House of Wax (1953)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Costume Horror  |   Release Date - Apr 10, 1953 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Fred Beldin

Even without the fabled 3-D photography that ballyhooed its theatrical run, this horror classic can still churn up chills decades after its release. While not as intense as the film that provided its template (1933's Mystery of the Wax Museum), nor as gory as its lamentable 2005 remake, House of Wax scores with eerie set design, dark humor, and a great cast. As the quietly mad Henry Jarrod, Vincent Price stars in the role that would seal his fate as a horror icon. He's in excellent form both with and without the grotesque scar makeup he's encased in while gathering corpses for his ghoulish artwork. Carolyn Jones stands out among Price's co-stars as a lively good-time girl whose resemblance to Joan of Arc leads to her demise, and a mute Charles Bronson provides one of the best "Igor" performances in horror cinema. The opening images of melting wax statues are still disturbing, and there's a certain irony in watching the wax museum's audience gawk at frightful tableaus of torture and mayhem in much the same way the film's audience enjoys the spectacle in 3-D. The success of House of Wax ensured that its theme of homicidal artists would be recycled over and over by future horror filmmakers (Bucket of Blood, Color Me Blood Red, and Nightmare in Wax are just a few examples), although its use of 3-D technology did not help the gimmick become industry standard.