• Martyn Wakefield

HOUSE OF WAX [1953] (REVIEW)

Dir. Andre De Toth

Reviewer. Dan Cook

tarring the great Vincent Price in one of his first leading horror roles, Andre De Toth’s stereoscopic classic HOUSE OF WAX is a thrilling and visually spectacular epic that not only ignited the career of one of the genres most formidable talents but also kick-started the publics burgeoning interest in the 3D craze. A remake of the 1933 Michael Curtiz film MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM, the movie sees Price as Prof. Henry Jarrod, a severely disfigured sculptor who takes to murdering people and dipping them in wax in order to repopulate his destroyed gallery. It’s a terrifically twisted story and as expected, Vincent Price is both likeably creepy and genuinely threatening as the vengeful artist whose attentions turn from creating works of beauty to reconstructing some of history’s most barbaric acts of bloodshed.


The film is shot very well indeed, with the sensational opening sequence depicting the destruction of Jarrod’s museum proving to be one of the most exciting and most visually impressive in the whole of 1950’s cinema, with each melting figure taking on a unsettlingly uncanny form as they slowly succumb to the flames. It’s a genuinely thrilling scene and perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the film, which director Andre De Toth - who famously couldn’t see the heavily promoted 3D effects due his monocularity - brings to the screen with both artistic class and an entertainingly dry wit.


But beyond its artistic flair, its gimmicks and its macabre storytelling, what really makes HOUSE OF WAX stand out is Vincent Price whose fine work here managed to cement his place as the natural successor to Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. He is joined on screen by a very young, almost unrecognisable Charles Bronson as the deaf/mute assistant Igor as well as future Morticia Addams Carolyn Jones who has a small but very memorable role as one of Jarrod’s unfortunate victims. All in all, the cast do really good work here but it is Price who is the unequivocal star of the show and he steals the spotlight with an athletic, energised and surprisingly tragic power. Rounded off with David Buttolph’s memorable score and some truly unforgettable makeup work, HOUSE OF WAX is a very well acted, very well written and very beautiful to look at tale of revenge and retribution that is a must-see for all fans of classic 50’s horror.


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