Saturday, 9 December 2017

House of Wax

Eccentric and slightly obsessed sculpture Henry Jarrod is challenged by his more money-orientated business partner about the lack of profit that their joint venture, a wax museum, is generating.  When the proposition of selling his half of the business falls through, the partner proceeds to burn down the museum for the purposes of acquiring its insurance benefit.  Jarrod is hideously scarred in the fire, but returns some time later to begin again, only this time the bodies of the recently deceased (including his old partner) start disappearing in the area, while Jarrod's models take on an increasingly lifelike nature...

Remaking the 1933 2-strip Technicolor horror movie Mystery of the Wax Museum, House of Wax follows its source quite closely aside from making the lead character (played by Vincent Price) more soulful at the same time as ditching the fast-talking female investigator of the original.  I don't find the film overly interesting unfortunately; it comes across as hokey and padded with cheese - Price of course was a very hammy actor but I'm guessing the motivation for making the film (to cash in on the contemporaneous popularity of 3D) was never going to give rise to great art.
What does make the film more charming is finally being able to see it as audiences would have back in 1953: in 3D with clear stereo soundtrack (DTS-HD MA 2.0).  The Blu-ray contains the now mastered stereoscopic version, released in various places around the world but here in the UK as an HMV-exclusive dual format edition (the DVD contains the standard 2D viewing option of course).  It's grainy and sometimes soft, the technique nowhere near what it was to become post-millennium, but the effect has depth and draws one into the image with plenty of deliberate trickery to enhance the illusion.  As with the original 2003 DVD release, this set contains the film's inspiration, Mystery..., however, the earlier (and possibly better) movie has not been remastered for HD, which is quite a shame.  I enjoy viewing Mystery... for its beautifully unique colour scheme and oddly rapid pace.  There's quite a bit packed onto the Blu-ray, including a newer 49 minute documentary with comments from renowned film-makers, a commentary and several other bits.  Where HMV have made this more collectable than its overseas counterparts is by packing it in a slipcase with artcards - their Premium collection is quite a string to the bow.  So, whilst the main feature is not the best, I do like seeing older 3D films finally back to their intended nature.

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