31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.
Nature of House of Wax Shame:
Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1950’s
#28. House of Wax (1953)
I felt wholly confident that I’d seen House of Wax. This is, until I watched House of Wax. Parts seemed quite familiar. But then again… maybe just because I’d seen the original Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) more recently. But Vincent Price knocking off those that had done him wrong in a creepy mask! Or was that just misappropriated images from The Abominable Dr. Phibes. It wasn’t until I saw one certain face that I knew with 100% certainty that I’d seen House of Wax (1953) long, long ago. As a wee lad, no more than 10 or so, the paddleball fellow left an indelible impression:
I didn’t know at the time, however, that I was missing the 3D effect. He was just a guy slapping his paddle ball at me for some reason. Non-sequitur much? The movie takes a detour to watch this guy. How bizarre! How absurd! I was minding my own business watching a Vincent Price horror movie and BLAM! suddenly this guy appears. I remembered nothing about House of Wax… except for the film’s intermission… but I knew I really enjoyed it. The movie, not necessarily the intermission.
That’s as bizarre as saying Ben-Hur‘s great! But I only remember the fanfare. (It is a lovely fanfare.)
Today I’d like to flip this conversation. House of Wax is a fine film. Now, let’s talk about the guy in the intermission and how or why this scene doesn’t feel like other cloying scenes of 3D-sploitation. The most basic motive remains exploiting the 3D technology. A paddle ball springing into the audience. It does so without furthering the narrative, but the scene boasts more complexity than mere visual showmanship or gimmickry.
As the entertainer wanders and torments/titillates with his miraculous rubber paddle ball, the gathered crowd of course oohs and awwws about this skill, but also about the mysterious wax museum. Time has passed in the film since we cut to the intermission. The crowd and the entertainer serves up a bundle of backgrounded exposition, catching us up with the publicly-known details about the emergence and prowess of this wax museum.
I’m pretty sure that scenes devoted to conversational exposition were outlawed by the Geneva Convention… but they never said we couldn’t have a paddle ball sideshow.
One final point about the brilliant eccentricity of this particular scene. House of Wax doesn’t merely present this as a brief gag, a one-off dalliance. Instead, serving as an ersatz intermission, the showman proceeds for nearly two minutes, slapping his paddle balls at onlookers (and the viewing audience, of course) and catching us all up on the events we missed when House of Wax cut to black and went yadda yadda yadda.
For those curious about the inclusion of an intermission in a film that clocks in at just under 90 minutes, the projectionist had to change both reels at the same time due to the nature of the projected 3D image. Each projector was dedicated to one of the stereoscopic images — whereas a normal 2D film would just jump from one projector to the other during a reel change with no gap between reels.
House of Wax (1953) entertained just as I remembered. Vincent Price presents a vengeful maniac that acts as a precursor to his more flambuoyant and showstopping villain in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Creepy and atmospheric with a touch of devilish black humor.
30Hz Movie Rating:
Earlier 2016 31 Days of Horror entries:
#1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2 / #22. A Nightmare on Elm Street / #23. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge / #24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / #25. Tenebrae / #26. Salem’s Lot / #27. Veerana