Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Henry Blanke
Written by Story: Charles S. Belden
Screenplay: Carl Erickson & Don Mullaly
Starring Lionel Atwill
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
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.
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- 2 reviews of House of Wax (rateitall.com)
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