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Horrors of the Black Museum / The Headless Ghost; May, 1959
Topic Started: Mar 3 2018, 09:10 AM (215 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) Dir. Arthur Crabtree
An Anglo-American Production in CinemaScope and HypnoVista
Released by American-International Pictures
94 min. / Color / 2.35:1
DVD: VCI Entertainment

The Headless Ghost (1959) Dir. Peter Graham Scott
An Anglo-American Production in DyaliScope
Released by American-International Pictures
63 min. / B&W / 2.35:1
DVD: VCI Entertainment

ITB Shock Theatre #221-222

Yes, it's time to take another trip back in our Balcony Time Machine to a real, live drive-in double feature in the days of yore (I hope you just said, "Yore what?" I know *I* did). Jim Nicholson and Sam Arkoff tossed some bucks (sorry, "bobs and farthings," or whatever passed for money over there) from their British profits at Herman Cohen and told him to make a scary movie in color and CinemaScope. And then, just as work was wrapping up on THAT, they said, "Oh, yeah, we need a SECOND feature to go with it" and tossed him little more than what it costs to ride a double-decker bus for no more than three stops in London. And so here we are.

First up is a lengthy short with a "world-famous hypnotist" nobody's ever heard of describing the power of suggestion, waving spinning wheels in our car windshield, and ordering us to try - just TRY - to keep our palms together after he's told us not to. I felt like hopping out of the car and acting like a chicken, but then, I often do. In any case, he assured us that this was going to make us more susceptible to the chills and terrors that faced us in our film, Horrors of the Black Museum.

Scotland Yard is baffled (BAFFLED, I tells ya) by a series of grisly murders of pretty ladies, including one whose binoculars drove spikes into her brain and another decapitated by a guillotine built into her headboard. You know, that kind of thing. Badgering the bobbies on a daily basis is crime writer Michael Gough, who - sure enough - is the killer. Well, not exactly: mostly, he uses a drug to change his neat, mild-mannered assistant into a hideous, deformed MONSTER (and by "hideous, deformed" we mean "guy with what appears to be a smear of grey greasepaint across his face").

I'm-a be honest with you, this film is surprisingly not good, but what it lacks in artistry it makes up for with an over-abundance of tastelessness. It's got lots of very beautiful women (virtually none of whom survive until the final credits), some of whom dance provocatively (or possibly just stand still and I was imagining them move through the miracle of HypnoVista) and Gough, who chews scenery the way I chew chicken wings, probably has the movie of his career.

Million-dollar Dialog:
Gough, explaining his philosophy to the zombified assistant: "It's like anything else in life: flowers wither without sun and water, humans perish without food. The will to serve unquestionably, the gift of TRUE obedience: these, too, need to be NOURISHED and REINFORCED!"

The best part (other than the dancing) is the climax, in which the zombie Jimmy Olsen climbs a Ferris wheel and won't come down until the police bring him Mr. Gough to jump on.

Yeah, not a good movie, but I'm tellin' ya, I won't soon forget it. Back in the far future, VCI's DVD is wonderful, widescreen and packed with bonus materials, including a 20 min. documentary on the life of Mr. Cohen.

Next up are our usual snack bar ads (mmmm... Orange Nehi and Chick-o-Sticks) and Pink and Blue Blues, a funny Mr. Magoo cartoon (although who in their right mind would ask Magoo to babysit for them, I will NEVER know), plus the trailer for next week's million-dollar feature: PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE! I kid you not, my friend. "Wow!" scarcely covers it.

And so it is on to our second feature.

The Headless Ghost is filmed in the magic of “DyaliScope," which I'm pretty sure is what my proctologist uses to check my, er, health. Anyway, the film opens with a cartoon of a headless ghost, and it’s actually more entertaining than anything we'll see in the next hour. It seems three students (one of whom can't speak English) from some unnamed U.S. college are visiting England as exchange students. Touring Ambrose Castle, recently opened to the public and reputed to be haunted, our stooges decide to hide there overnight and try to get an article on ghosts for their student newspaper. Well, okay, that explains a lot, sort of, except that the one student who doesn't speak English as good as us is actually from Denmark – she points out that Shakespeare wrote about Danish ghosts, and that she is quite certain that the castle is really haunted. Before long, Malcolm - a ghost beheaded 400 years earlier - hops out of his portrait and explains that until he can prove his innocence, all the ghosts are trapped in the castle, so he doesn't have many friends (one of the students: "I guess a ghost’s life isn’t what it’s cracked up to be") and Ingrid - our great Dane - vows to help him. By this point, the film's brief hour running-time is nearly out, so she actually helps him relatively quickly.

Million-dollar Dialog:
After the ghost explains that Malcolm was beheaded, one of the students responds, “You mean his head was chopped off?” (What are these guys MAJORING in, anyway?)

As with the first film, the highlight is a sexy dance scene: one of the she-ghosts trapped in the castle appears to have been reincarnated as an actual brick shithouse.

This is a really dumb film, even by my admittedly meager standards of movie watching, but what th' heck, it's short and it's probably no worse than the similar Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow, which we have comin' up in a few weeks. Let's all remember to replace our speakers on the stands on our way out, eh?
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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