Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Vincent Price, Charles Bronson.
Tag-line: "UNLIKE ANYTHING YOU'VE SEEN BEFORE!"
Best one-liner: "I'm moving up honey, no girl ever hits the jackpot till after she passes 14th street."
HOUSE OF WAX is a remake of the exceptional MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933), but, unfortunately, that original film doesn't co-star Charles Bronson, so I'm afraid I'm going to leap straight to the 1953 version. The first color 3-D feature from a major American studio, HOUSE OF WAX was helmed by one-eyed auteur André de Toth (CRIME WAVE, THE INDIAN FIGHTER), who was thus unable to properly appreciate his finished product, but that certainly didn't stop him from having all kinds of objects flung, poked, wiggled, etc. directly into the frame (also see: every single 3-D movie ever made). Probably the most obnoxious example of it here is the tuxedo-wearing miscreant who incessantly whips his paddleball straight at the lens. Kind of amazing.
Just look at this douche.
Anyway, we've got velvet-tongued wax-maestro Vincent Price as a victim of a fire that melts his only friends- paraffin figures of historical personages like Marie Antoinette and John Wilkes Booth. Probably as close to hardcore gore as the 50's could get was to show wax figures melting, their skin liquefying and eyeballs popping.
(It's a striking visual, and the possible inspiration for a certain scene in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Also, the 'burn makeup' that eventually rears it's head is surprisingly excellent for 1953.) Time passes and Vincent regroups, picking up some unwholesome manservants along the way- one of whom is a young Bronson (age 32, and billed by his real name, Buchinsky!).
Bronson eagerly shows off his latest self-portrait.
Bronson hides in plain sight.
Bronson plays a mute, possibly mentally-disabled Igor-type character who is actually named "Igor." He gets to fling a cop, make ape-like faces, and nearly guillotine an unsuspecting victim, so Bronson fans will be well-pleased.
There's evocative, fog-enshrouded, cobblestoned New York City street sets; sumptuous visuals (in Warnercolor!); and a majestically macabre central presence in the form of Vincent Price, here making his ‘leading man in a horror-flick’ debut. (He'd previously been a film noir standby.)
Lucky for us, there were many more of these roles to come…
2009 Halloween Countdown
31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
29. HOUSE OF WAX (1953, André de Toth)