November 14, 2005
Finally on DVD - MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933)
MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933) -
included on the HOUSE OF WAX (1954) DVD
OK, so on the new DVD release of the old (Vincent Price) version of HOUSE OF WAX, you'll find the marvellous 1933 MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM on the flipside!
Fast-talking, wise-cracking Glenda Farrell steals Fay Wray's limelight with a storming performance as a tough, sexy newspaper reporter. She's chasing a suicide story that turns into a serial murder/ body-snatching epic, all centred round a newly-opened House of Wax...
I love this film. With a twisty plot, snappy, racy dialogue (Glenda asks a policeman, "How's your sex life"!), creepy sets, dynamic camerawork, this is a super early ‘talkie’, and the colour helps you forget just how early... the problems of unwieldy cameras and hiding microphones are all surmounted, only 5 years after the THE JAZZ SINGER!
Made before Hayes Code film censorship kicked in, (in 1934) WAX MUSEUM is almost ‘edgy’ today - racy city characters abound (Glenda's character starts off the film nursing a New Year's hangover, a police friend is flaunting a ‘naughty’ magazine and one of the baddies is a total coke addict), as well as many (irreverent) references to petty law-breaking (prohibition) and marrying for money.
WAX MUSEUM was previously released as a perfect laserdisc double-bill with DOCTOR X. For decades both were rarely seen 'lost' films, but found new appreciation when the colour versions were discovered in the 1980's. Despite their age, they were remarkably filmed in an early colour process - 'Two-Strip Technicolor' (the 'two strips' were red and green, the colours needed to render fairly accurate flesh-tones) - imagine seeing Fay Wray in colour before she'd even appeared in KING KONG!
Both films were expertly directed by Michael Curtiz, almost 10 years before he made CASABLANCA. Fay Wray and the marvellous Lionel Atwill star in both of these ground-breaking horrors. One is on DVD, DOCTOR X sadly not… I'd ideally like to see DOCTOR X on DVD as a double-bill with itself! Both the Technicolor AND black-and-white version - each version was shot on a different camera, sometimes from different angles, sometimes as separate takes (usually when a complicated camera move was needed).