Tag Archives: King Kong

Mystery Of The Wax Museum

Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Henry Blanke
Written by Story: Charles S. Belden
Screenplay: Carl Erickson & Don Mullaly
Starring Lionel Atwill
Fay Wray
Glenda Farrell
Frank McHugh
Music by Cliff Hess
Cinematography Ray Rennahan
Editing by George J. Amy
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures & Vitaphone Pictures
Release date February 17, 1933 (USA)
Running time 77 minutes
Country United States
Language English

In the last few months I have gone on quite a classic horror/sci-fi movie phase thanks to JB Hifi. I have already started with reviewing The Wolfman a couple of weeks ago, but I will not solely concentrate on the Universal monsters. It may be surprising to know but Universal did not have a monopoly on horror in the 1930s and 40s.

Mystery Of The Wax Museum is a 1933 Warner Bros. horror movie starring Lionel Atwill, Glenda Farrell, Frank McHugh and scream queen Fay (King Kong) Wray. The film was made in two-strip Technicolor, which makes it unique from other horror movies of the period. I do love the way the colours look with the two-strip system, perhaps even more so with the superior three-strip process. The film was also made before the Hays code was imposed onto movie makers, so it a little bit sexy, especially with the dialogue, which I suppose was a hallmark of Warner’s gangster films of the time.

Anyone who has seen House Of Wax will know the plot of this film. A museum owner uses real life bodies to make his wax sculptures more lifelike. The best friend of the heroine is wanted by the mad owner for his next masterpiece. House Of Wax was a remake of this film by Michael Curtiz, the famed director of some of Hollywood’s greatest films such as The Adventures Of Robin Hood and Casablanca. This film was made before the Hays code was introduced so some of the dialogue in particular is quite risqué and sexy.

I do like Farrell’s performance as the reporter who uncovers the mystery. Her character could be considered as being a pre-Women’s Liberation feminist, as she portrays a strong willed, brave and intelligent (if quirky) woman, while most of the men come of not so good. She was a veteran of Warner’s gangster films and her character here is very streetwise. Wray on the other hand is just required to look very pretty and give her trademark scream when it’s required. She really offers not much to the film at all.

Atwill is rightly menacing as the supposedly disabled sculptor Igor, who in the end turns out to be a murderous monster that has been using dipping the bodies of his victims into the hot wax to make his creations.

Mystery Of The Wax Museum was considered lost in a fire for a long time until a complete print turned up from Jack Warner’s private vault. It was the last of three two strip Technicolor films that Warner’s made in the early 30s. It is included as a special feature on the DVD of the 1953 version of House Of Wax. I really recommend that you buy House Of Wax on DVD because at the moment it is for sale really cheap. House Of Wax is a great movie and as it includes Mystery Of The Wax Museum as a bonus it is a must but for any fan of classic horror.


20 Million Miles To Earth

Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Produced by Charles H. Schneer
Written by Bob Williams & Christopher Knopf
Starring William Hopper
Joan Taylor
Frank Puglia
Cinematography Irving Lippman & Carlo Ventimiglia
Editing by Edwin Bryant
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date June 1957
Running time 82 minutes
Country United States

I must make a point of the fact that of all the movies that I have watched so far this month, 20 Million Miles To Earth is the first one that I have watched with a pen and notebook in hand to jot down anything of importance that I may want to add to this blog. For all the films that I have watched so far, I have written my thoughts after the movie has finished. Sometimes I have waited around 12 hours before putting my thoughts down.

20 Million Miles To Earth is another 1950s Sci-fi film. It features one of Ray Harryhausen’s most memorable monsters, the Ymir, although he is only referred to as the creature throughout the film. I believe that the armature (skeleton) of the Ymir was later used for another Harryhausen monster, the Cyclops from The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad.

The plot begins when a secret US rocket ship crash lands in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Sicily. They were on a return flight after a secret mission to Venus, yes, the planet Venus, when the space craft is hit by a meteorite that causes it to crash-land. The crash landing looks quite dodgy and extremely primitive from a special effects point of view. There are only two survivors of the flight as we soon find that most of the crew have succumbed to a strange disease caused by poisons in the Venusian atmosphere. Soon after the crash, one of the survivors also dies of the fatal disease.

After the ship crash a canister that the astronauts collected from Venus ends up washed onto the shore, where it is found by the young and annoying Pepe. Inside the canister Pepe discovers some ectoplasm containing something or other. Naturally he sells it to Zoologist Dr. Leonardo. The thing inside the ectoplasm soon hatches and it is the lizard-like Ymir. At first he is quite small but ugly, but he grows rapidly and before long is wrecking havoc throughout the Sicilian countryside. He is eventually captured and taken to Rome where he escapes, attacks an elephant, runs amok and then finally climbs the Coliseum in what was homage to the original monster movie, King Kong. He is finally brought down by modern weapons of war.

This is a fun little movie and quite enjoyable. Most of the stop-motion animation is first-rate although it is not as polished as some of Harryhausen’s later work. Some scenes such as the rocket ship crash look very awkward, while the scene of the battle royal between Ymir and Jumbo the elephant also seems a bit primitive and fake. Perhaps it is because there a too many switches of shots between the live-action and animated elephant and it is very easy to identify which is which. Still, if you can overlook this you will find 20 Million Miles To Earth a very enjoyable film to watch.

20 Million Miles To Earth is a part of the Ray Harryhausen Gift Set with It Came From Beneath The Sea and Earth Vs The Flying Saucers. The special gift set featuring a Ymir figure is available from Amazon for $69.49. You can purchase it by clicking here…

If you just want the Gift Set with 20 Million Miles To Earth, It Came From Beneath The Sea and Earth Vs The Flying Saucers and a book but without the Ymir figure, it can be purchased from Amazon for $44.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…

20 Million Miles To Earth is also a part of the Fantastic Films of Ray Harryhausen – Legendary Science Fiction Series DVD box set with It Came From Beneath The Sea, Earth Vs The Flying Saucers Mysterious Island and H.G. Wells’ First Men In The Moon. It can be purchased from Amazon for $43.49 by clicking here…

Buy the 50th Anniversary edition of 20 Million Miles To Earth on DVD or Blu Ray from Amazon by clicking here…

Please note that this is a region 1 release that requires a region free DVD or Blu Ray player to be viewed outside North America.