The plot of both films is identical: a meticulous sculptor of wax figures has his life and workdestroyed in a fire set by an unscrupulous business partner. Years later, now confined to awheelchair and deprived the use of his hands, the sculptor is back in business. This time, thewaxworks are made by murdering people and dipping their bodies in wax. Lionel Atwill playsthe sculptor in 1933’s Mystery of the Wax Museum, while Vincent Price takes over in1953. Both films w…re innovative technically. The former (considered lost until relativelyrecently) was an early two-colour effort, while the latter was the second 3-D movie ever made.Both are terrific gothic fun, with marvellous unmasking sequences.
House of Wax has both 2.0 stereo and mono options. The remix isn’t bad, with a nicemusic track, and no surround voice annoyances. On the other hand, rear sound effects areminimal, though there are some very nice moments with the flames. Mystery of the WaxMuseum is in mono only, which is just as well. The sound is quite clean. The music maybe a bit tinny, but there other, surprisingly rich moments (such as when thunder rumbles).
Good news and bad news. The good news is that the colour on both prints is very nice,ranging from the fascinating dark palette of 1933’s limited range to gorgeous 1953 Technicolor.The bad news is that House of Wax’s principle visual selling point is absent. The filmis not in 3-D, and though it stands up without that feature, it is easy to tell that it was meant tobe in 3-D. (The main symptom of this is the perpetual deep-focus photography, which beginsto look a bit odd.) Both movies have some grain and speckling, more so in the case ofMystery of the Wax Museum, whose opening is very damaged. Still, the grain in the 1933version is surprisingly light, and is still minor in House of Wax.
There are no extras for Mystery of the Wax Museum, though its very presence couldcount as a delightfully unexpected, and very important, extra. House of Wax comes withits theatrical trailer and a newsreel about its premiere. Unfortunately, the newsreel’s originalsound has been replaced with House of Wax’s main theme. Still, you do get to see poorold Bela Lugosi show up at the cinema with a gorilla on a chain. The menu’s main page isscored.
If only House of Wax were in 3-D, this would be a disc to die for. Still, the inclusionof both versions of the story on one DVD is simply marvellous, and hats off to Warner forputting the two together.
Special Features List
- Theatrical Trailer