Monday, November 13, 2006

Palladium Cellars








England has had its fair share of wax museums over the years, some very familiar, others not so. The most famous of the wax museums is of course Madam Tussards in London, there was also a Tussards in Edinbrough too, although a smaller version.
What about the museums/exhibits that cover the horror genre?, Tussards had its chamber of horrors, but the ones I am thinking about are ones such as The London Dungeon and the Edinbrough and York dungeons, these are still in buisness and as popular as ever with the general public and us horror fans. In Whitby they have the small but interesting Dracula Experiance with scenes from Stoker's novel. In Scarbrough they have Terror Towers which covers such characters as Alien, Dracula, mask killers like Jason from Friday the 13th, as well as a Jurassic Park type exhibit, a Witch, haunted lift, creepy allyway etc.
One particuliar waxwork museuem, now long gone was The Palladium Cellars in London. Although it covered many genres of film, such as Westerns, Gangsters, comedy etc It was the horror exhibits that looked to be the most fasinating, I say looked to be, because I had never been there myself but had seen adverts in magazines such as Starburst and Look-in etc and it always looked great. The pictures that you see are from the Palladium cellars souvenior brochure, as you can see the horror exhibits were very much inspired by Hammer Films. One of the palladiun cellars founding members was Hammer Films Michael Carrears.
What ever happened to this waxworks? Did anyone ever go there who could tell us more about it? please leave any comments if you know about the Palladium cellars or of any other fasinating waxworks.

30 comments:

mysticmanse said...

hi,paul

your subject made me think of when
me and debs went in the drac-experience in whitby,it was dark,it was short,and a little bit hairy,and a man with a cape and white face tryed to grab debbies leg....

Gavin said...

Hello Paul. I went several times to the Palladium Cellars during the 80's. It first opened if I believe rightly in 1980 or 81. maybe slightly later. I remeber one day picking up a leaflet in a Kings Cross tourist centre that showed the Mummy with his arms outstretched, bathed in a green light. Needless to say I went there the very next day. I used to have the brochure a long time ago and I really appreciate you putting up the pictures - brings back a lot of memories! I remember virtually everything about the Cellars and can describe to you in order what all the exhibits were!
There was a small ticket office at the entrance which lead down some stone steps, and above these was a screen showing slides of the various tableaux including aformentioned Mummy. When you reached the bottom, you found yourself in an alley. On the left was a huge scene of Oliver Twist with Oliver and the Artful Dodger trying to pick the pocket of Mr. Bumble, while various other characters, including Nancy stood around. A bit further up on the right were MacBeth's 3 witches huddled around the cauldron and behind them was Macbeth himself, while the figure of Banquo's ghost kept appearing behind him in fog. Next to this high up on a parapet was a 'talking head' figure of Shakespeare writing with quill in hand. You then moved on to what i think was a street scene and this included a juggler, sword swollower, Sweeny Todd and Mrs. Lovatt, a Punch and Judy Man standing next to his show. Then there is a dark streetthat you can't go down, the name of this being Half Moon Street. You can see the figure of Jack the Ripper in cloack and black top hat bent over a victim. Next on the left is a cage with Oliver Reed as werewolf in it . The creature would shake the cage every now and then - a green light effect made this quite chilling. Opposite on the wall was a picture of Dorian Gray. I don't remeber the picture actually changing but I do know there was some mesh in front of the portrait, possibly an effect of some sort. On the other side was a scene from 'The Raven' with Karloff, Price and Lorre hunched over a table. On the table were potions, tarot cards, the raven and the skull from the photo. The skull would swivel it's head from side to side and talk about curses, etc. Moving along was the Dr. Jeckyll tableaux. He is shown at his lab and again a "talking head" effect shows his transformation. Next is 'The Gorgon" with Peter Cushing trying to look away as he tries to kill Barbara Shelly with a sword. Around the corner on the left was Cushing and Karloff. Cushing is shown in an apron next to a bald Karloff who rises up from the table every so often and near Cushing is a hunchback servant on a stool working the controls which all light up. Opposite this is Lee as Dracula holding his bride (can't remeber is there is a Van Helsing figure though) Lee's figure is quite good and he moves hid head backwards and forwards. Next to Frankenstein is The Mummy tableaux. 2 or 3 Egyptian men crouch in a temple and at the far end is a huge stone door that slides open to reveal the Mummy who raises it's arms for a few seconds, the door then slding back. Now I don't remeber the Phantom of the Opra scene was placed but I do remember it and the woman in the background holding a light. The Phantom would turn his head towards you every so often so you could see his face. After that I believe the next section is silent films. All the figures presented as if you were watching black and white films. Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd (I think hanging from the clock face), Buster Keaton, Humphrey Bogart and a few others. There is a flickering white light that helps to maximise the effect. On to gangsters now...We approach a narrow alleyway. On the left and right are two metal shutters that as you walk past falll open and 1 or 2 men shoot at eachother (I was quite scared of this being 10 or 11). The alleyway open up to a scene of Bonnie and Clyde with the protagonists firing shots from behind a car and various other mobsters from other films are standing around the gunfire...lots of smoke and petrol fumes I seem to remember. From there it's westerns. You walk past John wayne on his horse and would enter a long saloon bar where you would walk down the middle. On either side were famous characters but the obnly one I seem to remember is Yul Brynner sitting at a barstool rocking back and forth. he may have been dressed as he was in Westworld. Music is played throughout this tableaux and at the end is a whore and spinning upright table with cards on it. Pirates is the next section and it's very effective. Essentially you walk down the middle of a room while on each side are two wooden ships that rock very slowly towards you almost pinning you in! On each ship were various characters ie. Long John Silver, and a character portrayed by david Niven. There were sound effects of cannons firing, general pirate chatter, smoke and fire. Then a walkway through the short space section. Everything here is behind glass. All I remember from this is a lot of pipes, multicoloured buttons going on and off, a spaceman and a black robot sitting at a control panel with wires coming out of it's head. The shop was very small...I did buy a blue rubber vampire mask...they had a great range, and possibly bought one of those coffin money banks with the skeleton hand that grabs coins. Just before you reached the exit, there was a fairly large room all done out in gold and red. I can't recall what was here except for the King and I figure. There were a set of red velvet curtains which opened slowly to the theme music. 2 princes were on bended knee before the figure of Yul Brynner who had a "talking head" and thanked you for visiting The Palladium Cellars and hoping you would come back soon. The music would play again and the curtains would close. When you left the Cellars you reached the back of Argyll Street. Now, bizzarely, a long time ago, I was speaking to a family friend about the Cellars and he told me he was responsible for packing up all the figures when the attraction closed down. I would love to know where they are now. I have scene the figure of John Wayne on a site for animatronics and on ebay, posters for the Cellars were being auctioned. One with Humphrey Bogart on and one with Wayne. Maybe one day the Cellars will re-open - I think it does corporate entertaining/art shows now, but if and when Hammer films are fully resurrected (by Endemol) would you believe, I would hope we could see these figures again, or another type of Hammer tourist attraction. Hope all the above info helps you out. Any questions or want to chat my eamil is gavingilbert@hotmail.com

