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Das Wachsfigurenkabinett
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Waxworks (1924) More at IMDbPro »Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (original title)

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Release Date:
February 1929 (USA) See more »
A wax museum hires a writer to give the sculptures stories. The writer imagines himself and the museum owner's daughter in the stories. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
1 win See more »
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User Reviews:
"Can you write startling tales about these wax figures?" See more (21 total) »


  (in credits order)

Emil Jannings ... Harun al Raschid

Conrad Veidt ... Ivan the Terrible

Werner Krauss ... Jack the Ripper / Spring-Heeled Jack

William Dieterle ... The Poet / Assad the Baker / A Russian Prince (as Wilhelm Dieterle)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Olga Belajeff ... Eva-Maimune-Eine Bojarin
Paul Biensfeldt ... Grand Vizier
John Gottowt ... Inhaber der Panoptikums
Georg John ... Prisoner
Ernst Legal ... Poison-Maker of the Czar

Directed by
Leo Birinsky 
Paul Leni 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Henrik Galeen 

Produced by
Leo Birinsky .... producer
Alexander Kwartiroff .... producer
Cinematography by
Helmar Lerski 
Art Direction by
Paul Leni 
Costume Design by
Ernst Stern 
Production Management
Artur Kiekebusch-Brenken .... production manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
William Dieterle .... assistant director
Art Department
Paul Dannenberg .... props
Alfred Junge .... assistant art director
Fritz Maurischat .... assistant art director
Camera and Electrical Department
Hans Lechner .... still photographer
Music Department
Jon Mirsalis .... music performer: 1996 alternate version (as Jon C. Mirsalis)

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Das Wachsfigurenkabinett" - Germany (original title)
"Caliph of Baghdad" - International (English title) (segment title)
"Harun Al-Rashid" - International (English title) (segment title)
"Ivan the Terrible" - International (English title) (segment title)
"Jack the Ripper" - International (English title) (segment title)
"The Caliph of Baghdad" - International (English title) (segment title)
See more »
65 min | USA:83 min (restored version)
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

Originally there were four episodes planned, but for the fourth, "Rinaldo Rinaldini," there wasn't any money left.See more »


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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful.
"Can you write startling tales about these wax figures?", 9 August 2008
Author: ackstasis from Australia

It's only when you begin to delve deeper into works of German Expressionism that you can appreciate how important and influential a film was 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920).' It demonstrated to filmmakers and audiences that cinema is an inherently artificial medium, and so, rather than striving for realism, films should emphasise the fake and fantastic elements of their story. Though Frenchman Georges Méliès had first struck on this idea at the turn of the twentieth century, it was Robert Wiene's creative horror film that established German Expressionism as the defining artistic style of the 1920s, securing post-War Germany as cinema's most prominent innovator and paving the way for directors F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang and Paul Leni {each of whom were later coaxed to Hollywood to share their expertise}. The hand of 'Caligari' is evident throughout 'Das Wachsfigurenkabinett / Waxworks (1924),' a fantasy/horror that is framed around a young writer's attempt to concoct thrilling tales to accompany three carnival waxwork characters - Harun al Raschid, Ivan the Terrible and Jack the Ripper.

Three names come to mind more readily than most when one considers silent German actors: Conrad Veidt {'The Man Who Laughs (1928)'}, Werner Krauss {'Herr Tartüff (1925)'} and, of course, Emil Jannings {'Faust (1926)'}. It's no surprise that both Veidt and Krauss had achieved their stardom with 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' four years earlier, and the parallels between that film and 'Waxworks' stretch much further than the mere casting decisions. The film, co-directed by Paul Leni and Leo Birinsky, employs grossly-exaggerated art direction {the sets designed by Leni himself} and Helmar Lerski's imaginatively-warped cinematography to highlight the fantasy in each story, even though there are very few elements that would ordinarily be considered fantastic. Emil Jannings plays the rotund Harun al Raschid, the fifth Abbasid Caliph, with a loathsome repugnance that gradually gives way to a certain likability. When his intentions towards the beautiful Maimune (Olga Belajeff) are shown to be friendly rather than sexual, he becomes an affable and cartoonish oaf.

This segment is followed by the story of Ivan the Terrible (Conrad Veidt), who is driven to madness by the trickle of sand through an hour-glass, every falling grain bringing him closer to demise. Veidt plays the cruel Grand Prince of Moscow with a wide-eyed craziness that calls to mind the intense acting style of fellow-German Klaus Kinski. One of the earliest portrayals of Ivan the Terrible, this segment no doubt influenced Sergei Eisenstein when he directed 'Ivan the Terrible: Part I and II (1944).' The final story, definitely the scariest of the three, concerns Jack the Ripper – also referred to as the mythical Spring-Heeled Jack for some reason, perhaps due to a translation error. Though it barely runs for five minutes, I found my heart genuinely thumping as Jack (Werner Krauss) stalked through the dream-like haze of Luna Park, as the young writer (William Dieterle) and his girl (Olga Belajeff) flee from his multiple eerie shadows, every step leading them ever-so-closer to the cold glint of his knife.

The framing device around which 'Waxworks' revolves unavoidably leads to a distracting unevenness of tone, the atmosphere fluctuating between light-hearted comedy and gruelling horror. Also rather frustrating is the fact that Jannings' segment, while certainly entertaining at a satisfactory level, is afforded so much screen-time, and yet Krauss' Jack the Ripper killing-spree is wrapped up in a matter of minutes. Since a fourth character tale, about Rinaldo Rinaldini, was scrapped due to budget constraints, I suspect that funding also played a role in reducing the third act. However much of an oddity it might be, 'Waxworks' is nevertheless a visual marvel, and no shortage of imagination has been expended on the strange and exciting set and costume designs. The film certainly impressed studios in Hollywood, for director Paul Leni was subsequently lured to the United States to continue his career, after which he notably directed 'The Cat and the Canary (1927)' and 'The Man Who Laughs (1928),' before his premature death in 1929.

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