Now? Nothing but back in 1980, the “Cellar” under the Palladium was a special effects marvel, built to rival Madame Tussaud’s in London. This short-lived attraction drew a pretty decent crowd and many around during that time have fond memories of the Palladium Cellars and its unforgettable waxworks.
Initially guests would see a small ticket office at the entrance which lead down the stone steps, and above these, a screen showing slides of the various characters including the 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 three 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 swallower, Sweeny Todd and Mrs Lovatt, a Punch and Judy Man standing next to his show. Then there is a dark street that you can’t go down, the name of this being Half Moon Street. You can see the figure of Jack the Ripper in cloak 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 changing picture of Dorian Grey. 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 its head from side to side and talk about curses, etc.
Moving along was the Dr. Jeckyll, 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, his head moving backwards and forwards. Next to Frankenstein is The Mummy. Three Egyptian men crouch in a temple and at the far end and huge stone door slides open to reveal the Mummy who raises its arms for a few seconds, the door then sliding back.
Next up was the Phantom of the Opera scene. The Phantom would turn his head towards you every so often so you could see his face.
The next area was the era of silent films. All the figures presented as if you were watching black and white films. Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Humphrey Bogart and a many others. There is a flickering white light that helps to maximise the effect.
Next you approach a narrow alleyway. On the left and right are two metal shutters that as you walk past fall open and two men shoot at each other.
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 smell of gasoline and smoke fill the air.
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 only one I seem to remember is Yul Brynner sitting at a bar stool rocking back and forth, dressed in Westworld attire. Music is played throughout this scene and at the end is a dancing girl and spinning upright table with cards on it.
Pirates was 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 i.e. Long John Silver, and a character portrayed by David Niven. There were sound effects of cannons firing, general pirate chatter, smoke and fire.
Lastly,there is a walkway through the short space section. Everything here is behind glass. All I remember from this is a lot of pipes, multi-coloured buttons going on and off, a spaceman and a black robot sitting at a control panel with wires coming out of its head.
This area ends in a small shop. The exit to the shop opens into a room with the King and I figure. There were a set of red velvet curtains which opened slowly to the theme music.
Here, two 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.
If you were lucky enough to visit the Cellars in their time, let us know what you recall, if you know their whereabouts of these props and if we missed anything.