Directed by André De Toth [Other horror films: Terror Night (1987)]
One of the earliest 3D horror films, House of Wax (a remake of Mystery of the Wax Museum from 1933) is well-made and quite memorable. The 3D is a bit showy at times (that yo-yo scene was clearly there only because of the 3D aspect), but the story here is solid, and of course, an early horror appearance of the legend that is Vincent Price.
Oh, it’s also in color, which is a nice change of pace, especially for a 1950’s American flick.
The whole idea of using dead bodies as the base of wax figures is hella creepy, and though there’s not a whole lot in the way of violence, the film still occasionally feels brutal at times, especially toward the end, when the heroine is about to have boiling wax poured over her nude body (of course, the nudity being tastefully hidden). It helps that Price’s character, while the antagonist, is still pretty sympathetic, and the opening to this film is heart-breaking in it’s own right.
Without a doubt, Price makes this movie as special as it is. The 3D never really mattered much to the plot, but Price’s performance is something that can’t be denied. His passionate portrayal of a man driven somewhat mad was great, and you can definitely tell why he later starred in so many great horror films (such as House on Haunted Hill and The Pit and the Pendulum). Phyllis Kirk was never really a star, but she did pretty good here, especially during the final scenes with Price (such as the great revealing sequence). Another name worth noting is Charles Bronson, who plays a mute assistant of Price’s. Personally, I don’t think I’ve really seen a film Bronson starred in (I’ve seen both The Dirty Dozen and The Great Escape, but that’s it), but even so, he seems to be an actor worth mentioning.
There are times when I felt House of Wax could have been more to the point – the whole of Paul Picerni’s character seemed moderately like needless padding – but even so, this is a classic during a time when not too many horror movies were coming out (the late 40’s to early 50’s is a dead man’s zone when it comes to the genre), so House of Wax is very much worth watching. I’ve seen it plenty of times before, and while I will admit to possibly enjoying Mystery of the Wax Museum a little more, Vincent Price, along with the fact that the movie’s in color, brings a lot to this rendition of the story.