Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

Director: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell, Frank McHugh, Allen Vincent, Gavin Gordon, Edwin Maxwell, Holmes Herbert, Claude King, Arthur Edmund Carewe, Thomas E. Jackson, DeWitt Jennings, Matthew Betz, Monica Bannister

1921, London. Ivan Igor (Atwill) enjoys sculpting at his wax museum receiving praise for his delicate landscaped figures, especially his most beloved replicant of Marie Antoinette. His business partner (Maxwell), however, feels differently with failing numbers and suggests destroying the museum in a fire and collecting the insurance money. An argument emerges and the fight proceeds to burn all that is precious to Igor, who luckily survives the disaster.

12 years later, Igor returns from hiding to open a new wax museum in New York City. Though still suffering psychical damage, he relies on his assistant to carve the new sculptures. Meanwhile, young reporter Florence (Farrell) is sent to investigate the suicide of a model at the same time the body is discovered missing from the morgue. Florence's roommate (Wray) is also engaged to a worker at the museum.

The original horror escapade of the wax museum, before it was remade in fine form with leading man Vincent Price and later destroyed in a modern day remake featuring (of all people) Paris Hilton, is the best telling of the tale and is one of the best examples of the 30's horror craze that was mostly overrun by the Universal Monsters series. This was the film that proceeded Wray's iconic performance in King Kong; it was also the second re-teaming of Wray and Atwill in Doctor X.

Thank the Lord for Turner Classic Movies as most of these old classics have been rediscovered and are now finding a new home in the digital age. It may seem quite old and the two-toned colour doesn't help (though I think it contributes massively to it's macabre storyline), but true horror fanatics should enjoy this gothic tale thanks mainly to the performance of Atwill who paints such a fatherly-sinister frame and the grotesque grows over time.


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