House of Wax (1953)

Unlike anything you’ve seen before!

I watched the 1953 House of Wax, originally called The Wax Works, which was Warner Bros.’ answer to the surprise 3-D hit Bwana Devil[1], on Svengoolie. They contracted Julian and Milton Gunzburg’s Natural Vision 3-D system[2], the same one used for Bwana Devil, and filmed a remake of their thriller Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), based on Charles S. Belden’s three-act play The Wax Works. The director André de Toth (May 15, 1913 – October 27, 2002) was blind in one eye and couldn’t see the 3D results.

He was was more concerned with telling a thrilling story and believable performances from the actors than simply tossing things at the camera. He is known for the 1942 Jungle Book, The Bounty Hunter, Monkey on My Back, Man on a String, Lawrence of Arabia, and the 1978 Superman.

Wax sculptor Henry (Vincent Price) is horrified to learn that his business partner, Matthew (Roy Roberts), plans on torching their wax museum to collect on the insurance policy. Henry miraculously survives a fiery confrontation with Matthew and re-emerges some years hence with a museum of his own.

But when the appearance of Henry’s new wax sculptures occurs at the same time that a number of corpses vanish from the city morgue, art student Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk) begins suspecting wrongdoing.

  • Vincent Price as Professor Henry Jarrod – (May 27, 1911 – October 25, 1993) Tower of London, The Invisible Man Returns, The House of the Seven Gables, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, The Three Musketeers, House of Wax, The Ten Commandments, The Fly, House on Haunted Hill, Return of the Fly, The Tingler, Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror, Tower of London, Beach Party, The Raven, The Haunted Palace, The Comedy of Terrors, The Last Man on Earth, The Masque of the Red Death, The Tomb of Ligeia, War-Gods of the Deep, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs, The Trouble with Girls, The Oblong Box, Scream and Scream Again, Welcome to My Nightmare, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Edward Scissorhands, TV episodes of Egghead on Batman, F-Troop, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Get Smart, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, The Brady Bunch, Columbo, The Bionic Woman, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo
  • Frank Lovejoy as Lieutenant Tom Brennan – (March 28, 1912 – October 2, 1962) The Hitch-Hiker, House of Wax, Strategic Air Command
  • Phyllis Kirk as Sue Allen – (September 18, 1927 – October 19, 2006) – House of Wax, Thunder Over the Plains, The Sad Sack, TV episodes of The Thin Man
  • Carolyn Jones as Cathy Gray – (April 28, 1930 – August 3, 1983) The War of the Worlds, House of Wax, The Seven Year Itch, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Bachelor Party, How the West Was Won, TV episodes of The Addam’s Family (Morticia Addams), Batman (Marsha, Queen of Diamonds), Wonder Woman
  • Paul Picerni as Scott Andrews – (December 1, 1922 – January 12, 2011) – Twelve O’Clock High, Operation Pacific, House of Wax, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Airport, Kelly’s Heroes, Capricorn One, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, TV episodes of Dragnet, Maverick, Perry Mason, The Untouchables, Bonanza, Insight, My Three Sons, Combat!, Batman, Here’s Lucy, Adam-12, Mannix, Kojak, Barnaby Jones, Diagnosis: Murder
  • Roy Roberts as Matthew Burke – (March 19, 1906 – May 28, 1975) Guadalcanal Diary, House of Wax, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Some Kind of a Nut, The Million Dollar Duck, The Strongest Man in the World, TV episodes of The Lucy Show (Bank president Mr. Cheever), The Beverly Hillbillies (John Cushing), Petticoat Junction (Railroad president Norman Curtis), Bewitched (Darrin’s father Frank Stephens), Gunsmoke (Banker Harry Bodkin), Bonanza (Banker George Bristol), McHale’s Navy (Admiral Rogers), Green Acres (The Governor)
  • Paul Cavanagh as Sidney Wallace – (8 December 1888 – 15 March 1964) Tarzan and His Mate, The Son of Dr. Jekyll, Bride of the Gorilla, House of Wax, Francis in the Haunted House, The Man Who Turned to Stone, She Devil, The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake
  • Dabbs Greer as Sergeant Jim Shane – (April 2, 1917 – April 28, 2007) Monkey Business, House of Wax, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, It! The Terror from Beyond Space, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat, Pacific Heights, Con Air, The Green Mile, TV episodes of Fireside Theatre, Space Patrol, Adventures of Superman, Lassie, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, Wagon Train, Death Valley Days, Laramie, The Untouchables, The Andy Griffith Show, Bonanza, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Fugitive, The Outer Limits, Hank, The F.B.I., The Invaders, Mannix, The Brady Bunch, The Mod Squad, Little House on the Prairie (Reverend Alden), Diagnosis: Murder, Maybe It’s Me
  • Charles Bronson as Igor (credited as Charles Buchinsky) – (November 3, 1921 – August 30, 2003) House of Wax, Machine-Gun Kelly, The Magnificent Seven, X-15, Kid Galahad, The Great Escape, Guns of Diablo, Battle of the Bulge, The Dirty Dozen, Once Upon a Time in the West, Chino, Death Wish movies, Raid on Entebbe
  • Angela Clarke as Mrs. Andrews – (August 14, 1909 – December 16, 2010) House of Wax, TV episodes of Combat!, The Untouchables, Gunsmoke, Dr. Kildare, Daniel Boone, Mission: Impossible, Death Valley Days, Bonanza, Baretta, St. Elsewhere
  • Nedrick Young as Leon Averill (uncredited) – (March 23, 1914 – September 16, 1968) Aladdin and His Lamp, House of Wax

The movie was filmed at 1 King Street, Saint Augustine, Florida. At around a million-dollar budget, this movie did very well grossing $23,750.00 in the United States and Canada. The film runs 1 hour and 28 minutes. I like this movie and will give it 4 out of 5 stars.

  1. Bwana Devil is a 1952 American adventure B movie written, directed, and produced by Arch Oboler, and starring Robert Stack, Barbara Britton, and Nigel Bruce. Bwana Devil is based on the true story of the Tsavo maneaters and filmed with the Natural Vision 3D system. The film is notable for sparking the first 3D film craze in the motion picture industry, as well as for being the first feature-length 3D film in color and the first 3D sound feature in English.
  2. Natural Vision is said to be the first 3-D system yet developed which is based on the fundamentals of natural vision, hence its name. The 3-D camera is actually two cameras in a single unit photographing separate film strips. These in turn are projected simultaneously with two projectors interlocked to run in unison. While other 3-D systems have employed dual cameras, none have pursued the theory that the 3-D cameras should see and record the scene exactly as the human eyes see it. In other words, twin cameras placed side by side and focusing directly on the scene overlook the important factor of parallax. Natural Vision’s system has variable parallax as the crux of its system. The result is 3-dimension pictures on the screen that induce no eye strain. Polaroid spectacles are worn by the audience in viewing the pictures, the same as for other 3-D systems.

Rotten Tomatoes
American Cinematographer

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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