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Case Number 20198: Small Claims Court

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Horrors Of The Black Museum / The Headless Ghost

The Headless Ghost
1959 // 62 Minutes // Not Rated
Horrors Of The Black Museum
1959 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by VCI Home Video
Reviewed by Judge Ike Oden (Retired) // November 26th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Ike Oden is presented in Hypno-Vista.

The Charge

SEE the fantastic binocular muder! SEE the vat of death!

The Case

The Horrors of the Black Museum features a serial killer eluding Scotland Yard at every turn, racking up mad kill points and grabbing headlines throughout London. Renowned crime journalist Edward Bancroft (Michael Gough, Batman) mocks the incompetence of the police in his lurid newspaper reports of the killings. Why? Well, Bancroft is the culprit, of course; a doctor of death with a flair for the theatrical, slaying victims by knife-blade binoculars, bed-mounted guillotines, and electric acid baths. These eccentric weapons are a mere taste of his grandiose "black museum" of murder, maintained by assistant Rick (Graham Curnow, Three Men in a Boat), a white bread kid harboring dark secrets of his own.

The Headless Ghost has three foreign exchange students—Ronnie (David Rose, And Women Will Weep), Bill (Richard Lyon, The Great Lover), and Ingrid (Lillian Sotane, The Camp On Blood Island)—exploring the supposedly haunted Ambrose Castle. When Ronnie convinces the gang to sneak in and stay in the castle overnight, they meet the ghost of the Fourth Earl of Ambrose (Clive Revill, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back), who convinces them to lift the curse of the castle and free the spirits of his dead family members by retrieving the decapitated head of one of his meanass ghost brothers. Wacky shenanigans involving a headless ghost ensue.

Alright, VCI, get ready for a critical lashing: this Herman Cohen Classic Horror Double Feature is just plain awful.

The DVD takes two films that couldn't possibly be farther apart in subject matter and mashes them together, based only on the fact that Herman Cohen produced them. Cohen, the man behind such B-movie classics as I Was A Teenage Werewolf and How To Make A Monster, binds these films by the thinnest of threads.

Black Museum plays as a sophisticated, high concept British psycho thriller with Michael Gough charismatically chewing scenery as the film's mad genius. There are exploitative elements to be found in quick flashes of gory deaths and half-naked pin-ups, but Gough and the cast elevate the material to a smart, genuinely suspenseful movie that would make a better double feature with The Abominable Dr. Phibes or Saw (its over-stylized-death-trap child and grandchild).

Headless Ghost is an entirely different beast, more of a 1950s Ghostbreakers-type of comedy, with unfunny teen protagonists filling in for Bob Hope. Everything about the movie is lame; the story is trite, the characters are wooden, and the jokes lack any rhythm whatsoever. I recommend it on the basis that some of the headless ghost effects are nifty, the castle setting is atmospheric, and the cinematography is gorgeous. The British cast, especially Clive Revill (the famous voice behind Star Wars' Emperor Palpatine), give it a solid go, raising the film from horrible to bland mediocrity.

The technical specs of this disc also disappoint. Horrors of the Black Museum fares so-so, sporting a blurry, scratchy 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that is watchable at best. The Headless Ghost fares worse, with a letterboxed transfer that looks like it was ported over from one of those public domain VHS tapes you'd find in a Goodwill bargain bin; soft, fuzzy, and barely tolerable.

The Dolby 2.0 stereo tracks accompanying each are about the same. Black Museum is unspectacularly passable, while the Headless Ghost is thin and tinny.

Abandon hope ye who expect extras. There aren't any, which is strange because VCI's original Horrors of the Black Museum release came with commentary tracks, introductions, and trailers. If I were you, I'd track down that release and leave this DVD in the trash bin where it belongs.

The Verdict


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Scales of Justice, The Headless Ghost

Judgment: 40

Perp Profile, The Headless Ghost

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 62 Minutes
Release Year: 1959
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Headless Ghost

• None

Scales of Justice, Horrors Of The Black Museum

Judgment: 78

Perp Profile, Horrors Of The Black Museum

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1959
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Horrors Of The Black Museum

• None

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