Thursday, November 11, 2010

HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM / THE HEADLESS GHOST

This "Herman Cohen Classic Horror" disc from VCI Entertainment recreates an authentic, vintage double-bill of the producers' British-made chillers, both from 1959: HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM and THE HEADLESS GHOST.

HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM stars Michael Gough (KONGA) as an arrogant, eccentric writer and amateur criminologist named Edmund Bancroft, who maintains a private "black museum" of crime in his home. Determined that the details of the crimes in his new book be accurate, he devises a singularly unique method to insure that his work is authentic: hypnotizing his young assistant (Graham Curnow), to commit a series of bizarre murders.

Directed by Arthur Crabtree from a script by Cohen & Aben Kandel, HORRORS is a low-key, deliberately paced thriller with plenty of macabre humor and a delightfully sly performance from Gough in a role originally intended for Vincent Price.

In THE HEADLESS GHOST, three college-aged exchange students - two all-American boys (played by Brits with unconvincing accents) and a statuesque Danish blonde babe named Ingrid - are touring an English castle. Upon hearing that the place is haunted, they decide to spend the night in the Medieval stronghold, and hide when the place closes for the night. Sure enough, the place is haunted by a slew of not particularly menacing ghosts, including one headless one! He implores the kids to help him break the curse that's held him in limbo for 600 years; all they need to do is help him find his missing head....

Directed by Peter Graham Scott, and again written by the team of Cohen & Aben, GHOST is an amusing teen horror comedy, that's light on chills but manages a few honest chuckles. British character actor Clive Revill (LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE) is a joy - and the only memorable member of the cast. Running only about an hour, it doesn't overstay its welcome, and while it's not any kind of classic, it makes a perfectly satisfactory second feature - which is what it was meant to be.

VCI's double-feature disc is pretty decent, but bare bones. HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM was previously released by the company in 2003 as full-fledged special edition, loaded with extras - none of which appear here. Oddly, though, the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer appears to be superior to that on the older release, with more stable colors and seemingly sharper detail. 

Never before available on legit DVD, THE HEADLESS GHOST is presented in a black & white, non-anamorphic 2.35:1 'scope transfer. The picture quality is quite good, maybe a little soft, but with no apparent damage or dirt and solid blacks.The lack of anamorphic enhancement is irritating, though.

No bonus material - not even trailers - are provided for either feature.

If you already own the 2003 edition of HORRORS, you might want to hang onto it for its extensive supplemental features, but this new edition is also worth picking up for classic horror fans. These two movies were originally exhibited together theatrically, and this DVD finally reunites them in a decent (tho not perfect) and affordable package.

BUY: Herman Cohen Classic Horror Double Feature: Horrors of the Black Museum / The Headless Ghost