Monstervision 100% Weird presents
House of Wax
(Mystery of the Wax Museum)
The year was 1953. The relatively new medium of television had the big motion pictures studios scared. How were they going to entice viewers away from the comfort of their living rooms and back into the bosoms of the movie theaters where they belong?
In late 1952, a crude and cheaply-made safari flick called Bwana Devil showcased a new filming technique called 3-D. A few months later, the honchos down at Warner Brothers decided that they were not only going to make a big-budget 3-D flick, but they were also going to introduce the world to WarnerPhonic Audio, a primitive precursor of Surround Sound. The result of this savvy move is this week's 100% Weird flick, House of Wax.
House of Wax, directed by Hungarian-born Andre De Toth, is actually a remake of Warner's 1933 flick The Mystery of the Wax Museum (interestingly enough, also directed by a Hungarian, Michael Curtiz). De Toth, better known as Mr. Veronica Lake, was an unusual directorial choice. Not necessarily because of his oeuvre, which is sufficiently impressive, but because he only had one eye. In essence, Warner Brothers hired a director who couldn't see in 3-D to direct their first 3-D effort.
The plot is standard "scorned artist" fare and goes something like this: sensitive sculptor lovingly creates historical figures out of wax, which he displays in his New York-based wax museum. Sculptor's greedy business partner wants to burn down said museum and figures. Fight follows, fire breaks out. Assuming that sensitive sculptor is dead, greedy partner collects insurance money. But sensitive sculptor isn't dead! Instead, he's hideously disfigured and more than a little loony. Wacko sculptor goes on killing spree, fonduing the bodies of his victims in boiling wax and using them as exhibits in his new museum. Mystery ensues. Will the police, unaware of the identity of the murderer, catch the fiend before he kills again? Will Scott Andrews (Paul Pecan) hear Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk)'s anemic scream in time to save her life? Will the character with the paddleball ever work in Hollywood again?
Vincent Price, who, before this film, had only skirted the perimeter of the horror flicks that were to become his mainstay, plays Professor Henry Jarred as only he could. Carolyn Jones (a.k.a. Morticia Addams) turns in a brief but stunningly blonde and frighteningly giggly performance as both Cathy Gray and a wax-a-rific Joan d'Arc. And Igor, Prof. Jarrod's Neanderthal deaf mute assistant, is none other than Charles Buchinsky. Don't recognize the name? Well, Buchinsky later went on to star in a slew of '70s tough guy shoot 'em up movies under the name Charles Bronson.
House of Wax (1953)
Quotes & Trivia (Courtesy of the Internet Movie Database)
Florence: OK, brother, then you can go to some nice warm place, and I don't mean California.
Ivan Igor: "My dear, why are you so pitifully afraid? Immortality has been the dream, the inspiration of mankind through the ages. And I am going to give you immortality!"
* Warner Bros.' first 3-D movie, filmed by director André De Toth -- who was blind in one eye and hence could not see the effect.
* The scene where Picerni, Paul is rescued from the guillotine by Lovejoy, Frank seconds before the blade came down was filmed in one take, using a real guillotine blade. Picerni and director Andre De Toth got into a heated argument when Picerni, on advice from the film's stuntmen, refused to do the scene as too dangerous (a prop man was to hold up the blade off camera and tell the actors when he dropped it so they could yank Picerni away). De Toth threw him off the picture, but several days later, on orders from studio head Jack Warner, De Toth recalled him, and had the prop department modify the guillotine to make it less dangerous. After examining the guillotine, Picerni said he would do one take and no more, which is exactly what happened.
* The 1933 movie was believed to be lost until the late sixties, the last commercial exploitation (and probably best example) of Technicolor's 2-Strip system
* On a similar note, James Cagney remembers that in his early gangster films there was no special effect for bullets hitting the wall over his head. The studio simply hired a WW1 veteran machine-gunner firing real bullets and told him to aim above Cagney.
* This was a remake of 1933's Mystery of the Wax Museum, starring Lionel Atwill as Ivan Igor and Fay Wray as Charlotte Duncan
* House of Wax is mentioned by characters in 19 other movies including "Theatre Of Blood," both "Dr. Phibes" films, Michael Jackson's "Thriller," the "Waxwork" movies, and Darkman (1990), and a clip of it was seen in Vincent Price: The Sinister Image (1988)
"House Of Wax" availability on video and on DVD from Amazon.com
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