Before starring in the various Edgar Allan Poe based movies, Vincent Price has starred in many other horror features. One such film was the original version of House of Wax (1953). Unlike the House of Wax remake about college teens in the woods, this movie takes place in 1890s New York. Professor Henry Jarrod (Vincent Price) is a talented wax figure sculptor that specializes in historical figures like John Wilkes Booth, Joan of Arc, Marie Antoinette, and Marc Antony for his museum. Jarrod also talks to them like they were real people.
Although Jarrod prefers the beauty and artistic integrity, his business partner Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts) is more focused on the profits and demands more sensational exhibits. Jarrod provides an opportunity for an art critic, Sidney Wallace (Paul Cavanagh), to buy Burke out, but Burke decides to burn the museum down to claim the insurance money. What a shame, those were such nice wax figures destroyed by corruption.
Shortly after, a cloaked and disfigured killer is on the loose killing people and even stealing their bodies. The killer looks a lot like Jarrod, but is it really him? That leaves some mystery.
Apparently, Jarrod did survive the fire, but his hands are disfigured and he’s confined to a wheelchair. He reopens his museum but focuses on historical crimes and recent murders, though it seems out of character. The part that stands out most is when Jarrod provides smelling salts for the women who pass out during the tour. That’s so funny.
Here’s something interesting. This movie has an intermission in the middle. In the old days they had those, even when the movies were on home video. No movies have had that in years and that’s a good thing since it’s so annoying.
House of Wax was also in 3-D, but the only 3-D moment I could find here was when a greeter (Reggie Rymal) uses his paddleballs while announcing the exhibits in the museum out front to get customers to come inside.
Jarrod also reveals that he uses models to create the faces of his wax figures like the face of recent murder victim Cathy Gray (Carolyn Jones). I liked her perky persona.
The only one that’s suspicious is Cathy’s friend Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk). Part of it could include how the killer keeps coming after her, or maybe it’s something more, despite Jarrod’s thorough explanations about how the art is done.
This was a good movie. Sometimes it’s nice to look back on the original version of a movie after seeing the remake, though I must point out that the two versions are hardly alike at all. Which do you prefer?