This month I will begin covering films from horror icon Vincent Price, beginning with 1953’s House of Wax. Prof. Henry Jarrod (Price) is the sculptor and curator of a wax museum in 1890s New York. Jarrod’s business partner Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts) sets fire to the wax museum to collect the insurance money and Jarrod is believed to be. Some time later, right as he is about to collect the money, Burke is killed by a cloaked figure with a deformed face, who also kills Burke’s fiance Cathy Gray (Carolyn Jones). Jarrod, now confined to a wheelchair, resurfaces with plans to open a much more macabre House of Wax. Cathy’s friend Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk) visits to museum and makes note how realistic the sculptures look, particularly one that looks like Cathy.
Vincent Price had a long a varied career, which expanded past horror, and it is hard to pick just a few of his films to include in this Blindspot series on classic horror. Part of the reason I decided to go with House of Wax was because of my familiarity with 2005 remake of the film, even though both films have very little in common.
House is Wax is notable for being the first ever colour 3D film produced by a major studio. Since the version of the film I watched was in 2D, I can’t really tell what aspects of House of Wax were done in 3D, except one very obvious scene involving a paddle-ball. Like many of Vincent Price’s films, House of Wax is filled with the actor’s macabre humour, particularly during the tour of the House of Wax’s horror chamber. While the plot of the film structures it as a big reveal, it is painfully obvious that Henry Jarrod is the film’s villain, which I probably would have figured out, even if I didn’t know about it beforehand. It is also interesting to note that House of Wax features Charles Bronson, twenty years before Death Wish, as Jarrod’s aptly named mute assistant Igor.
One thing that did interest me about House of Wax is that even though it is a 90 minute film, it had an intermission card at the halfway point. I suppose that this was something that used to be more common with movies, no matter how long they are. I suppose I should also talk about how House of Wax compares with the 2005 remake, though I should probably prelude by saying that the 1953 film is itself a remake of 1933’s Mystery of the Wax Museum. Probably the easiest answer is that the 2005 remake has nothing in common with this film, other than it involves a wax museum made from human beings. In fact, the remake is much more styled as a slasher film, which isn’t particularly a bad thing, with me actually being a fan of the remake.
Altogether, House of Wax is still a pretty fun film to watch 63 years later.