting furiously, it ticks all the boxes. Absolutely everybody in the supporting cast is evil, sleazy, too stupid to live, or all of the above, so there's none of that saccharine romance between the bland male lead and his equally tedious girl that clutters up so many similar films. In fact, the subplot which threatens to go in that direction (and which is blatantly stolen from "Peeping Tom") does something so different that it comes as a genuine shock. It looks very much as though the writers were going for the blackest comedy ever, but nobody told the director - this is especially apparent in the scenes where doomed characters give master-classes in how NOT to behave when you're alone in a room with a man you know to be a totally insane serial killer!
So overall it's a lot of fun, though marks off for not being horrific enough, despite that X certificate. By the way, when David Essex and Ringo Starr visit the cinema in "That'll Be The Day", this is the film they're watching. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.