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Film / Horrors of the Black Museum

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Horrors of the Black Museum is a 1959 British-American horror film starring Michael Gough and directed by Arthur Crabtree.

Seeking the right note of verisimilitude for his upcoming novel, a blocked mystery writer decides to hypnotize his assistant into becoming a deformed killer so that he can witness the deaths first-hand. A number of creative deaths follow.

Tropes in Horrors of the Black Museum include:

  • Acid Pool: Bancroft keeps a vat of Hollywood Acid in his laboratory for disposing of the bodies of pesky snoopers who get too close to learning his secrets.
  • Bad Boss: Edmond Bancroft brainwashes his assistant Rick, then uses him as a test subject for a Psycho Serum and sending him out to commit murders on his behalf. This culminates in Rick being ordered to kill his own fiancée, Angela. And when Rick isn't been mind controlled, Bancroft is using him as general dogsbody and castigating him for the slightest slip.
  • Cane Fu: In a fury, Bancroft attempts to strike his mistress with his cane, only to have her snatch it off him, leaving him helpless.
  • Climbing Climax: During the climax, Rick attempts to escape from the police at the funfair by climbing up a Ferris wheel.
  • Evil Cripple: Bancroft is the mastermind behind the reign of terror of the 'Monster Killer'. He has a crippled leg and cannot walk without the aid of a cane.
  • Eye Scream: The film opens with a scene in which a woman is shown with blood running between the fingers pressed to her face, followed by a shot of binoculars with spikes at the eye-pieces. It is allegedly based on a real case.note 
  • False Confession: The police arrest a man named Tom Rivers who confesses to all four murders, with enough detail to make him convincing. However, he later starts confessing to additional murders, and talks about a death ray he is inventing, and the police realise that he is a serial fantasist. He is ultimately confined to a mental institution.
  • He Knows Too Much: After Rick shows his girlfriend Angela Bancroft's secret museum, Bancroft decides that Angela knows too much and hypnotizes Rick into murdering her.
  • High-Voltage Death: When Dr. Ballan gets too close to figuring out Bancroft's secret, Bancroft murders him tricking him into standing between the two ends of an electrical arc, and then activating the arc.
  • Hollywood Acid: Bancroft disposes of Dr. Ballan's body by lowering it into a vat of acid that strips the flesh from the bones in a matter of seconds.
  • Lady in Red: Bancroft's mistress Joan combines this with Pretty in Mink. It is especially noticeable when she is dancing solo to the jukebox and drawing the eye of every male in the room.
  • Mad Artist: Edmond Bancroft is a blocked mystery writer who decides to hypnotize his assistant into becoming a deformed killer so that he can witness the deaths first-hand for inspiration.
  • The Mistress: Joan Berkley is Edmond Bancroft's mistress. The dialogue during their argument indicates that is a kept woman, living entirely off Bancroft's largess. When she gets sick of Bancroft and breaks off their arrangement, Bancroft sends Rick to murder her.
  • Off with Her Head!: The killer uses a portable guillotine to decapitate Joan in her bed.
  • Pretty in Mink: Bancroft's mistress Joan dons a mink stole when she goes out for a night of fun following her argument with Bancroft.
  • Psycho Serum: Bancroft creates a serum that he uses on his assistant Rick, that grants Rick the 'gift' of absolute obedience. It also grants him superhuman strength, drives him into a berserk fury, and distorts his face into a hideous mask.
  • Serial Killer: Horror writer Edmond Bancroft gains new inspiration by using antiques rigged as torture devices to commit murder so he can write about it in the tabloids.
  • Shoe Phone: Bancroft uses several booby-trapped antiques to commit his murders. The most infamous is probably the binoculars that shoot spikes into the eyes of whoever looks into them.
  • Stripped to the Bone: Bancroft disposes of Dr. Ballan's body dunking it in a Hollywood Acid that dissolves all of the flesh and muscle within seconds: leaving behind a spotless and undamaged skeleton.
  • Taking You with Me: Rick's final act is to take Bancroft with him. He leaps off the Ferris wheel, being shot by the police in the process, but landing on top of Bancroft and plunging his knife into heart as he dies.
  • Tunnel of Love: Rick and Angela take a ride on the Tunnel of Love at the funfair. While they are in the tunnel, Rick transforms into the Monster Killer and stabs Angela just as the boat emerges.