[HOUSE OF WAX opens in Cleveland on Friday October 18th exclusively at the Capitol Theatre for a one week run.]
Review by Bob Ignizio
was released to
theaters. It was the first major studio film in color to be shot in
3D, and as an added bonus the sound was in stereo. And the funny
thing is, director Andre De Toth was blind in one eye, and therefore
couldn't see things in 3D. Then again, maybe that's part of why HOUSE
OF WAX still holds up fairly
well. Instead of focusing on his film's gimmick, De Toth concentrated
on telling a good horror tale.
The plot of the film is the
stuff of lurid pulp horror all the way. Professor Henry Jarrod
(Price) is a sculptor of wax figures with considerable skill. Much to
the chagrin of his business partner Burke (Roy Roberts), however, he
refuses to put a chamber of horrors in his wax museum. Jarrod would
much rather capture beauty, perhaps best exemplified by his figure of
Marie Antoinette. Looking to make a quick buck, Burke decides to
torch the place for the insurance money. Jarrod tries to stop him and
winds up dying in the conflagration. Or so it seems.
As it turns out, Jarrod has
survived and is about to open a new wax museum. His injuries have
left him confined to a wheelchair, and his horribly scarred hands are
no longer capable of sculpting, a task now left to his assistants.
Perhaps seeing himself now as something of a living horror, Jarrod
now embraces the chamber of horrors mentality fully, even going so
far as to feature a special section of his museum that will focus on
the most sensational recent crimes. While Jarrod is busy readying his
museum for opening, a mysterious cloaked figure with a terrifying
visage embarks on a murder spree, the first victim of which is
Jarrod's old partner Burke. Burke's fiancée (Carolyn Jones) is also
murdered, and her friend Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk) is disturbed when
she sees how much Jarrod's figure of Joan of Arc looks like the
deceased girl. Of course it could all just be a coincidence, right?
This being 1953, the film is
quite tame in terms of gore and explicit sexuality, but it
nonetheless implies a good deal in the way of sordid goings-on. Price
is perfect in the role that would transform him from a jobbing
character actor into a horror star, still young enough here to show a
little more physicality than in his more iconic later roles, and
displaying less of his trademark hamminess as well. Not that there's
anything wrong with Price hamming it up in my book, but it's always a
bit of a revelation to catch him in one of the roles where he shows
more restraint, and to realize that this guy really was a good and
I can't speak to the 3D
personally as I've only ever seen the movie in its flat version. That
said, there are a number of moments that are extremely obvious in
their intent to have something jump off the screen at the viewer, and
it's hard not to think of the old SCTV skits with John Candy as Dr.
Tong shoving objects at the audience, e.g. “Would you like some...
syrup?” (wee-oop, wee-oop) from '3D House of Pancakes'. The most
obvious of these gags in HOUSE OF WAX
is the barker outside of Jarrod's museum doing tricks with paddle
balls. As corny as these bits of business are, they kind of add to
the overall fun of the affair. But as mentioned earlier, the 3D is
really just an aside, an afterthought almost. The main purpose of the
film is to provide thrills and chills for its audience, and while
there's no denying the film feels a bit dated at times, it still
manages to do just that. 3 out of 4 stars.