While the 1933 film, Mystery of the Wax was the inspiration for this flick, it simply couldn’t hold a candle to the 3D adventure that was 1953’s House of Wax. With the inimitable Vincent Price in the lead role and screen-popping special effects, House of Wax was destined to become a classic.
Price plays Professor Henry Jarrod, a wax sculptor who is horrified to learn that his business partner intends to burn down his beloved was museum to collect the insurance money. During the incendiary act, a fight breaks out between the two men. Jerrod doesn’t fare too well in the fight and is left for dead amidst his melting minions. But somehow he managed to survive, horribly disfigured and wheelchair-ridden as a result. Back in turn-of-the-century New York City, he has managed to recreate all his lost creations, now on display in his new (and decidedly creepy) gas-lit museum.
It isn’t by coincidence, however, that the town’s murder rate is increasing and bodies are disappearing from the local morgue. One visitor to the museum, a woman named Sue notices that Joan of Arc bears a striking resemblance to one of her friends (Carolyn Jones) who recently passed away. She questions Jerrod, who plays dumb but notes that she would make a fine Marie Antoinette. Horrified, she flees for her life, the evil Professor catches her, and it is candle city for poor Sue.
With the emerging popularity of three-dimensional films in the 1950s, Warner Brothers jumped on the bandwagon with House of Wax. Perhaps it wasn’t the wisest move to hand the director’s chair to a one-eyed, depth perception deprived man named Andre De Toth – he had to rely on the advice of others as to whether the effects were convincing enough. But, as it turned out, his instincts were correct, making House of Wax the most successful 3-D film of the era. With screen-protruding gags aplenty, audiences were more than delighted. From the memorable paddleball man, to the infamous fight scene that puts museum assistant, Igor (played by a young Charles Bronson,) into the laps of audience members, there was plenty of effects to wow the theatergoers.
When the 3-D medium enjoyed a brief resurgence in the 1980s, House of Wax was re-released in all its glory, and managed to win an entire new generation of fans – proving that the flame had yet to flicker out for this campy horror flick.
If you have fond recollections of watching this film, especially if you saw it in all its 3D splendor, we’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this macabre and memorable horror classic.