The House of Wax (1953) starring Vincent Price, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones
Vincent Price is well-known for playing the role of the sympathetic monster. And here, as a once-great artist named Jarrod, his hands ruined, confined to a wheelchair, he’s definitely sympathetic. And, literally with a tragic backstory.
With his partner, Matthew Burke, he used to run an artistic wax museum, duplicating famous characters from history. His masterpiece was his Joan of Arc. His partner, however, wanted sensationalism. When Jarrod refused, he burnt down the museum for insurance money. And thought he murdered Jarrod, as well.
But Jarrod returns, opening a new wax museum, despite his crippling injuries. He uses death masks to help create some of his new creations. But is that all? And who’s the mysterious person, killing various individuals?
Be sure to read the quotes from House of Wax as well,.
Cast of characters
- Vincent Price (The Last Man on Earth) as Professor Henry Jarrod. The brilliant sculptor, who’s life’s work has been destroyed by Burke. Despite his supposed death, years later he resurfaces. He opens a new wax museum, using assistants to create the work. Since his hands have been crippled in the fire.
- Roy Roberts as Matthew Burke. An unscrupulous man, willing to commit murder to make money. He has no grief over Jarrod’s death, since the money allows him to afford “good things” … Such as:
- Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family) as Cathy Gray. A pretty young lady, focused on her looks, which she’s using to snare Burke. Until Burke seemingly commits suicide. She quickly sets her sights on her next boyfriend … Until she’s murdered as well. And she bears a great resemblance to Jarrod’s new Joan of Arc …
- Phyllis Kirk (Back from Eternity) as Sue Allen. The protagonist of the story. She’s Cathy’s roommate, and friend. And she is convinced there’s a connection between Cathy’s death and the Wax Museum.
- Paul Picerni as Scott Andrews. An aspiring sculptor hired by Jarrod. And Sue’s boyfriend, who first doesn’t quite believe her. But over time, he does … and nearly loses his life rescuing her.
- Frank Lovejoy (Julie) as Lt. Tom Brennan. Intrepid police officer investigating the murders. He rescues Scott in a thrilling part of the climax.
- Charles Bronson (Master of the World) as Igor. Jarrod’s assistant, who’s deaf, mute … and very dangerous. An excellent performance, especially considering his character’s inability to speak.
- Nedrick Young as Leon Averill.
Editorial review of House of Wax (1953) starring Vincent Price, courtesy of Amazon.com
House of Wax brought Vincent Price into the horror genre, where he fit as snugly as a scalpel in a mad scientist’s hand. A remake of the 1933 film Mystery of the Wax Museum, this entertaining Gothic shocker casts Price as a sculptor of wax figures; his unwilling victims–er, “models”–lend their bodies to his lifelike depictions of Marie Antoinette and Joan of Arc.The film was one of the top 10 moneymakers of its year, thanks in part to the 3-D gimmick, which explains why so many things are aimed at the camera (why else would the paddleball man be there?). Footnote to history: director Andre De Toth was blind in one eye, and thus could not see in three dimensions.
Trivia for House of Wax
- Nedrick Young, who plays the alcoholic assistant Leon, was uncredited because he had been blacklisted during the McCarthy “Red scare” era in Hollywood.
- Phyllis Kirk said that she had “no fond memories” of working with Charles Bronson.
- The name of Vincent Price’s character was changed to Henry Jarrod from Ivan Igor to avoid alienating Russian viewers.
- The alcoholic sculptor was a heroin addict in the original version of the film, Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), but that had to be changed for the remake because the Production Code forbade any mention of drug addiction. (Ironically, a character played by Vincent Price had got away with confessing to drug addiction in Dragonwyck (1946), filmed in 1945, eight years before House of Wax.)
- The scene where Paul Picerni is rescued from the guillotine by Frank Lovejoy seconds before the blade came down was filmed in one take, using a real guillotine blade. Picerni and director Andre De Toth got into a heated argument when Picerni, on advice from the film’s stuntmen, refused to do the scene as too dangerous (a prop man was to hold up the blade off camera and tell the actors when he dropped it so they could yank Picerni away). De Toth threw him off the picture, but several days later, on orders from studio head Jack L. Warner, De Toth recalled him and had the prop department modify the guillotine to make it less dangerous. After examining the guillotine, Picerni said he would do one take and no more, which is exactly what happened.