Classic horror-thriller, released in 1953. It was directed by André De Toth and written by Crane Wilbur, based on a story by Charles Belden. Cinematography was by Bert Glennon and J. Peverell Marley. It was a remake of a 1933 movie called "Mystery of the Wax Museum." It was also the first 3-D movie released by one of the major studios (in this case, Warner Brothers).

"House of Wax" starred Vincent Price as Professor Henry Jarrod, Phyllis Kirk as Sue Allen, Carolyn Jones as Cathy Gray, Paul Picerni as Scott Andrews, Frank Lovejoy as Lt. Brennan, Paul Cavanagh as Sidney Wallace, Charles Bronson (using the name Charles Buchinsky) as Igor, and Reggie Rymal as the barker.

Price plays Henry Jarrod, a genius sculptor whose preferred medium is wax figures. He operates out of a small wax museum, disdains the Chambers of Horrors which make most wax museums so popular, and cares very little for profit, to his greedy business partner's dismay. The partner decides to burn the museum down and collect the insurance money, but the idea of destroying all his works of art horrifies Jarrod, and a tremendous struggle erupts. But the partner is able to knock Jarrod out, start numerous fires, and open the gas vents. In the resulting explosion, Jarrod is thought killed. But of course, he's not dead. Horribly burned and no longer able to use his hands to sculpt, Jarrod turns to kidnapping, murder, and body-snatching as he and his criminal companions use real corpses to create the ultimate Chamber of Horrors.

Though this movie is normally considered a horror movie, it's really more of a crime thriller. There are a few good shocks and scares, and many of the scenes in the dark wax museum are eerie and frightening, but the emphasis is on suspense, conspiracies, and detective work. Price's obsessed, murderous artist is, of course, brilliantly played--at turns mincing and menacing, pitiful and powerful. Bronson's performance as the deaf-mute thug is more one-dimensional, but still interesting to watch.

I've only seen this on video and DVD, so I don't know how worthwhile this may have been as 3-D entertainment. Frankly, I've caught very few moments that would've been interesting to render in 3-D--a scene in a burlesque house with showgirls high-kicking at the camera, and another scene in which a barker slaps a paddleball toward the audience, joking about knocking over people's popcorn. Part of this could be because De Toth, the director, was blind in one eye--any of the film's 3-D effects would have been lost on him.

All in all, I'd say it's worth a rental. The dated '50s filming techniques may lose some audience members, but for many, it can be a good, fun, retro evening of shocks and shivers.

Some research from the Internet Movie Database (

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