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HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM

As a lifelong fan of horror movies I think back to the days of my misspent youth- a time where I spent every Saturday evening glued to the television watching Chiller Theater, which would broadcast a nice array of lurid horror flicks. Of the movies that I watched on Chiller Theater, there is one that has always stuck out in my mind, even some thirty odd years after first seeing it. That unforgettable movie is the exploitative genre classic- HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM ($20). As for the reason that Iíve had such vivid memories of HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM has everything to do with the filmís grisly opening sequence that involves a beautiful young woman that receives a package from an unknown admirer. Upon opening the package, she discovers a seemingly innocuous pair of binoculars, which she eagerly tries out. What followed was forever burned into my memory, as two spring loaded metal spikes shot out the binocular eyepieces- through the young womanís eyeballs and into her brain, thusly killing her.

Of course, HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM being a movie from 1959, all of the graphic violence happened off screen. However, for years after seeing the film, I could swear I saw the metal spikes puncturing that unfortunate victimís eyes. The rest of HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM focuses on a continuing series of grisly murders that have left Scotland Yard completely baffled. Horror writer Edmond Bancroft (Michael Gough) is having a field day exploiting the crimes in newspaper column, as well as mocking the authorities for their inability to capture the culprit. However, we quickly learn that not everything is what it seems with the noted author. Bancroftís obsession with horror and murder extends to a "Black Museum" of weapons and torture devices hidden away in the depths of his estate. To say any more about the plot of HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM would give away the films remaining shocking and exploitive surprises. The cast of HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM also features June Cunningham, Graham Curnow, Shirley Anne Field, Geoffrey Keen, Gerald Anderson, John Warwick, Beatrice Varley and Austin Trevor.

VCI Entertainment has made HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. I have to give credit to VCI for doing a remarkably good job of transcribing this independently produced exploitation horror classic to DVD. The film element used for the transfer is in very good shape, displaying few blemishes or other signs of age related damage. Image quality isnít quite as good as a major studio "A" picture from the same period, but HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM holds its own. Now, if one were to compare HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM to a major studio picture, the image would seem ever so slightly soft. That aside, I found the picture to be generally well defined, without the mushy quality that some original Eastmancolor elements from the same period exhibit. Colors generally appear well saturated, with a decidedly Eastmancolor palette, and the movie blood is rendered in quite the vibrant fashion. Blacks are pretty accurate, as are the whites. Contrast is good and the level of shadow detail ranges from decent to purposely muddy. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.

HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM comes with a perfectly serviceable Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack that gets the job done. The mastering process has stripped away the most glaring signs of age, leaving the track reasonably crisp and distortion free. Dialogue is always completely understandable, although occasionally, an errant voice will sound as though it were coming from the bottom of a well. As expected, fidelity is a bit truncated, but Gťrard Schurmannís musical score comes across in an effective manner. A French language track is also encoded onto the DVD, although no subtitles are provided.

3D animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVDís supplements. HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM includes two running audio commentary tracks; the first is with producer Herman Cohen (originally from the Roan Group Laserdisc), while the second features composer Gerard Schurmann and film critic David Del Valle. Both commentaries are interesting, although Cohenís talk can be a bit sparse at times. However, fans of this particular movie will find both tracks highly rewarding. Video Tribute to Producer Herman Cohen is a twenty minute program narrated by Cohenís personal friend and business associate Didier Chatelain that traces the late producerís life and career. The filmís original Hypno-Vista precredit sequence is also include on the DVD, along with American and European theatrical trailers. A phone interview with Herman Cohen, cast & crew filmographies, still gallery and bonus trailers close out the supplemental content.

HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM is an exploitation horror classic and a personal favorite from my youth that I am glad to have on DVD. VCI has done a great job with the DVD, offering a solid presentation and a strong supplemental section. If you are a horror fan, then this DVD is a must have for your own little black museum.

 

HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM 


Horrors of the Black Museum (1959)

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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