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While it was the most successful 3D movie of the 1950's and a well remembered horror outing for genre buffs, in execution, HOUSE OF WAX ($36) is more of a melodrama with horrific flourishes, than a flat out horror movie. However, what firmly cements HOUSE OF WAX in that particular genre is the presence of horror move icon Vincent Price, who is always fun to watch. For those not aware that there was an early version of the story, 1953’s HOUSE OF WAX actually reworks the story told in MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM, which Warner Bros. released in 1933. Unlike its predecessor, HOUSE OF WAX goes with a turn of the century period setting, which gives the film a different esthetic and a decidedly creepier, foggy/gaslight style than the original.

HOUSE OF WAX tells the story of Professor Henry Jarrod (Price), an eccentric sculptor and curator of a wax museum. Unfortunately for Jarrod, his unscrupulous partner decides that he wants to recoup his investment in the wax museum through arson, which leads to Jarrod being burnt and crippled in the fire. No longer able to sculpt because of his fire ravaged his hands, Jarrod turns those duties over to pupils, as he sets out to open a new wax museum. Just as Jarrod prepares to reopens his wax museum, a grotesque killer begins a series of murders, from which the victim’s bodies mysteriously disappear. The cast of HOUSE OF WAX also features Phyllis Kirk, Frank Lovejoy, Carolyn Jones, Paul Picerni, Roy Roberts, Angela Clarke, Paul Cavanagh, Dabbs Greer and Charles Bronson, who is billed under the name Charles Buchinsky.

Warner Home Video has made HOUSE OF WAX available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec, while the 3D version is presented MVC codec. The 1080p presentation looks pretty impressive for a film released in WarnerColor- one of the lesser Eastman variants. With their Blu-ray transfer, Warner has managed to pull some striking hues out of the WarnerColor. The film elements used for the transfer appear to be in terrific shape and show few signs of age. Image sharpness and detail is really quite wonderful for a film of this vintage and production type. Of course, since there are inherent weaknesses in the film's optical fades and dissolves, which do soften the image at those moments. Shots that do not involve any optical processing work look the best and demonstrate very good texturing and detail. There are shots that take place at night, during foggy conditions; these also appear a bit indistinct, but that is intentional. There are also a few shots that have some focus issues, which may or may not be related to the dual camera setup used for the 3D. Colors are largely quite vibrant, plus the picture boasts attractive flesh tones. Blacks appear accurate, as do the whites. Contrast is fairly smooth. Shadow detail is underwhelming, with the blacks appearing flat and non-differentiated. Glorious film grain is noticeable throughout, sometimes appearing heavier and sometimes lesser. As for the 3D version of the movie, the depth is really quite nice, plus gimmicky effects come off very well (namely the paddleball sequence). HOUSE OF WAX is an especially good early 3D film, something that many find amusing, considering that it had been directed by André de Toth, a one-eyed man, who couldn't perceive the depth effects he was trying to create.

HOUSE OF WAX is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 2.0 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The soundtrack is quite clean and largely free from signs of age. David Buttolph’s atmospheric musical score is the real star of the lossless soundtrack; sounding quite robust despite the limited fidelity of the vintage recordings. I will admit, I did hear a tiny bit of distortion in some musical climaxes, but otherwise the music impresses. As for the dialogue, it is always crisp and easy to understand. French and Spanish Dolby Digital monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some very nice supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with David Del Valle and Constantine Nasr, who provide a nice amount of production detail. Next up is House Of Wax: Unlike Anything You've Seen Before! a newly minted fifty minute program that looks back at the significance of the film and features interviews with modern filmmakers. We also get Newsreel Footage of the film’s premiere and a Theatrical Trailer.

The Blu-ray also includes the original 1933 version of the story-- MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM. Starring Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray, MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM is a little creaky in places, but is actually a whole of fun. MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM seems to be taken from the same transfer that has been floating around since the days of Laserdisc. The transfer has a number of blemishes and scratches, as well a few registration problems, but for the most part the presentation is decent. MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM along with its two-strip Technicolor companion, DR.X, are long overdue for an upgrade... both would benefit from preservation efforts involving 4K transfers, digital clean up and color correction... not to mention their own Blu-ray release.

HOUSE OF WAX remains an enjoyable genre flick featuring horror genre icon Vincent Price. The film’s 2D and 3D presentation are as good as one would expect from a vintage film with its particular production history. Highly recommended.


House of Wax [Blu-ray] (1953)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2013 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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