Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Film: House of Wax, 1953, Andre De Toth

Another week in our narrative project, and the respective lecture. This time, as Alan mentioned we moved from the sci-fi films to experience horror B-Movies. So, we were shown the film, House of Wax, a 1953 horror film directed by Andre de Toth and starring a big name of horror acting, Vincent Price.

The film House of Wax tells the story of Prof. Henry Jarrod , hyper-realistic wax figures sculptor, which sees himself threatened by his partner for insurance money, when his partner starts a fire in the sculptor's studio to melt the wax figures, a fight takes place. After a few punches here and a few punches there, his partner succeeds in his mission leaving the sculptor unconscious and at risk of death, will he survive?
A few years later and coinciding with the time that finally the sculptor's partner is about to receive the insurance money, he is suspiciously killed and then thrown down the elevator, the partner's young girlfriend, Cathy, when she supposed to meet with him, she is shocked and returns home, at the home she is attacked and killed by the same serial killer. Cathy's friend, Sue finds her dead on the bed. However, the killer didn't go away and tries to attack Sue as well. She is able to run away from him and hide in his boyfriend's house Scott. But it doesn't finish here, as these two people were killed their bodies were also retrieved from the morgue by the strange killer, with a disfigured face.
After this happening, the long disappeared sculptor Prof. Henry Jarrod with the help of an investor, Sydney Wallace, open a newly-built wax museum featuring Jarrod's sculptures.
Although Prof. Jarrod was a brilliant sculptor, after the several burns in the fire, he is not able to sculpt, therefore he employs some assistants, firstly Igor, a mute and challenged yet strong man, and a ex-convict.
Later he also employs Sue's boyfriend Scott, a young talented sculptor, which can help Jarrod to create even more wax figures.
Sue and Scott visit the wax museum, where she shows an obsession to find resemblances of Cathy with one of the figurines, she goes to the police station to denounce the wax sculptor, though in vain.
Professor Jarrod when he employed Scott his first intentions were to possiblykidnap Sue and make a model of Marie Antoniette with her own body.
This plan works until a certain extent, when Scott realises that something is happening with her girlfriend, and attempts to save her, with the help of the police forces they find Professor Jarrod true appearance and his evil plan. and end it just in time.

This film is a landmark for horror films, because it marked a new era in the Horror cinema in a period of the remakes were being used and reused, it was so different to its script, using a more uncanny approach to horror.
In terms of lighting and colour in the film, as Jeffrey Anderson wrote on his review of the film, 'House of Wax is not particularly scary or suspenseful, but it is a lot of fun and effectively creates an atmosphere of dread using bright colors and shadows.'(Anderson: 1997), indeed the film is not as suspenseful as maybe films of that time, but yet it uses high contrast shadows to create an uneasy feeling, specially inside the wax museum when it is difficult to distinguish the figurines from real people.
One of the things that this film doesn't show is blood and gore, maybe because it was not censored in the cinema at that time, but as John Puccio stated for his review of the film in DVDtown.com, this film 'relies largely on atmosphere for its frights' (Puccio: 2003), House of wax is a blend of different creepy athmosphere, one instance we are presented with a empty foggy street, where the world is not awake to witness the pursuit of the serial killer and its prey, or on the other instance, we are inside the wax museum at night, silenced and scared by the stillness of the wax figurines.

The use of 3D, shows the advance of technology in film which has been neglected until very recently in cinema, however in this film the subtle use of it, with objetcs being thrown at the camera while fighting, or a more explicitly the use of the paddleball man advertising the opening of the Wax Museum, at the time may be a really efficient way to amuse the audience.

P.S: To watch a blue and magenta version of the 3D, Please click on the video and and use the youtube site. 
Overall, a really good film, full of nice athmospheric scenes and astonishing special effects, that despite being a remake of the 1933, The  Mistery of the Wax Museum, it took the horror cinema to a next level. being a atarget once again for remakes.

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