21 May 2024
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
77 min.
Directed by Michael Curtiz.
With Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell, Allen Vincent, Frank McHugh, Arthur Edmund Carewe.
'Your face! It was made of wax! You fiend!'

Lionel Atwill is Ivan Igor, a sculptor who specializes in creating ultra-realistic, life-size statues made entirely from wax.

But Ivan's business partner is less than thrilled with their profits, and hoping to collect on some quick insurance cash, he torches their London museum.

Ivan is trapped in the roaring blaze and left for dead.

Alive but terribly disfigured, nothing remains of Ivan's face and hands but scarred mounds. He flees to New York, and sets about re-creating the 'masterpieces' he lost in the London disaster.

Meanwhile, he meets beautiful Charlotte (Wray), and decides he must add her to his collection.

You see, Ivan has one little secret. He's stealing bodies from the city morgue, and using the corpses as stand-ins for his horrific art!

This 1933 horror was one of the first to use the early 2-strip Technicolor process. As a result, there's a fresh energy and playful quality that permeates throughout.

Wray is terrific as Ivan's artistic muse, and she shines in every scene, especially in her climactic showdown with the madman.

But honestly? It's Farrell - as tough dame reporter Florence - who really steals the show here. Her wisecracking, squint-eyed performance is delightful to watch, and proves an excellent contrast to Wray's innocence.

And Atwill is always a genre trooper. Here he gets the chance to shine in a lead role, and he rises to the occasion.

Remade in 1953 as House of Wax with Vincent Price.

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