Paul said...

Hi Gavin

Wow thank you so much for all the information that you have given me, it is so more than I expected. Your superb detail of the Palladium Cellars had me imagining the exhibits has you explained them. After reading it all, I now more than ever wished I went there back in the 80's, it sounded such an amazing place to visit and with some great exhibits and special effects and music. It looked good in the brochure, but after what you have wrote it is better than I thought it would be. The London/Edinburgh/York dungeons and Terror towers in Blackpool are great places to visit too, but I think that because of the movie theme of the Palladium cellars, it really hits the mark with me. Lets hope that it will re-open sometime, thats if all the figures are all stored together and not been sold off to several parties.
I shall try and put some pictures of the brochure on sometime.
Once again, thank you very much.

mrnice said...

Your memory of the Palladium is great, however John wayne was not sitting on his horse he was standing beside it, it also included a exhibit of Frankenstein. I have som video of the Palladium which was used in a Norwegian movie if you wish I can try to make a copy for you. best Regards Henrik
norpress@start.no

Paul said...

Hi Henrick
Thanks for the comments on the Palladium cellars, I didn't write that long comment about the description of the cellars, but I am glad that you enjoyed reading it. There is a picture in the Palladium Cellars programme that shows the Frankenstein exhibit, the Doctor looks to be based on Peter Cushing.
Yes I would be interested in a copy of the film you mentioned, I of course would be willing to pay you for it. What is the name of the film?

Reodor said...

Hi, the movie is called Olsenbanden gir seg aldri, of 1981, here is one of the places where you can get it. http://www.nfi.no/filmbutikken/tittel.html?id=9353

Best regards Henrik

Paul said...

Hi Henrick

Thank you for the title and link to the film. I saw a clip on youtube from the film and it does look quite good and funny too.Not sure if I will be able to order it though from that site.
What is the footage like of the Palladium cellars featured in the film? Does it show any of the Werewolf exhibit?

All the best
Paul

Reodor said...

Hi Paul the film is quite good and wery funny altough I am afraid to say I dont believe it comes with english text altough i am not certain of this. I seem to recollect a small clip from the werewolf exhibit but i cannot guarantee this. If ytou have problems ordering it I can assist you, otherwise I will recoomend you to just send them an email explaining your situation.

Henrik

Gavin said...

