Sunday, September 30, 2007

House of Wax

To help wash the bad taste out of my mouth that Witchfinder General left, I decided to rewatch this film for the first time since I was in high school, in the hopes that it would hold up at least as well as I had remembered it being. Fortunately, while it’s not a total knockout film by any means, it is a typically fun and ghoulish Vincent Price vehicle, the likes of which one would generally expect from him.

Price stars in this as the creator of a small house of wax, and his refusal to pander to audiences by making a house of horrors section to the museum causes his backer to set fire to the building in an effort to make his money back from insurance fraud. Price naturally survives the fire, but is now hideously deformed in both body and mind, and begins rebuilding his treasured house of wax, this time by taking newly dead bodies and dipping them in wax to be his new attractions. All of this is done with Price hamming it up to the hilt, and just showing off how much better an actor he is than anyone else in the film (as with most Price movies, the film noticeably weakens whenever he’s not onscreen, particularly the moments made for 3D gimmickry, like when a showman fires a paddleball at the screen while openly talking to the audience). He’s particularly good when he opens up his new museum and its house of horrors, adding his grim one liners when describing each new attraction for the crowd. The big reveal near the end when his face is torn off is also quite effective, though lessened a bit by how we’d already seen it in shadow by then.

While the film itself is good light fun, the DVD is well worth getting just for a great bonus feature. Included on the flipside of the DVD is the original Mystery of the Wax Museum, which Price’s film was a remake of. I have to say, the original plays like nothing so much as a rough draft for which the remake was a final product. I guess that feeling is in large part due to the early attempt at Technicolor used on the film, giving only a two color palette rather than the three colors used in films today (apparently green hadn’t been discovered yet), making the film look like it’s been so ill-kept that its colors have all gotten washed out and faded. The lack of Vincent Price also hurts the original, as the guy they have in his slot here just doesn’t match up. Still, it’s certainly one of the better horror movies of the thirties, if not really one of the best, and for a DVD that’s as bargain priced as this is, it’s a great addition to sweeten the pot. If you’re looking for a fun pair of older movies to watch while on a budget, you could certainly do a lot worse than these.

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