Francis Barnard goes to Spain, when he hears his sister Elizabeth has died. Her husband Nicholas Medina, the son of the brutest torturer of the Spanish Inquisition, tells him she has died ... See full summary »
Dr. Warren Chapin is a pathologist who regularly conducts autopsies on executed prisoners at the State prison. He has a theory that fear is the result of a creature that inhabits all of us.... See full summary »
Professor Henry Jarrod is a true artist whose wax sculptures are lifelike. He specializes in historical tableau's such a Marie Antoinette or Joan of Arc. His business partner, Matthew Burke, needs some of his investment returned to him and pushes Jarrod to have more lurid exposes like a chamber of horrors. When Jarrod refuses, Burke set the place alight destroying all of his beautiful work in the hope of claiming the insurance. Jarrod is believed to have died in the fire but he unexpectedly reappears some 18 months later when he opens a new exhibit. This time, his displays focus on the macabre but he has yet to reproduce his most cherished work, Marie Antoinette. When he meets his new assistant's beautiful friend, Sue Allen, he knows he's found the perfect model - only unbeknown to anyone, he has a very particular way of making his wax creations. Written by
Warner Bros.' first 3-D movie, filmed by director André De Toth - who was blind in one eye and hence could not see the effect. See more »
When the original wax museum is on fire, wires can be seen pulling some of the wax figures down. The wire attached to the Joan of Arc figure is particularly evident, pulling it down at the end of the sequence. See more »
Lt. Tom Brennan:
You know, Shane, by the time this guy gets out of Sing Sing, this head will grow a long beard.
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Ostensibly a shocker and a spectacle, 'House of Wax' is one of the great films about films. It works brilliantly as a horror, one of the few films to reek of dread and death; some of the grisly images (Jarrod's partner hanging down an elevator shaft, later exhibited in the museum) are inspired; the suspense sequences combine eerie visual beauty with fundamental sexual fears (the film's treatment of independent women in a patriarchal world is very astute in the housewife 50s). Vincent Price's performance as a man who can only feel alive with the dead is very moving.
But 'Wax''s self-reflexivity is unprecedented in Hollywood films since the silents. It is a film using a novel spectacle (3-D) to encourage greater realism, concentrating on gruesome sensation. The film is about a museum, also called House of Wax, also a novel spectacle, also more realistic, and also gruesomely sensationalist. The film's artifice is always prominent, most violently with the ping-pong man, bridging the gap between film and audience by assailing us. What we are doing - watching a House of Wax - is what the characters are doing. And we know what happens to THEM...
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