In France, an insane surgeon's obsession with an actress from England leads him to replace her pianist husband's hands that got mangled in an accident with the hands of a late knife murderer which still have the urge to throw knives.
In London, sculptor Ivan Igor struggles in vain to prevent his partner Worth from burning his wax museum...and his 'children.' Years later, Igor starts a new museum in New York, but his maimed hands confine him to directing lesser artists. People begin disappearing (including a corpse from the morgue); Igor takes a sinister interest in Charlotte Duncan, fiancée of his assistant Ralph, but arouses the suspicions of Charlotte's roommate, wisecracking reporter Florence. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mystery of the Wax Museum represents a moderate success for 1930's horror film-making
These days, Mystery of the Wax Museum has become best known for the fact that it was the film that spawned the 1953 classic starring Vincent Price. This is somewhat unfair, however, as although this film isn't a brilliant masterpiece, or even genre classic, it has a right to remembered in it's own right. The film is actually quite daring and inventive for the time when it was made; and despite the fact that nothing too bad is graphically shown, for obvious reasons, some of the imagery on display does actually succeed in being quite disturbing. Take the deformed face of the central character for example; it won't keep you up all night, but considering the time when this was made; the effects are good. The two-strip Technicolor style of the film gives it something of a unique feel; and this again is to it's credit as the film has aged really, really well. The plot line will be familiar to anyone who has seen the Vincent Price version, but here, aside from a museum proprietor that gets his life work melted away in an inferno; we've got a press investigation into the affairs as well.
Lionel Atwill takes the lead role as the unfortunate victim of the flames, and while he's certainly no Vincent Price; he does well with what he's got and helps to create a macabre surrounding around his character, which in turn helps the film in the atmosphere department. Joining him are Glenda Farrell and Fay Wray as the heroine's of the story. Wray plays the girl that the unfortunate artist becomes obsessed with, and Farrell gives a slightly irritating, but very lively performance as a journalist. Both do well with their roles, and although this film isn't exactly an exhibition in acting (unlike Curtiz's masterpiece, Casablanca); the cast do well enough. One thing that is unfortunate for this film is that it's seen as a second feature for the Price version, which will harm what some viewers think of it as the plot elements are very similar to the 1953 film, so it can, at times, feel as though you're simply watching the same film again. However, if viewed as a stand-alone product, Mystery of the Wax Museum represents a solid 30's horror movie and I can see why any horror fan wouldn't enjoy it.
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