HOUSE OF WAX. 1953. DIRECTED BY ANDRÉ DE TOTH. STARRING VINCENT PRICE AND CHARLES BRONSON. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This film is a fantastic horror classic starring legendary horror maestro Vincent Price. I had the great pleasure of watching it recently on the big screen at Dublin’s Lighthouse Cinema. The film was in 3-D and I’ve honestly never been happier to sit in the dark for ninety or so minutes wearing a pair of ridiculous oversized glasses that cut into my poor little ears and nose. What a fetching image, I’m sure you’ll agree!
Vincent Price is superb as always as Professor Henry Jarrod, who spends his days lovingly crafting wax sculptures whom he thinks of almost as his children, he loves them so much. He specialises in aesthetically-pleasing historical figures and considers his Marie Antoinette to be the pièce de resistance of his magnificent collection. And rightly so, if you ask me. She’s a little corker, haha…!
His business partner Matthew Burke is more concerned with the figures on their balance-sheets than the wax figures moulded by Jarrod, however. He wants Jarrod to sculpt more sensational pieces that could comprise a Chambers Of Horrors-style exhibition and bring more customers into their Museum. Jarrod is naturally repulsed by the idea of such rank commercialism and refuses point-blank.
Burke is more desperate for money than Jarrod realises, however. He sets fire to the Museum, nearly killing poor Jarrod in the process. Jarrod survives, but he is horrifically disfigured from trying to save his precious creations. The scene where the wax figures are melting in the terrific heat from the fire is so powerful that it’s one I’ve remembered from my childhood. It’s, quite simply, unforgettable. Unforgettable and so very sad. Those poor wax figures…!
Fear not, gentle readers. The Wax Museum rises again, under the direction of Jarrod once more, but it is a Jarrod with crippled hands who is unable to sculpt the way he used to. His deaf-mute assistant, Igor, played by a young and deliciously muscular Charles Bronson, does the work for him now, following his employer’s strict instructions, of course.
The Wax Museum, oddly enough, has a new feature now, one that is welcomed with positively blood-thirsty glee by the punters of 1890’s New York. It now features a Chamber Of Horrors, something Jarrod always maintained he wanted no truck with. Waxen depictions of the juicy crimes and sensational recent events that the public crave can now be seen here.
The Chamber Of Horrors even has a wax sculpture of Jarrod’s former business partner, Matthew Burke, who apparently committed suicide, or did he…? Was Burke actually murdered by a mysterious cloaked and disfigured man out for a bloody revenge on a former colleague who then made Burke’s death look like a suicide…? I’ll never tell.
And I certainly won’t tell you that Burke’s gold-digging fianceé, Cathy, was murdered soon afterwards and then her body disappeared from the morgue. Tsk, tsk. Sure if I tell you that, then I might as well tell you that Cathy’s friend, Sue Allen, who herself has been pursued by the same cloaked and disfigured man whom we mentioned earlier, visits the Wax Museum and is deeply disturbed to observe that Jarrod’s Joan Of Arc bears more than a passing resemblance to her dead friend, Cathy…
This film is great fun. The sets and costumes are all spot-on and Charles Bronson is terrific as Jarrod’s new right-hand-man, Igor. A great musical score by David Buttolph adds to the creepy atmosphere and Vincent Price was born to play the tortured creator of the Wax Museum who is driven insane by the unfortunate circumstances in which he finds himself.
It’s one of those films which we’ve all seen in childhood and remember fondly as adults. Do yourself a favour and re-watch it. I did just that, dear reader, and I wasn’t disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: