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The Wax Mask (1997)

M.D.C. - Maschera di cera (original title)
Unrated | | Horror | 4 April 1997 (Italy)
Paris, 1900: a couple are horribly murdered by a masked man with a metal claw who rips their hearts out. The sole survivor and witness to the massacre is a young girl. Twelve years later in... See full summary »



(story), (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Boris Volkoff
Sonia Lafont
Riccardo Serventi Longhi ...
Andrea Conversi
Gabriella Giorgelli ...
Aunt Francesca
Umberto Balli ...
Valery Valmond ...
Gianni Franco ...
Inspector Palazzi
Antonello Murru ...
Museum Caretaker
Luca (as Daniele Auber)
Romano Iannelli ...
Rosa Pianeta ...
Anna's Mother
Sonia Topazio ...
Massimo Vanni ...
Aldo Massasso ...
Inspector Lanvin
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Paris, 1900: a couple are horribly murdered by a masked man with a metal claw who rips their hearts out. The sole survivor and witness to the massacre is a young girl. Twelve years later in Rome a new wax museum is opened, whose main attractions are lifelike recreations of gruesome murder scenes. A young man bets that he will spend the night in the museum but is found dead the morning after. Soon, people start disappearing from the streets of Rome and the wax museum halls begin filling with new figures... Written by Giancarlo Cairella <vertigo@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Unrated | See all certifications »





Release Date:

4 April 1997 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

The Wax Mask  »

Box Office


$3,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

ITL 219,896,000 (Italy) (4 April 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Originally intended by Dario Argento as a Comeback for colleague (though not friend) Lucio Fulci. Unfortunately, only a few weeks before filming was about to begin, Fulci died and on short notice, the directing job was handed over to special effects expert Sergio Stivaletti. See more »


At 1:04:12, Volkoff put a pin through the picture of Sonia he just clipped. Seven seconds later, as Alex watch him secretly through the door, he does exactly the same action with the pin. See more »


References House of Wax (1953) See more »


La donna è mobile
from "Rigoletto"
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
Music by Giuseppe Verdi
See more »

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User Reviews

From Fulci, to Stivaletti, a most-entertaining ride!
22 August 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a sorely-overlooked film that began as a project for the ailing Lucio Fulci (who died at the 11th-hour), and ended-up being the first film for Italian makeup-maestro, Sergio Stivaletti. While it is often daft, it is also so audacious and original in its reimagining of "House of Wax" that it inexplicably overcomes any of its weaknesses. Produced-by Dario Argento (as well as co-scripted in some areas), this alchemical-horror succeeds where the recent Hollywood-remake fails, and all on a $3 million-budget! That's catering for the recent "House of Wax", right? Its only major-downside--a minor one--is that Paris Hilton's murder isn't depicted here, which accounts for half the box-office of that version.

It is difficult not to be won-over by the visual purity of this film, even with the problems of plot (common to Italian cinema, though much of this is explained-by a an emphasis on the "thematic"), and it is very-very entertaining and fantastical. One would assume that the alchemical-themes in the story were Argento's contributions, however, English horror-cineaste Alan Jones has written they are Stivaletti's, which is pretty amazing. For those who are familiar with the makeup-artisan's work in films by Argento, Soavi, and Lamberto Bava, you are in for a treat.

While this film is definitely flawed, it succeeds in being a great romp for action, mystery, and naturally, gore. From a hardcore heart-ripping by mechanical-hands, to melting-cadavers, it is an original-contribution to bodily-defilement by the director and his makeup crew. With obvious expositions on nanotechnology and cybernetics, I was pretty creeped-out. Maybe it was me, but I thought a lot of the film had elements of the French silent serials like "Judex", or even "Les Vampiers". There are--of course--scenes that will make most Anglo-American audiences cringe, and you'll know them when you see them, but you knew you were watching an Italian genre-film, no?

Yet, it is so very classical in its combination of Gaston Leroux and Jules Verne! One-remaining Fulci-subplot remains--it concerns a doppleganger of a main-character, and is oddly resonant with Stivaletti's-contributions. The familiar-theme of the misunderstood-genius, and the brutality of the human-condition creating monsters reminds one of Captain Nemo, or the Phantom of the Opera. But what this films really reminds-me-of is that many great Italian-filmmakers understand there is no line-between "high" and "low" art. This is often lost on us in North America, but it is common in mainland European culture. The alchemical themes are great too. Lucio Fulci, RIP.

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