Posted: 5/01/01

House Of Wax (1953)
by Molly Keil

Classic horror film starring the very best villain of all time.

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The movie opens with Vincent Price as Professor Henry Jarrod, a sculpter of wax and co owner of a failing wax museum. His rather unscrupulous partner is preparing to burn the museum down in order to collect the insurance money.

Jarrod, who considers the wax figures heads created real people (Hey, it's a Vincent Price movie, of course he's slightly derranged) refuses and the two fight. Jarrod loses and his partner leaves him to die in the blaze.

Flash forward a few years to the opening of a new wax museum, this time with Jarrod as the sole proprietor. He's in a wheel chair but seems otherwise unscarred by the fire, save for missing his lost creations. His new wax museum, a grand house of horrors, boasting such infamous figures as Jack the Ripper, has been carved mainly by Jarrod's mute protigee, named (get ready for this) Igor, played by an even more ape-like then usual Charles Bronson.

Jarrod is looking for more sculpters, though. Enter Scott Andrews (Paul Picerni), an up and coming sculptor with a girl friend, Sue, who bares a striking resemblence to Jarrod's greatest accomplishment, Marie Antoinette, whom he lost in the fire. Here's where it turns into a Vincent Price movie.

Turns out Jarrod's not as un scarred as we thought. His face was ruined in the fire and he's been using a wax mask to move around in public.

Speaking of moving around, the wheelchair isn't neccessary, either. Jarrod can hobble around, hunchback like, on his own two legs. Which he's been going, killing people and stealing their corpses to use as frames in his sculptures. (Does anyone else wonder why no one noticed the smell?) And guess who his next victim is? Yep, Sue. Of course, Sue is suspicious, as women always are in these type of movies, but the men around her tell her she's nuts nicely and go back to laughing jovially.

I won't give away the ending because I assume you can figure it out yourself. I'll just say this movie is worth a watch or two. It's a unique premise, even though it's a remake of the 1933 film Mystery Of The Wax Museum, with likable characters and some memorable scenes. The best reason to watch, as always, is Vincent Price, who makes you feel very sorry for this insane, murderer. Keep in mind, however, this was originally a 3-D release, and a first for Warner Bros. (Trivia: It was filmed by Andre de Toth, who was blind in one eye and could not appreciate the effect.) Something is lost in the translation to standard presentation, especially the can-can and paddle ball scenes.

Molly Keil is a freelance writer wroking on her first novel and living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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