Monday, October 31, 2005

House Of Wax Trilogy Makes For Great Halloween Viewing

No doubt most here already have their Halloween plans pretty well cemented together. If not, then spending the evening with the House Of Wax trilogy is a useful and entertaining use of the evening. Have plenty of snacks handy, and grab the two film House Of Wax DVD set, which includes the 1933 Mystery Of The Wax Museum and the 1953 Vincent Price House Of Wax, and also pick up the brand new 2005 DVD version of a film called House Of Wax, but with little relationship to the first two films. All are Warner Bros. products.

The original 1933, Mystery Of The Wax Museum, with Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray(the lead actress in King King), has been compared to both Front Page and also Frankenstein by some. It involves the suspicions of a young female reporter about some strange events surrounding a wax museum. It seems that some mysterious deaths seem to revolve around this establishment, run by a currator who years earlier survived a fire that destroyed his previous museum. Now disabled in a wheelchair, the wax figure designer is back, but the young reporter has a hunch that something is amiss. A truly frightening secret involving bizarre crime starts to unravel. A very good early 30's horror/crime mystery film.

In 1953, a more modern version of the film was made that was filmed in 3D. It did include some corny sight gags that were intended for the 3D viewer, such as Second City TV used to satire, but beyond this, it was one of Vincent Price's greatest films. The film was a very effective update on the 1933 film, and perhaps the best of the three House Of Wax films made, although the 1933 is argued to be the best by the critical judgement of others. Vincent Price plays a wax museum owner badly injured in a fire set after an arson attempt by a co-owner who wanted the insurance money to invest elsewhere. The kindly wax sculptor, Vincent Price survives as an insane phantom who lurks at night, killing persons to encase in wax to rebuild his destroyed museum as his hands are no good after surviving the fire. Eerie music in the scenes involving Price as the insane phantom tell you that he's definately a very weird and dangerous guy.

Now comes the 2005 film called House Of Wax. Unlike the first two films which were definately an evolution of the one script and story, the 2005 version of House Of Wax involves a wax museum and people being killed and encased in wax, but beyond that the similarity ends. And if you can survive the sheer boredom of about the first 45 minutes of the film in which little much really happens, then you are rewarded with a genuinely chilling horror and crime story for the last half of the film, where weird and unsettling events quickly grow worse and worse for the fate of the young actors involved in the story. In this version, not just the figures, but the entire museum is supposedly made out of wax. Massive amounts of peanut butter were actually used in some scenes to simulate the melting of the House Of Wax during the fire scene, with most sets actually constructed, and very little green screen work done. And watching the filmed demise of Paris Hilton's character isn't entirely without reward either. The film becomes reasonably effective and worthwhile as better than many horror films aimed at a teenage to young adult viewers when taken as a whole. Not really that bad of a film, despite a mere 24% positive reviews according to Rotten Tomatoes, the film review website. By comparison, the 1933 and 1953 films both have 100% positive reviews, both extremely high marks for horror genre films, and a testament to just what a great franchise these House Of Wax films have become.

If your plans for Halloween aren't set in stone, or at least in wax, then spending an evening with the three enjoyable House Of Wax films from the Warner Bros. catalog are a worthwhile tour through creepy Hollywood filmdom.


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