View Full Version : McChrist reviews HOUSE OF WAX (1953)

07-31-2003, 02:32 AM
How often does one have an opportunity to see a classic film on the big screen? The author had the opportunity to see this wonderful film from a lost era on the big screen. Unfortunately, the theatre I had gone to did not have the appropriate screen to show this film properly in its original 3-D aspect, but undaunted the author made his way into a small theatre empty save for three other enthusiasts.

Professor Henry Jarrod is an artist of the highest order. He is a sculpter of wax, having the ability to create a wax statue that looks as if they breath. Undoubtedly a genius, but his work tends to be overlooked as people would rather go to a wax museum that offers gruesome entertainment, rather than Jarrod's love of historical figures. But when his business partner grows tired of the lack of interest and profit, he decides the best course is to burn the museum down and collect on the insurance money. This doesn't sit very well with Jarrod who does everything he can to thwart his partner's attempts to burn the building to the ground, but as the wax catches fire he becomes consumed as he watches his creations melt before him.

But of course, this is a horror movie. What I love about this is that the first 10 minutes of this film could have been a feature alone. But instead of going the route of the ironic drama, instead we venture further down paths of murder and madness. Jarrod is believed to have perished in the fire that night, no trace of him have been found. Soon enough a grisley scarred man begins to stalk the streets of turn-of-the-century New York as a series of brutal murders begin. It is only appropriate that Jarrod would return from the dead to open a new museum, this time bound in a wheel chair and having apprentices do the sculpting. Only appropriate that he reappears the same time that bodies become missing from the city morgue.

The movie follows a simple logic from there. Everything is neat and orderly, one scene inevitably follows the previous. There may be no surprises her, but this film has alot going for it. For one, despite the soundstage sets, the set designers have created a lush and wonderful backdrop for the exact sort of foggy moonlit streets required. The costumes were eye-boggling. But for me, what works the most for the author is the maximum use of space. Even though the author only had an opportunity to see this film in a two-dimensional print, there always tends to be a level of depth that wouldn't normally be there. Of course, this really doesn't have much to do with the fact that it was a 3-D film, but rather the sets have been arranged in such a way to allow characters to weave between and around, interacting with every bit of space available. If nothing more, House of Wax succeeds in reviving a more theatrical approach to staging a film. There is a definite upstage and downstage. The one thing the author regrets about not having seen this as intended, the sequences with the paddle-ball entertainer are surprsingly intriguing as is. This allowed for the film to interact with the audience a little more. The actor did so well playing to the camera, I could only imagine what that would have looked like in the THIRD DIMENSION!

Of course the author recommends this film. It certainly isn't perfect as the only real depth is superficial (or if you have special glasses of course). But this movie is fun in many ways, certainly a great way to spend an evening. Don't forget to see Michael Curtiz's Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) as it follows the same territory, although the author thinks that House of Wax is the better, but afterall it's only a matter of taste.

- M.

07-31-2003, 02:54 AM
QUESTION-Is this the one where the woman visits the museum constantly and there is one that looks liker her friend who went missing? I remember seeing on TNT's MonstarVision when it was on at 8. Is this one it?

07-31-2003, 03:17 AM

07-31-2003, 03:25 AM
Hey hey! Now I know what to put on my want list. I am so pissed. I've seen this movie CONSTANTLY for sale everywhere. But now, I'm sure now I won't be able to find it!

07-31-2003, 10:48 AM
Why are these alays written in the third person? Who is the author, if not McChrist?

Nice movie though :)

07-31-2003, 01:04 PM
I had written an essay a few months ago and had someone edit for me, and the end result was a horrible mishmash of third and first person. i decided to go with it :)

07-31-2003, 01:06 PM
Hey - so it's STYLE :)

07-31-2003, 03:46 PM
Is this the flick they show playing in Mrs. Doubtfire?

It's when the kids are up late watching a movie. They show a dude molding a face. He's streching and pushing it all over the place.

Anyway, nice review. :D

07-31-2003, 04:20 PM
That was the OUTER LIMITS episode "The Hundred Days of the Dragon"

07-31-2003, 04:24 PM
Ah. I've always wondered what that was.

hell ya!
07-31-2003, 04:47 PM
LOL me too.:lol:

Nice review, i can't wait to pick this up on DVD, should be great. Vincent Price rules!!!

08-04-2003, 08:00 PM
Mcchrist, you should watch BARON BLOOD now and see how similar the two chase scenes are...Mario Bava was obviously a fan of HOUSE OF WAX!

08-04-2003, 08:50 PM
Vincent Price rules!!!

He does indeed:D

Definately picking this classic up _ only wish I could have had the opportunity of viewing it on the big screen:(


08-04-2003, 08:58 PM
Mcchrist, you should watch BARON BLOOD now and see how similar the two chase scenes are...Mario Bava was obviously a fan of HOUSE OF WAX!

I haven't seen Baron Blood in a number of years, but that wouldn't surprise me one bit. When I watched House of Wax I was reminded of alot of Eurohorror classics. Just the way a single frame was framed, I'd be reminded of movies like Tombs of the Blind Dead or Mark of the Devil. Wonderful film.

08-07-2003, 02:19 PM
The new "House of Wax" DVD also contains the film on which it was based, "Mystery of the Wax Museum", as an "extra". :)

08-07-2003, 07:10 PM
André de Toth was blind in one eye; it's funny to me that he directed what is considered the most successful 3-D film in cinematic history. I received this film in the mail yesterday and watched the (3-D) credits and first scene. The transfer looks pretty good, but not great.

Is the print quality consistent throughout?

08-08-2003, 12:26 AM
The new "House of Wax" DVD also contains the film on which it was based, "Mystery of the Wax Museum", as an "extra". :)

Aye, I need this disc bad!!!

08-08-2003, 07:06 AM
I LOVE this movie. Definitely one of Vincent Price's best performances, in my eyes, and you can bet your sweet ass Luna will be picking up this disc first thing, the Price fan that she is. :D

I've got to have the disc too. All I have is a crummy OOP Warner Home Video version in the big box. :confused:

Plus, I am VERY interested in seeing The Mystery of the Wax Museum, always have been. :)

08-08-2003, 07:33 AM
Mystery is interesting, especially coming from the director of Casablanca and shit, but it's not as good as House.

08-08-2003, 07:55 AM
Originally posted by mcchrist
Mystery is interesting, especially coming from the director of Casablanca and shit, but it's not as good as House.

Yeah, I figured that. :(

Oh, I forgot to mention... awesome review, MC! :cool: