|Horrors of the Black Museum (1959)
|Release Date:||April 29, 2003|
|Running Time:||1 hour 34 minutes|
Widescreen anamorphic format
Archival commentary by producer Herman Cohen
Commentary by film critic David Del Valle and composer Gerard Schurmann
3D motion menues
Video tribute to Herman Cohen
Phone interview with Herman Cohen
Original US and European theatrical trailers
Region 0 DVD
|Video Format:||Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
English (Dolby Digital 2.0) Mono
French (Dolby Digital 2.0) Mono
|Subtitles:||English, Spanish, French.
|Casing:||1-Disc Keep Case
I have been looking forward to VCI's release of "Horrors of the Black Museum" for quite some time now. I wanted to find out if this beloved movie from my childhood still held up. It does and it doesn't. I found that the movie no longer scared me, but I also found that it did make me laugh and smile. "Horrors of the Black Museum" is a ham and cheese classic. The great thing about this VCI DVD is that you learn a little about the gimmicks of B-movie promotion through the extensive extras provided. Let's talk plot before we get to the extras.
Bancroft has a museum of death in his basement. The room is filled with dioramas of famous murders as well as an arsenal of various torture devices. Bancroft has a faithful aide, Rick (Graham Curnow) who assists with Bancroft's writing and other activities. Rick is dating a redheaded hottie (Shirley Anne Field) who wishes he would spend more time with her and less time playing Igor with Mr. Bancroft.
I don't know what is wrong with the picture. The transfer was made from a European remastered version. This movie was shot in Cinemascope. When I played the DVD on TV, a large portion of the picture was missing on both sides. I knew that VCI had delayed the original release of this DVD, so I wondered if the company, which did the transfer, had screwed up. I intended to do a screen capture of the opening credits to give you some idea of how much picture was missing. Funny thing is, when I put the DVD in my computer to do the video capture, the entire frame was present. So, I can watch the entire movie on my computer, but on TV a third of the picture is missing from the sides. Go figure.
The colors are very vivid. The blood is Technicolor red, very much like a harlot's nail polish. The flesh tones are good. The picture is soft around the edges. There are some delineation problems during the final "fun fair" sequence.
The mono track is a bit flat at times. This could be due to the flat acting by British sex symbol June Cunningham as Bancroft's blonde floozy. There is no loss of dialogue.
No Easter Eggs found during review.
As they did with "City of the Dead" and "The Mark," VCI has gone the extra mile to put together a great package of extras. These three DVDs show VCI's dedication to improving their place among the purveyors of vintage movies.
I have a soft spot in my heart for the films of Herman Cohen. I grew up watching his work. This DVD includes a number of extras focusing on Mr. Cohen. The commentary track was created from archived material in which Mr. Cohen discussed the film. It is a lot of fun. Also included is a video tribute to Mr. Cohen narrated by his close friend Didier Chatelain. It is informative and contains a great many pictures and clips. Also included is a 15-minute phone interview with Mr. Cohen by Scarlet Street publisher Richard Valley. The phone interview is hard to hear at times, but still worth listening to. The interview is accompanied by a video montage of the movies being discussed.
B-movies of the 1950s were often promoted by such gimmicks as life insurance policies in case you died of fright, or nurses in the lobby to assist those who ran screaming from the theater. Such devices were often more inventive than the movies themselves. "Horrors of the Black Museum" was also promoted with the gimmick of "Hypno-Vista." The DVD includes the 13-minute "Hypno-Vista" opening. What this is, is a boring lecture on hypnosis by British psychologist Emile Franchel. Dr. Franchel's film clip supposedly was designed to hypnotize the audience in order to enhance the movie.
The second commentary track by David Del Valle and Gerard Schurmann also includes a number of insights into Mr. Cohen and his work. The DVD also includes a good photo gallery and biographies of the main cast members. There is a booklet insert, which unfolds into a reproducing of a Spanish movie poster. The poster is sexploitive in a fun sort of way. Ironically, it is made up of artwork of scenes that are nowhere to found in the movie. Such is the nature of B-Movies!
The sneaks include other VCI horror film releases like Dario Argento's "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage," Mario Bava's "The Whip and the Body" and "Blood and Black Lace,"Curtis Harrington's "Ruby" and John Moxley's "City of the Dead." each of these DVDs include great transfers and extras.
The Final Word:
Another great attempt by VCI to give the royal treatment to an older, well-loved cult classic. Please support these efforts by VCI so they will continue to release such titles in the future. Anchor Bay needs the competition.