Paul...
I'm opening up a fansite on Facebook for The Palladium Cellars for people to post their memories, share their thoughts, and hopefully people who originally worked there might stumble across it! I have found some black and white stills, a fold-out brochure with opening date, some posters, and other goodies.I hope you can join when it's finished even though you never went! I would like to know if I have your permission to use the pictures of the brochure you have on the Cobwebbed Room for the fan site.
Please let me know, and I'll keep you up-to-date the completion of the site.
Regards,
Gavin!

Paul said...

Hi Gavin

That is fantastic news, I shall be happy to become a member. I have a friend who visited the Palladium cellars, so I could ask him to write what memories he has. It's also fantastic that you have managed to pick up some memorabilia about the cellars. Do you happen to have a poster of the werewolf, my friend said that he bought a werewolf poster when he visited there, would love to see a picture of it.

If you could possibly send me an email, I shall scan all the pages of the brochure for you to use on your facebook site. I am really looking forward seeing it up and running.
All the best
Paul

Gavin said...

Hi Paul...
First things first - email is gavin@ggilbert.freeserve.co.uk. Of course I will put up a link to the Cobwebbed Room as well to boost your numbers!

I am awaiting permission from a gentleman who's father made the figures originally to use some black and white stills. he may have other shots as well and some floor plans, etc. Also contacted a gentleman who made some of the figures for the Westerners exhibit so am awaiting reply with regards to photos, and if he would care to join group. The posters I was looking for have disappeared. they were on ebay - and showed Bogart and John Wayne - will try and track them down again. I'm also on the hunt for a fold out leaflet that had the mummy on the front bathed in green light! It's great news that you have a friend who went - ok...that's 2 new people hopefully!
I am also going to be hunting down - and you might laugh at this, the actors who's faces were projected onto the talking heads exhibits! Obviously not Yul Brynner - who spoke himself, but maybe for Shakespeare, and Dr. Jekyll - though that projection may have come from a film itself rather than use an actor at that time.
Anyway, looking forward to the brochure scans!
Thanks,

Gavin.

Paul said...

Hi Gavin
Well all the information and contacts you are gathering together is really amazing especially contacts with people involved in the actual exhibits.
I think I remember those 2 posters, I seem to remember putting Palladium cellars in google image search and these 2 came up.
Has it been easy getting this information together?
Thanks for offering to put a link to my blog on your site, I appericiate it. I'll put a link to your facebook site here on my blog for you too.
Good luck tracking down the actors whose voices were used in the exhibits. Could be a talented cleaner with movie vocal talents.
Thanks for your email, I'll send you an email soon.
All the best
Paul

Gavin said...

Hi Paul,
unfortunately,when I posted the pictures, they shrank from their original size, and I had no way to edit them on Facebook. Could I be a real pain and ask you to resend the ones you did - I would appreciate that and then hopefully I can get them to the right size.
Thanks,

Gavin. gavin@ggilbert.freeserve.co.uk

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

I went to the Palladium cellars when I was a very little girl. I remember that I was staying at a Holiday Inn with my parents and the hotel suggested the museum.

I remember it being a really scary experience as a child. The most frightening thing was a werewolf that starting roaring and shaking it's cage when you walked past it. The other was having to walk over the heaving body of a woman whose blood was being sucked by Dracula.

There were many screaming women running around in there aswell who my Dad enjoyed scareing even more by flicking the werewolf trip switch every time they went by.

It was not a good museum for a small child and many of the people staying at the Holiday Inn complained afterwards.

Would have loved to go back now though as I love horror movies and would love it!!!

Paul said...

Hi
Thanks for the wonderful story about your visit to the Palladium Cellars, sounds wonderful. How old were you when you went there? One of my friends who also went there has fond memories of the Werewolf in the cage, he said he used to have a poster of the werewolf which he bought while there. Do you remember what the cellars shop was like and what sort of items they sold? Also do you or your parents have any photos that you took there?
Thanks again and I hope that seeing the pictures from the brochure and Norwegian film bought back some good memories for you.
All the best
Paul

lee c kent said...

hy guys just seen your page and had to comment,i went to the cellars in 80-81 on a rugby challenge cup final between the two hull teams at wembley.i was 11 years old and had seen the palladium cellars on some childrens news programme like magpie or newsround i went with my parents and was amazed at the waxworks particulary the horror section the werewolf was amazing and i remember a story of the guy who was making some final preperations to some of the exhibits when the werewolf starting shaking behind him in his studio.apparantly his co workers had played a practical joke on him almost giving him an heart attack.i also remember the pirate ships swaying in and out whilst you walked down the centre with all the characters moving and swinging allover truly amazing to an 11 year old boy from hull,can you tell me why it shut down as i didnt even know it had shut down till recently.cheers lee c kent.

lee c kent said...

oh my god i just remembered my tour programme from the palladium cellars i got was actually autographed by the one and only lional blair who my mum shouted to across the road coming out of a shop with some fags sad but true.cheers again lee c kent

Paul said...

