Classy And Classic Hollywood Redux
House Of Wax (1953)
On October 6 I reviewed The Mystery Of the Wax Museum of 1933, excellent on so many levels, especially for such an early film. It was the last major film to use the two color process, and also premiered the same year as the original King Kong - and with the same co-star, Fay Wray. A gem of a movie you cannot miss.
I usually don't recommend remakes, kind of hate them to death, but this one is an exception. I remember the old indoor theater in my town playing this special matinee and being thrilled to get to watch it even though I was a kid (no, not the original showing tater tots, I'm not that old). Like the original, this had some key points that make it a true Hollywood classic, remake or no. For one thing, it stars the ever wonderful Vincent Price. In fact, it was with this film that his 'induction' so to speak into the horror genre was cemented. It also was the very first film to employ a brand new technology and it makes watching it that much more entertaining - it was shot in 3D. Watching it in 2D is perfectly fine, you just giggle at the parts that were obviously supposed to 'pop' out at you on the screen and it really doesn't take away from the movie at all.
Now it being made twenty years later meant a little updating of the story and the characters but again, mostly stayed true to the original story of the wax museum owner betrayed by his partner and horribly burned, only to resurface to make a new wax museum - with a sinister twist. In 1933 he was betrayed for 10,000 pounds which I couldn't find a way to figure out how much in today's money that was. This version is set in New York so the insurance money was $25,000 in 1953 money - which would be $215,517.24 today.
The story stays about the same and the wax figures are just as if not more wonderful (Wonder who they were on loan from?) and that all makes this just as good if not better than the original. The focus is more on Vincent instead of the female reporter of the first film - in fact, he's shown as his burnt, horrible self early on in the movie and used throughout. And this time Professor Henry (Vincent) is more than willing to have a 'Chamber Of Horrors' - taking the day's headlining murders (for which he was mostly responsible) and transferring them into wax displays. As in the first, the focus is on the Joan of Arc figure, which of course was made from the corpse of a woman stolen from the morgue. And the main 'skirt' of the movie (with the decade change comes lingo changes also) Sue (Phyllis Kirk) has a much smaller part, being the girlfriend of one of the sculptors who is very suspicious of the Joan of Arc character since she knew the young woman well, but easily captured to make Professor Henry's new Marie Antoinette, who he swears she is the spitting image of - or at least the image of the original wax figure he had of her.
The ending is the same - just as Sue is about to become the new Marie the police break in and in the scuffle the girl is saved and the Professor ends up in his own goop. But this film is well worth seeing even if you've seen the original - as is any Vincent Price movie of course.
It's funny, when they show these on AMC, they like to give a little history of how certain things came about - they of course mentioned this was a remake and I started to wince because they also mentioned a don't-even-bother re-remake of the movie also called House Of Wax, made in 2005 in Australia. I've seen it and I'll tell you why in a minute but yes, it is absolutely awful, modernized effects or not. It doesn't even try to follow the original model - it is simply a 'get a bunch of kids together and kill them one by one' movie made with was figures (and other things) scattered here and there. It was nominated for three Razzie awards, and the makers were also sued massively for a fire on the set that caused major property damage (but unfortunately the movie made it through). It tried to draw people in by having Paris Hilton as a co-star - she subsequently was voted Worst Supporting Actress. Everyone's favorite part of the movie? When Paris dies. In fact, for a while WATCH PARIS DIE t-shirts were popular promotion items for the movie. Yikes.
So Shoy, you horror freak, why did you put yourself through this abomination when you knew it was going to be awful and you weren't even doing reviews then? Well, <looks down at the ground, kicks feet> you see, on the soundtrack, playing during the ending credits, you hear part of the song Helena by My Chemical Romance who, if I've mentioned it way too many times I apologize, has been and is still my most favorite band in the world. Sigh. Their first soundtrack and that's what they get. They did much better with the movie Watchmen making a 3 minute rock version of the 11 minute Bob Dylan classic Desolation Row. Honest.
Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.