Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) Review

Horrorific content by adrian on June 13th, 2020 | Movie Review | Classic Horror, House of Wax Series

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It's about a wisecracking reporter out to expose a sinister sculptor at a small wax museum.

Mystery of the Wax Museum was directed by Michael Curtiz (who also directed The Walking Dead and Doctor X) and stars Lionel Atwill (from House of Dracula and Fog of Island), Fay Wray (from Black Moon and King Kong) and Gavin Gordon (from The Bat and Bride of Frankenstein).

Women of FLESH become WAX in his hands... women of wax become flesh!

Mystery of the Wax Museum is the original House of Wax. Not the one with Paris Hilton. Not even the one with Vincent Price. This one is the original original from the 30's. I got a colorized restored version on DVD and it looked incredible. One quirk though, everyone had two different colors eyes, and it was distractingly obvious. Apparently, the film used a two-color Technicolor technique that's as old school as it gets. The lights used during filming were actually so bright that it melted the wax sculptures, so actors had to play the part and some even experienced eye damage from them.

The different color eyes were distracting, and so was the wacky dialog. It makes the movie feel more like a comedy than anything remotely related to horror. Literally every third word is some crazy slang term. All grown men were called "kids", hot women were called "twists" and sad women "sob sisters". When a man is upset he's "peppery". And if a place is suspicious they say "something's cockeyed about the joint". The characters all sound like wise guys half the time.

The movie starts off in London, The Swinging City, in back 1921. It's about an artist who moved to London Town to model wax sculptures, all was going well until his business partner got upset that the wax museum wasn't making enough money. He barked that people in those days we're more interested in being entertained by figures such as Jack the Ripper, The Mad Butcher and The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. So he pitches an insurance fraud scheme that involves burning the entire place to the ground. Needless to say, the artist is against the plan. The two fight. The artist loses.

This quirky classic starts off fast and dives head first into a web of character development, but unfortunately starts to drag at around the halfway point. But I think it's mostly because it's just not the movie I expected it to be. It's not suspenseful whatsoever and the mystery aspect was pretty weak. The hunt for clues starts to feel repetitive and I honestly found myself just looking forward to the movie just ending so I could move onto Vincent Price's House of Wax.

Have to admit though, the one thing that really makes this wax trilogy is the satisfying visual of melting wax figures. Watching all of the wax statues melt in the first fire scene was a thing of beauty. The camera really focused in on the melting faces, especially on the eyeballs falling out the heads plopping off. Creepy but satisfying. The House of Wax reboot from 2005 took this concept and seriously ran with it.

After sitting through this, I can say it was a fun classic movie but there was nothing scary or even remotely suspenseful about it, more of a comedy than anything else. The ridiculous dialog also made it hard to follow at times, so many one-liners.

Worth Watching? 

I really don't think so, especially if you're looking for a classic horror. Mystery of the Wax Museum is just a classic classic. The shame is that I bought the DVD so that I could have it in my collection to complete the series but I can tell you right now I'm never gonna watch it again.

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