Horrors of the Black Museum

Horrors of the Black Museum

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Arthur Crabtree
Produced by Jack Greenwood
Herman Cohen
Written by Herman Cohen
Aben Kandel
Starring Michael Gough
June Cunningham
Graham Curnow
Shirley Anne Field
Music by Gerard Schurmann
Cinematography Desmond Dickinson
Edited by Geoffrey Muller
Carmel Productions
Distributed by American International Pictures (US)
Anglo-Amalgamated (UK)
Release dates
29 April 1959 (US)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $164,000 (est.)[1]
Box office over $1 million[1]

Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) is a British horror film starring Michael Gough and directed by Arthur Crabtree.[2]

It was the first film in what film critic David Pirie dubbed Anglo-Amalgamated's "Sadian trilogy" (the other two being Circus of Horrors and Peeping Tom), with an emphasis on sadism, cruelty and violence (with sexual undertones), in contrast to the supernatural horror of the Hammer films of the same era.


Frustrated thriller writer Edmond Bancroft (Michael Gough) owns a private "black museum" of torture instruments. He hypnotises his assistant Rick (Graham Curnow) to commit increasingly horrific crimes for Bancroft to write about.



Producer Herman Cohen said he got the idea for the film after reading a series of newspaper articles about Scotland Yard's Black Museum. He arranged through a contact to visit the museum, then wrote a treatment and later collaborated with Aben Kandel on the screenplay. Cohen says the use of binoculars as murder weapons, and all the other instruments of death in the film, were based on real-life murder cases.[3]

Half the money for the budget was provided by Nat Cohen and Stuart Levy of Anglo-Amalgamated in the UK, the other half from American International Pictures. It was the first movie from AIP in CinemaScope and colour.[3]

The credited producer was Jack Greenwood, but Herman Cohen says this came about to ensure the film qualified for the Eady levy, and in fact, Greenwood was more of an associate producer assisting Cohen.[3]

Cohen wanted to hire Vincent Price for the lead and also considered Orson Welles, but Anglo-Amalgamated pushed for a British actor in the lead, as it would be cheaper, so they decided to use Michael Gough. Arthur Crabtree was hired on the basis of his work on Fiend Without a Face."The price was right, and the old guy needed a job and I hired him," recalled Cohen. "And he was exactly what I wanted and needed as a good craftsman."[3]

A thirteen-minute prologue featuring hypnotist Emile Franchele and HypnoVista was added for the US release by James H. Nicholson of AIP, who felt the movie needed another gimmick.[4] "We tested it in a few theaters, and the audience went for it like crazy...hokey as it was," recalled Cohen. "It helped make the picture a success, I guess, 'cause people were looking for gimmicks at that time."[3]


The film was given a wide release in the US on a double bill with The Headless Ghost.[5] It was very popular and earned over $1 million in profits.[1] Cohen estimated 72% of the audience for this sort of film was aged between 12 and 26.[6]

Cohen says when the movie was released on television they had to take off the hypnotism prologue "because it does hypnotize some people."[3]

The film was later inducted into the Museum of Modern Art at the behest of Martin Scorsese.[7]


  1. 1 2 3 Mark McGee, Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures, McFarland, 1996 p100
  2. http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/title/36877
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Attack of the Monster Movie Makers: Herman Cohen, The London Years" By Tom Weaver Hermancohen.com accessed 1 June 2014
  4. 'Museum' Due Here Aug. 12 Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 09 July 1959: C9.
  5. FILM-MAKER FINDS THAT HORROR PAYS: Herman Cohen Makes Profit on Grisly Pictures -- Fox to Screen Durrell Books By MURRAY SCHUMACHSpecial to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 28 Apr 1959: 40.
  6. Teen-age Monster Maker, but Oh So Clean! Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 14 Apr 1963: L3.
  7. Obituaries: B-movie producer Herman Cohen The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 22 June 2002: J11.

External links

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