The Sphere Museum. The world’s largest collection of natural and unnatural wonders.

There seems to be some nefarious goings on at the Sphere Museum. The museum is a sideshow that caters in ‘unnatural oddities’ and has seen better days. Freaks, circus type acts and dancing girls are prominently displayed and for the price of a ticket you can see the show. The Sphere is owned by Alfred Carr (Tom O’Brien) and his co-hort Professor Mysto alias Bernard Latham (Henry B. Walthall).

Today the museum is being visited by City Councilman Blair Newgate (Sam Flint), Police Commissioner Brandon (Joseph W. Girard). There have been reports that the museum is being used as a front for drug running. Both Newgate and Brandon are running for mayor. They are on the joint investigation to clean up the city. Reporter Jerry Ross (John Harron) has heard of the commissioner’s visit and is on hand in case there is a scoop. The commissioner’s niece Lois Brandon (Phyllis Barrington) decided to check out the museum herself as a lark.

When Newgate is shot dead police swarm the place looking for the gun and suspects. During the visit, suspicion falls on his opposition in the mayor’s race, Brandon. Ross and Lois join forces to solve the mystery.

“Murder in the Museum” AKA “Five Deadly Vices” was release in 1934 and was directed by Melville Shyer. The movie is a poverty row film by Marcy Films. It is basically an Old Dark House movie in a carnival side show.

The ‘museum’ in “Murder in the Museum” is not what we think of a museum today. The term was used to reference a stationary side show that featured burlesque shows, magic acts, arcades and circus type acts. They were usually located in the seedier end of town since their acts were more on the risqué side. People looking for a cheap thrill would venture there for a night of slumming. These type shows stayed in one place most of the year but during hot weather closed up. Many went on the road teaming up with circuses.

Unlike “Freaks”, Tod Browning’s expose on carnival side show freaks, most of the acts in “Murder in the Museum” are regular actors. The only real carny was the armless guy. Although Steve Clemente, as the Mexican knife thrower, is an actual knife thrower.

The movie is fast paced at only 64 or 65 minutes. There is a lot packed in to it. Besides the first murder there is a shoot out and a kidnapping. Toss in romance and a jilted lover for good measure. All together it’s a basic 30’s style who-done-it with circus acts. Something slightly different than the usual back drop and with a little history from a bygone era. It’s an enjoyable little movie, especially for mystery lovers.

You may notice that a lot of the movies made in the 30’s, especially the early 30’s and those made by poverty row studios are lacking in background music scores. During the advent of talkies it was difficult to synchronize background music with what was going on in the film. Music was only used in the beginning and ending credits to the film since it didn’t have to be synchronized with any visual cues. Occasionally music was inserted if there was a long period without dialogue. “King Kong” 1933 was the first to have an entire movie scored. The composer was Max Steiner. Carl Laemmle always used “Swan Lake” in the beginning credits of his movies. He liked it. The music ‘composer’ for “Murder in the Museum” is Charles Dunworth. He used stock music for almost every film he ever scored. Quite often for horror and mystery movies he used the same music. If the opening credit music for “Murder in the Museum” sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Dunworth used it many times.