Thursday, November 17, 2011

House of Wax (1953)

WARNING: May contain some spoilers 

In House of Wax Vincent Price plays the wax curator of a modest exhibit that showcases moments in history, his favorite being his Marie Antoinette life-like creation. But Price's business partner does not share his love for the museum and burns it down, with Price inside, to cash in on the insurance money. A few months pass and with what seems like a dead Price and a happy Matthew Burke is awaken to reality when Burke dies by a disfigured man, and Price resurfaces with a new exploitative exhibit. Among the opening night viewers is Sue Allen, a traumatized woman who discovered her friend Cathy dead and was chased by the disfigured killer. While walking the exhibit Sue takes particular notice to the Joan of Arc figurine, which posses the face structure of her late friend Cathy, and despite comfort Sue takes notice to how eerily the wax resembles that of real people. Meanwhile Price is hoping to use Sue as a model for the re-sculpting of his beloved Marie Antoinette.

It's rather curious to me but I knew from the beginning of House of Wax that I was going to love it, the shot of Price working on a sculptor, it was in his stance and attitude that made my heart melt and I became a Price addict here on out. This is one of those films that I prefer to not see in high definition as for on a personal matter I am nostalgic and in favor of the film I think the infrared vision works in that the wax figures do appear to be tediously real. The actors are posing in still but the gritted screen makes it less likely to catch any unwarranted movements, and regardless you start on with Sue's suspicions of the origins of the figures. The film is mostly just suspenseful and thrilling, but the disfigured murderer and the uncanny aura of the museum might unsettle some.

Price is enlivening in the role of Jarrod, the passionate wax artist who may not be all they way there. He's able to let way enough when he's playing normal in the character the madness within, and it's just incredible to watch an actor that can actually do that. This is the film, as far as I know, that started Vincent Price's career as a legendary horror icon, as he plays the madman so distinctly. Phyllis Kirk is good as Sue Allen, she's likable and though she has that paranoid 'there's something wrong' syndrome you as an audience feel it equally so it doesn't come off as a being vexatious. Frank Lovejoy and the rest of the cast are all good and in par with the acting of their decade. Directing is done well, although this is one of the first 3D films ever made and there are scenes where it's apparent that certain things are aimed at the audience members, but other than that no real complaints.

Unfortuantly House of Wax does hold me down on one aspect of the film...the ending. Call me a sick individual but I did not want the happy Sue lives ending. Not that I had any particular dislike towards her, I mean she was right about Jarrod, but maybe it's just my horror rooted mind that wanted to see the recreation of the Marie Antoinette in the The Chambers of Horror. That's nothing to turn you off however, House of Wax is a classic and I may not really even have to recommend it because I'm sure all horror fans have seen it. Regardless of, for new horror fans who have not seen it my opinion is that it is an exceptional horror film that may not scare for modern audiences (it's rated PG for today's standards) but probably did in it's time, and it's far better than its slashed up remake...let's just be honest it's not even on the same level.

1 comment:

M.K. said...

One of Vincent Price's best films!