Hi Lee
Thanks for your story about your visit to the Palladium Cellars. All the people that have left comments regarding their visits all have fond memories and certainly seem to remember the Werewolf especially. I never had the opportunity to visit myself, something I really regret after reading about it. I like the story regarding the man working on one of the exhibits and getting a fright from his colleagues setting the Werewolf off. I bet they had some good fun working on those exhibits. The Pirate ships sounded good too, certainly sounded like they put a lot of hard work into the exhibits and technical effects.

I think that they closed down due to eventual low attendance probably due to competition from Madam Tussards and The London Dungeon. It had only been open for a few years during the 1980’s. Such a shame.

I thought your story about your Mum shouting Lionel Blair across the street to sign your brochure was funny. Of all the people to sign it.Your brochure must now be a unique item. Did your parents take any photos during your visit?

Thanks again Lee.

jon said...

Hi Paul
I'm glad I'm not alone in loving the nostalgia of old monster stuff!
I fondly remember the Friargate wax museum in York - and since learning of its closure, have a need to find more information about it (I'd love to see photos of the pressure sensitve yeti they had caged there!)
And, thankyou for your blog

GuildfordGhost said...

Jon, presuming your comment wasn't made years ago, I've just put up a video clip of Friargate Wax Museum on YouTube (January 2011). It's a long story, but I was an enthusiast of Osborn-Smith's Wax Museum on the Isle of Wight and it's leading me down some dark alleys...

effekte@gmx.ch said...

Hi guys
I reading your page attentively and its not easy to find something about the Palladium Cellars in the internet. I think i was there too, but i was very young an i cant remember well. Sometimes i work with animatronic an build them fot costumers. Lat week i bought some of the original figures from the PalladiumCellars an today i fixed the pneumatic so that they work...... So ist very interesting for me to found out more about the Palladium. Thanks for your page. Urs

Paul said...

I agree that there is hardly anything at all about the Palladium Cellars, such a shame. Its a good job there are people that went there and can share their experiances of their visit. How did you come across the original figures from there? Which ones did you buy? Would love to see some photos of them, Is there anychance you could email any please?

Magpie said...

I went to the Palladium Cellars not long after it opened--I have a feeling it was was in 1978 or 79, because I left England in 1980.

The Horror section was the most extensive one, but the gangster room with the flashing machine guns and smoke was amazing.

The Pirate Room was also great--with the two ships slowing rocking back and forth on either side of you, you actually felt like YOU were the one rocking.

Magpie said...

My mistake--it opened in May, I left England in July, so I guess I got there early.

Interesting story--one of my schoolfriend went not long after I did, and when passing the werewolf tableau (where the werewolf would suddenly start shaking the bars of his cage, scaring the crap of you) and the werewolf shook so hard that one of his legs fell off....

Anonymous said...

the only thing I would add was that the robot at the end of the cellars was actually from Saturn 5, and so was the control panel next to it.

The other memory I had was that the werewolf was triggered by photo-sensitive cells just before you got to it - terrifying and brilliant.

Paul said...

Hi Magpie
Graet to hear that you got to see the Palladium cellars. I can imagine how effective the gangster scenes must of been,as well as the pirate ship. I wish there was video footage of all the scenes from there. I love the story about the Werewolf shaking so hard its leg came off.Lol.

Paul said...

Thank you for the information.Was Saturn 5 the one with Farrah Fawcett and Kirk Douglas.How I wish the cellars was still open. I went ot London a few months ago and went down Argyll Street to have a look where it used to be.

Kareliaw said...

Hi I went there as a kid I was about 7 I remeber most of the exhibitions and it was really ahead of its time with animatronics and film projection it really seemed everything was alive and real. I loved the horror chamber and was so well done but the werewolf scared me and made me cry. If I remember it was round a corner and eagerly rushing on ahead I was the one who triggered it and so it started very violently shaking the bars it was amazing but scary. Jack the Ripper was very creepy and sinister and I loved Rudolph Valentino in his tent. It's a shame it didn't last long we stumbled across it as a family I don't think it had the marketing behind it like Tussauds

Harry Peach said...


Hi - are you able to scan the rest of the brochure? would love to look at them in more detail. Particularly interested in the Shakespeare scene.

Kevin Game said...

My Grandfather used to take me to the Cellars when I was little, it must have been late 70's, 1980 at the latest as he passed away that year.

My overriding memory is of the Wolfman that used to growl and shake the bars of his cage. It used to scare the bejeesus out of me and we'd have to wait until he'd finished growling and would go quiet to start the cycle again and we'd run through to the next exhibit.

I've still got the old programme at home