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HOUSE OF WAX
3D Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Vincent Price, Reggie Rymal, Frank Lovejoy, Carolyn Jones, Charles Bronson
Director: Andre de Toth
Audio: DTS HD 2.0
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 88 Minutes
Release Date: October 1, 2013

To you, they are wax…but to me, their creator, they live and breathe.”

Film ***

House of Wax earns a special place in cinema history as the first ever 3D film released by a major studio. 60 years later, the debate rages on as to whether 3D is merely a cheap crowd-pleasing gimmick or a valid, vital tool for filmmakers to deliver their visions. I’ve been on both sides of that debate, but considering I did invest in a full 3D home theatre system, it’s clear which side I’ve landed on.

And for being the first, I would argue that House of Wax remained the best use of 3D for a very long time. Films that followed would play up the effects at the expense of the story, but here, 3D was used mostly very tastefully, creating staging and atmosphere and a very real and vivid experience for audiences.

It stars the inimitable Vincent Price as Henry Jarrod, who runs a modest wax museum and lovingly sculpts the figures that reside there. He is an artist who lives for his work, and the results have always spoken for themselves.

However, his unscrupulous business partner wants more sensation and more customers, and pressures Jarrod into making his gallery more of a horror show. Jarrod resists, preferring to use his creations to bring history to life and educate.

When his partner decides to burn the museum down for insurance money, it takes all of Jarrod’s work with him…and what of Jarrod himself? He returns later, with a new museum of amazing figures dedicated almost solely to the macabre. Historical re-enactments are gone, replaced by depictions of torture and murder. Yet his creations remain life-like. Almost TOO lifelike…

Chances are, even if you’ve never seen the film, you’ll remain a step or two ahead of the plot and not find many surprises. You will, however, enjoy the engrossing and beautifully rendered 3D (more on that further down), the style and art direction, and of course, the wonderful work of Vincent Price, who brings humanity and sympathy to offbeat characters like few other actors could.

House of Wax ushered in a new era of cinema technology and a new way for fans to experience fright. Some may still say that hasn’t always been for the best, but I challenge you…watch this movie the way it was meant to be seen at least one time before you make up your mind for good.

BONUS TRIVIA: The talented director Andre de Toth was an unusual choice for this project…he was blind in one eye, and therefore could not see 3D!

Video ****

For those who thought previous DVD versions of this film were lacking in the quality department, fear not…Warner has delivered this movie exactly as it should be. That not only means 3D, but a beautiful print that keeps all the colors and details intact. The 3D itself is remarkable; the best I’ve yet seen for an older film. The spacing and sets make you feel like you are really a guest in the museum, and everything is done for maximum effectiveness in use of space. There are a few minor instances of ghosting here and there, as you might expect from an older film, but what you WON’T expect is just how incredible the overall presentation is and how much you are going to enjoy the experience.

Audio ***

In addition to being the first major studio 3D release, House of Wax also experimented with stereophonic sound. This uncompressed version is quite nicely done; tasteful and clean, with extremely nice clarity throughout.

Features ****

Everything about this disc is already great, but there’s a superb features package to boot! It begins with a film expert commentary that’s quite detailed and informative. Then there is a terrific new featurette that has vintage interviews with de Toth and Price, as well as new insights from the likes of Wes Craven, Martin Scorsese and more. There is a featurette on the premiere of the film and the original trailer.

Best of all, there is another film! The 1933 movie Mystery of the Wax Museum, a very early Technicolor film, was the inspiration for this movie, and Warner was generous enough to include it in its entirety. And any movie with Fay Wray is certainly welcome in my collection!

Summary:

Film fans rejoice. House of Wax is finally available for you the way it was always meant to be seen…in amazing 3D with a gloriously pristine print. This is one of the year’s best releases.

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