Combustible Celluloid
Get the Poster
Stream it:
Own it:
Search for streaming:
NetflixHuluGoogle PlayGooglePlayCan I
With: Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, Paul Picerni, Charles Buchinsky (Charles Bronson)
Written by: Crane Wilbur, based on a story by Charles Belden
Directed by: Andre de Toth
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 88
Date: 04/10/1953

House of Wax (1953)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Museum Piece

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Hungarian immigrant Andre de Toth was an excellent filmmaker whomade tough little Westerns and crime stories with maximum efficiency andlittle waste. He also wore an eyepatch over his left eye and could onlysee in two dimensions. Nevertheless, he was the only director to takethe 3-D medium of the mid-1950s seriously. House of Wax was his onlyhorror film, and it was amazingly well suited to the 3-D medium. (Hemade one other 3-D film, the Randolph Scott Western, The Stranger Wore aGun.)

A remake of Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), the superior House of Wax stars Vincent Price as the master sculptor and owner of a wax museum in turn-of-the-century New York. Charles Buchinsky (later known as Charles Bronson) plays his assistant. A fire destroys all of his creations, especially the sculpture of a woman to which he is particularly attached. (The fire sequence, with its depth-of-field and the melting faces, is absolutely mesmerizing -- both in 3-D and on home video.) It is assumed that the sculptor perished in the fire, but Price returns as a faceless monster out for vengeance. He begins to collect dead bodies to cover in wax and show as his latest creations. (The film also stars Carolyn Jones, who went on to play Morticia on "The Addams Family" TV series.)

House of Wax is not particularly scary or suspenseful, but it is a lot of fun and effectively creates an atmosphere of dread using bright colors and shadows. One great 3-D effect has Buchinsky leaping from just under the foreground, so that it looks like he has come out of the audience. The movie also has a sense of humor, as shown by the use of the paddleball man in front of the wax museum who whacks the toy into the audience. The movie is also known as Vincent Price's first foray into horror, for which he is now best remembered.

DVD Details: In 2003, Warner Home Video released a lovely 2-D DVD that also included Mystery of the Wax Museum as a bonus feature.

Movies Unlimtied