Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

mystery of the wax museum poster 1933 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Decent story, some genuine creeps

Weird two-color Technicolor, obvious plot

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Mystery of the Wax Museum

Studio:  Warner Brothers

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  February 17, 1933

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

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Golly gee…I’ve got a scoop here!

A talented wax sculptor named Ivan Igor (Lionel Atwill) finds his work destroyed in a fire when his backer (Edwin Maxwell) tells him that he needs to do more exploitive pieces.  When Ivan resurfaces bound to a wheelchair and a new museum, not all may be safe at the House of Wax.  An investigative reporter always looking for her next story named Florence Dempsey (Glenda Farrell) begins to notice strange similarities between the figures and missing people.  With the help of a suspect in the disappearances named George Winton (Gavin Gordon), Florence investigates the wax museum and Ivan’s new obsession with her roommate Charlotte Duncan (Fay Wray).

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Oh…my…God!!! I love to scream!!!

Directed by Michael Curtiz, Mystery of the Wax Museum was considered a lost film for a long time.  Based on a 1932 short story called “The Wax Works” by Charles Beldon, the movie has been restored when it was rediscovered and is often available with its classic 3-D remake from 1953 starring Vincent Price.

The movie is a bit of an oddity.  It was one of the last films shot in two color Technicolor so it has a strange almost sepia tint to it with some colors shining through.  The effect gives it an almost colorized feel that is a bit unfair since colorized films are often looked down upon.  Until I looked into it a bit, I thought it was colorized and wondered why they did it to a great film.  Going in with the knowledge that it isn’t colorized and instead just a specialized style of shooting is much better.  It allows you to not be distracted by the sometimes strange coloring.

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Ok…be honest, is it bad?

Story-wise, this is a rather good mystery/suspense/horror film.  It is actually a little bit more shocking than some of the other horror at the time and the creepy subject matter of a disfigured man (masked in wax) using real bodies on display is quite horrific.  It is pretty obvious what is going on throughout the movie, but it still builds some suspense as the characters figure out what you already know.

The movie is a strange balance of acting.  Farrell is fun as the plucky reporter, but she almost seems out of place with all the horror that surrounds her.  This is mixed with a rather ill-conceived love story with the bland Gavin Gordon.  Lionel Atwill is good as the tortured mad sculptor and his reveal as his face breaks apart is classic.  Scream-queen Fay Wray also is rather flat but was always a good screamer.

If you pick up House of Wax and get this film with it, definitely take the time to check it out.  It is worth it and fun to make a comparison to the other more famous film.  Mystery of the Wax Museum does stand on its own however and could be a fun creepy “intro” scary movie for younger viewers.

Related Links:

House of Wax (1953)

House of Wax (2005)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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