HOUSE OF WAX 3D
MOVIE: ****1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Vincent Price as PROF. HENRY JARROD
Frank Lovejoy as LT. TOM BRENNAN
Phyllis Kirk as SUE ALLEN
Carolyn Jones as CATHY GRAY
Paul Picerni as SCOTT ANDREWS
Charles Bronson as IGOR
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: André De Toth
BY KEVIN CARR
I never realized how lucky I was when my father took me to an old movie theater in the 1980s to see a Polarized 3D print of “House of Wax.” Most people were introduced to this film by watching a flat 2D version on television, or by seeing an anaglyph version on video or in the theater. However, my introduction to this film in true Natural Vision 3D gave me a full appreciation for the movie and began my adoration for the 3D presentation in general that continues today.
Even after seeing “House of Wax” in true 3D, I still thoroughly enjoyed the movie in its 2D format for years. It’s the quintessential Vincent Price movie, with him playing both mad monster and sympathetic hero. It’s one of my favorite horror films of all time, for its comprehensive perspective on the genre, the gimmick and the story.
The film follows Professor Henry Jarrod (Vincent Price), a 1890s sculptor who runs a historical wax museum. When his business partner burns the place down for insurance money, Jarrod is left in a wheelchair without the use of his hands. Jarrod opens a new wax museum, this time focusing on the macabre rather than just the history. Soon, brutal murders by a mysterious Creeper set the town on edge. One woman, who appears to be the spitting image of Jarrod’s favorite sculpture of Marie Antoinette, tries to uncover the mystery of the disappearing people and their connection to the new wax museum.
Unlike many 3D films from the original push in the 1950s, “House of Wax” stands on its own without the gimmick. Even the legendary “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” relies a bit too much on the newness of 3D to make a great monster movie. However, “House of Wax” tells a compelling story as a remake of the 1933 classic “Mystery of the Wax Museum.”
As the first 3D release produced by a major studio, a lot was riding on “House of Wax,” and the film was lightning in the bottle for the time. Even Hitchcock’s well-known foray into the style, “Dial M for Murder,” isn’t remembered as much for its use of the third dimension.
And that’s because the story of “House of Wax” propelled it beyond the gimmick. It also was one of the first chances to see Vincent Price in his home genre of horror movies, though it was 1958’s “The Fly” that really propelled him to horror stardom. Plus, he was supported by excellent character actors, including a very early look at Charles Bronson as his assistant Igor.
Now that 3D Blu-ray and 3D TVs are widely available, Warner Bros. has released “House of Wax” in 3D for home viewing. Watching it again after 30 years in true 3D was an amazing experience. Because it was shot with a quality rig, the process looks fantastic. In fact, watching it again after all these years makes me realize how many shots use the format throughout the film, adding a new layer of depth to an already remarkable film.
Even if you have a copy of “House of Wax” on DVD, and definitely if (like me) all you have is an old copy on VHS, the new 3D Blu-ray is worth the price. It’s your chance to see the film as it was originally intended to be presented in 1953, and with it, you will discover much more hidden in the movie.
The disc comes with a 45-minute featurette “House of Wax: Unlike Anything You’ve Seen Before,” which examines the legacy and history of the film. There’s also the theatrical trailer and original newsreel footage about the 24-hour-a-day screenings of the film when it opened. Historians David Del Valle and Constantine Nasr give a decent, if not somewhat dry, commentary.
The real bonus to this movie, which was available on the DVD as well, is the 1933 feature “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” starring Lionel Atwill. Fans of “House of Wax” should enjoy the alternative take on the movie from even earlier in Hollywood.