Wednesday, September 26, 2012

House of Wax (1953) Review

House of Wax poster
Director: Andre De Toth
Stars: Vincent Price, Charles Bronson
Genre: Horror

House of Wax must have been a very great film to watch in the 50s. Because it is a film that was ahead of its time. Unfortunately, as happens with many films, after many years it loses a bit of its charm with modern audiences. That's not to say it's not a good film and worth watching. Indeed, it is.

In this loose remake to 1933's Mystery of the Wax Museum we have Vincent Price playing the antagonist here, and any film with Vincent Price is worth watching simply for that reason. As always, a great performance on his part. Also, a very young Charles Bronson played Igor in here. Not to mention that this is the first horror film where Price played the lead man. A role that he would repeat many times and a position he is best remembered for.

The film starts out well enough. A very talented wax sculpture (Price) who loves, and is nearly obsessed, with his creations. Unfortunately for him his business partner wants to burn down the wax museum so they can collect on the insurance. Of course the sculptor objects, so his partner burns it down with him in it. Everyone thinks he dies in the fire, but of course we know Vincent Price is never killed off that early on.

The thought-to-be dead sculptor returns and kills the partner who burned down his creations. He then reopens a wax museum, this time focusing on shock and horror rather than beauty. To do so all the wax figures are based on people who were recently involved in horrific accidents, i.e., suicides, murders, etc.

As the plot unfolds we learn there is much more behind the sculpting process than it appears.

Wax sculpture on fire in House of Wax

At the time I could imagine it was a pretty unique film, today it's pretty predictable and typical. It gets a little boring in the middle, and if not for the last twenty minutes I'd say it was a pretty mediocre film. Thankfully the last twenty minutes are fabulous. That scene when the girl snuck into the museum at night was very creepy. And the wax figures really made you on edge, your eyes always working to detect any movement in the inanimate figures. Very creepy. 

And then the scene when the girl breaks off Vincent Price's mask was also a very memorable moment.

Vincent Price in House of Wax

Too bad the whole film wasn't as good as the last twenty minutes though. Still, it is worth the watch and can still provide much enjoyment. It's also very obvious that this film was originally filmed for a 3D theatre, with objects being flung towards the camera, and that paddle ball scene. It's actually kind of cool.

3/5 stars
+Fantastic last twenty minutes
+Vincent Price
-Slow and boring at times
-Had potential to be much creepier than it was

Purchase House of Wax on Amazon: DVD - Stream

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