Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) (full)

This is yet another film that has been eclipsed by its remake, in this case the enjoyable 1953 3D House of Wax from 1953, staring Vincent Price. Which is unfortunate, because on its own, The Mystery of the Wax Museum a really fun horror /mystery / comedy/ raunchy Pre-Coder. 

A brief intro: a very talented wax sculptor (Lionel Atwill) loses his is prized London-based wax museum in a blaze set by his money grubbing partner. Twelve years later, in New York City, bodies are mysteriously being stolen from the morgue, and the models in a new wax museum look just like them…

You probably know where this is going, but at a brisk 77 minutes, it's a journey to get to inevitable gory conclusion. Well, not visually gory since this is 1933 after all, but we do get some nasty make-up.

Also worth noting that this is one of the last two-strip Technicolor movies, a process which emphasized red and green; great for flesh tones, not so much at providing a variety of colors, though we do get some gorgeous shadow work, jaw-dropping sets, and eye-popping dresses worn by heroines Fay Wray and Glenda Farrell, as compensation.


Lionel Atwill is a slyly sinister Mr. Igor, and Ms. Wray once again gets to show off her impressive screaming skills as another damsel in distress. Ms. Farrell was the acting highlight for me, however, as a snappy and tough talking reporter. She also gets to roll off some gem Pre-Code wisecracks, greating a cop reading a dirty mag with a chipper “how’s your sex life?” and responding to Wray’s plans for marriage and children with her own plans: “you raise the kids, I’ll raise the roof.” 

Overall, it's a very fun horror film that doesn't take itself too seriously, but still manages to provide the type of gorgeously-shot chills that early 30s horror epitomized. 

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