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
This film was one of the first major pictures shot in 3D, and the director used some of the usual "tricks". In one scene, at the grand opening of the House of Wax, a sort of barker is enticing people to come in, and he actually breaks the "fourth wall", talking directly to the movie theatre audience. He is playing with a paddle-ball, hitting it toward the camera, as well as toward the people gathering around in front of the House of Wax. At one point, he is hitting the ball toward the movie audience. Looking directly at "us", he says, "Well, there's someone with a bag of popcorn. Close your mouth, it's the bag I'm aiming at, not your tonsils." See more »
During the majority of the film Prof. Henry Jarrod (Vincent Price) looks normal and the skin of his face moves naturally. Near the end, when Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk) strikes him in the face the wax mask he is wearing shatters, showing that it is hard and inflexible. See more »
Perhaps I've been lucky. I've only seen this film twice in the past 15 years, but both times were in 3D, the second time last night. The crowd just loved it, with a big round of applause at the end.
The paddle ball scene is a highlight, but the reprise of the paddle ball is even more hilarious. It's completely over the top, and helps to create the carnival atmosphere that makes the film so effective in a large group.
The really dramatic 3D effects in this film are played for laughs, and I think that's one of the keys to its overall success. Director André De Toth treats the gimmick as a gimmick, and doesn't try to get more out of it than that. Hitchcock, in "Dial M For Murder", tried to use the technology for dramatic effect, but that was a complete failure. The gimmick gets in the way of real drama. The attempted murder of Grace Kelly in "Dial M" is more shocking in 2D. In 3D, you're completely jolted out of your involvement in the scene when Grace's grasping hand comes lunging halfway out into the audience at you.
In "House of Wax", the effect found its real home, a melodramatic thriller, played by everyone with tongue firmly in cheek.
De Toth composes his shots really nicely, I think. There's some foregrounding of chandeliers and other props, but never too much. He mostly holds back on the effect until he can make the best use of it -- the paddle ball, the can-can dancer's round bottom, the bust of Charles Bronson at the end. There is one great 3D thrill, the shot where Bronson, playing Vincent Price's evil mute assistant, has to grapple with policeman Frank Lovejoy. Bronson appears to leap out of the audience and onto the screen; it's an unexpected moment, and a real treat.
22 of 26 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?