House of Wax (1953)

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.

7.5/10

It Came from Outer Space (1953)

Directed by Jack Arnold [Other horror films: Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Revenge of the Creature (1955), This Island Earth (1955), Tarantula (1955), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), Monster on the Campus (1958)]

I can appreciate a good alien invasion movie from the 1950’s, and It Came from Outer Space is decent, but compared to others I’ve seen (The Thing from Another World, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and hell, The Blob), this falls a bit flat.

The cast is fine, and I’ve no complaints. Richard Carlson (also in The Maze and Creature from the Black Lagoon) is pretty fun as the main character, a bit of an odd-ball who no one in town believes when he spouts off stories of crashing spaceship. Playing his opposite in many ways is Charles Drake, who has a (pardon the pun) more down-to-Earth view of things, and sort of becomes antagonistic and paranoid toward the end (though certainly with reason).

Even so, I wasn’t really taken in by the story. I sort of like the paranoid feeling Drake’s character starts feeling near the end, but It Came from Outer Space doesn’t nearly have as good a vibe as does Invasion of the Body Snatchers a couple of years later. At the same time, I did quite like a setting, being a small Arizona town surrounded (of course) by desert.

This isn’t a movie I take pleasure in shooting down, nor is that exactly what I’m doing. It’s still a decent movie, but it’s not a movie I could see myself watching that often or really going out of my way to recommend to others, especially when there are so many better movies in the same decade. For the time being, I’d say this is worth one watch, and past that, maybe not so much.

7/10