The owner of a Waxmuseum needs for three of his models stories to be told to the audience. For that reason he has hired a writer, who after one look at the owner's pretty daughter, starts writing stories featuring the models, the daughter and himself. In the first, he is a baker, married to the girl, who is a little bit too much flirting with the customers, among them the wezir of sultan Harun Al-Rashid, who has just ordered his execution because the smell from the bakery is drifting to his palace, yet Harun Al-Rashid wants to meet the beautiful girl himself, while an angry baker is trying to get the Sultan's whishing ring to proof he's not a weakling... The second story is about Tzar Ivan the Terrible who likes watching people die together with his court-chemist. When he orders the execution of the chemist, the chemist thinks of a nice revanche, but till the revanche works, a nobleman is murdered, his daughter kidnapped by Ivan and her groom tortured. While writing the third story ...Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
Usually in these Wax horrors, it's the notion of a life entombed in the body that is meant to unsettle, a life extended even into death (or is it the opposite?). This is the first of these films as far as I know - later came the two Houses of Wax, another Waxwork in '88, the Italian Wax Mask from an Argento story - and so the notion is more outdated, more novelistic. Each life a separate story and world, with clear boundaries between them, and acted out by the same couple that writes the stories back in the level of reality.
In Baghdad we get a romantic adventure where the Caliph falls for the baker's girl. Eventually she restores balance by summoning the dead Caliph from beyond the grave for the eyes of his awe-struck vassals. It's a ploy by which the status quo of the Arabian nights is maintained.
In Czarist Russia, the cruel czar who thought he would defy even death is faced with his own mortality. Instead of accepting this common fate, thus coming to understand that a king is also a common man and in so doing be rendered free of his own despotic bonds, he goes mad. It's again a ploy, the poison-maker's vengeance from beyond the grave. But he was mad to begin with, so it doesn't quite matter.
The final story that blends back into the wrap-around and brings us full circle, is about a notorious killer who stalks a man and his girl. This is the segment that strikes some spark; the urbane setting diffused as dreamy, expressionist poem. It's again a ploy, this time a dream - or nightmare.
Both Emil Jannings and Conrad Veidt, stars of what was then a booming film industry, relish the opportunity of playing scheming tyrants. But it's all harmless stuff.
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