House of Wax (1953) (NTSC)

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Released 8-Oct-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Featurette-House Of Wax Premiere Newsreel
Theatrical Trailer
Short Film-Mystery Of The Wax Museum - 1933 Technicolor Original
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1953
Running Time 88:22
RSDL / Flipper Dual Sided Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4 Directed By André De Toth
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Vincent Price
Frank Lovejoy
Phyllis Kirk
Carolyn Jones
Paul Picerni
Roy Roberts
Angela Clarke
Paul Cavanagh
Dabbs Greer
Charles Bronson
Reggie Rymal
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music David Buttolph


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Japanese
Chinese
Thai
Korean
Indonesian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    In this seminal 1950s horror film, Vincent Price stars as Professor Henry Jarrod, a wax sculptor with an unnatural attachment to his life's work. After years of sculpting and building his own exhibition of historical figures, he is finally receiving some overdue recognition from the art community. Unfortunately, his good fortune doesn't last for long - when his disgruntled financial partner decides to burn down the studio and reap the insurance benefits, Henry returns with a vengeance!

    House Of Wax is most famous for being originally released in 3-D, however the presentation here on DVD doesn't replicate that effect. What we do receive is a very good transfer of this film for its age, as well as the original 1933 feature on which this remake is based. The two features share some identical scenes and dialogue, however the 1953 remake addresses many of the original film's glaring plot issues.

    Despite having made one of the most renowned 3-D films in history, director Andre De Toth was ironically never able to witness the spectacle of 3-D due to his only having sight in one eye. His career in film continued until the 90s, including work as a second unit director on classic features such as Superman (1978) and Lawrence Of Arabia (1962).

    No mad professor would be complete without his brain-dead assistant, an hilarious performance by a young Charles Bronson as Igor the mute. All of the performances by the cast are excellent, but Vincent Price steams ahead, proving his worth as the master of the macabre.

    The attitudes and stigmas of the period shine through in this film, particularly frowning upon female independence and foreigners. All of this adds to the magic of this film, a bona-fide horror classic.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This NTSC video transfer is presented in the film's intended full frame aspect ratio of 1.37:1. It is therefore not 16x9 enhanced.

    This transfer looks remarkably good for a film of this age. Despite the usual resolution issues that are associated with NTSC transfers, the image shows a good degree of sharpness, inhibited only by a slight amount of grain. Shadow detail is surprisingly good, as is particularly evident in a dark interior scene at 19:20. There were no cases of low level noise during this transfer.

    Colours appeared a little unnatural by today's standards, most likely due to the processing techniques of the day. Skin tones are overly brown and brighter colours have a strange artificial appearance. There are no issues with bleeding or oversaturation in this transfer.

    Film artefacts are only of the smallest kind, comprised mainly of specks of dust and dirt. Reel change marks seem to be hidden by fade-outs, which makes them much less of a problem. There are absolutely no MPEG compression issues with this transfer.

    There is an English subtitle stream included on the disc. It does a good job of translating the dialogue and manages to stay true to the pace of the spoken word.

    This disc is DVD10 formatted (single layered, dual sided), with side A containing the House Of Wax feature film and side B holding the 1933 original Mystery Of The Wax Museum. There are no layer transitions present on this disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three audio tracks available. The default is English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) surround encoded, while French and Spanish mono dubs are also available on the disc. The English stream is a faithful transfer of the original audio track, although it has clearly undergone some filtering to remove tape hiss from the original elements, reducing the overall fidelity of the soundtrack.

    The vocal delivery is spot-on at all times and is consistently easy to understand. There are a couple of minor issues concerning lip sync, such as the conversation between the characters of Sue and Cathy at 22:25, but I doubt if this would present any major problems to the average viewer. There is also some slight hiss evident here and there, but again it doesn't present any real problems.

    The film's score is vast and dramatic, and has all the hooks of a typical film score of this period. The score succeeds in building tension, nudging the viewer towards the edge of their seat with every crescendo and certainly plays a large role in the thrills of this film.

    The surround encoded Dolby Digital 2.0 track directed some of the soundtrack score to the rear channels, but otherwise might as well have been a mono effort.

    There was obviously no subwoofer usage in a film of this age.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    All menu pages on the disc are static and 16x9 enhanced. The main menu features a short audio clip, taken from the film's score. The feature is played automatically if the menu is left untouched for a single rotation. As with the feature, all of the disc's content is NTSC formatted.

Side A: House Of Wax

Featurette - Round-the-Clock Premiere: Coast Hails House Of Wax (2:14)

    This is one of those old, silent vintage newsreels, filmed at the premiere of House Of Wax as the stars arrive. This appears to have been a very glittery, star-studded event with many recognisable faces, such as Ronald Regan and Walt Disney. As you would expect, the footage is black and white and is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, full frame. Rather than just have the silent newsreel playing on its own, the footage is accompanied by dramatic music from the film's score which is a nice touch.

Theatrical Trailer (2:04)

    There are no scenes from the actual film contained in this trailer, only two minutes of bombastic orchestration and bold lettering, building the film as an extraordinary experience. This is a colour trailer, presented in 1.33:1 and considerably windowboxed. This trailer is actually pretty funny in an historical sense.

Side B: Mystery Of The Wax Museum (1933) (77:18)

    Directed by Michael Curtiz, this vintage Technicolor film is similar in many ways to the 1953 remake, starring Lionel Atwill as the disturbed sculptor and Fay Wray as his potential victim. The film itself was shot in a very eerie two-colour Technicolor process that gives skin tones a very rosy appearance and night-time scenes a bluish hue that is very effective. Some of the acting is very stage-like and wooden, but it's good fun all the same.

    The condition of this print is quite good considering the age of this film, with only a few missing frames and some very minor damage here and there - mostly scratches and water marks. There is also some artefacting present in the form of reel transition marks and specks of dust and hair, but these are most concentrated around the reel transitions. The film's soundtrack is also in good condition and only has a few minor pops and dropouts. This feature is presented in its original aspect of 1.33:1 - which was typical of the period - with a Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) mono soundtrack. This original film also includes the same subtitle options as the main feature.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title is a perfect clone of the Region 1 release, even down to the NTSC transfer and cover art. Unless you happen to find a particularly good online bargain, I don't see any reason to import this title.

Summary

    House Of Wax is a classic thriller from the 50s and is presented here on DVD without its original 3-D effect.

    The video transfer is taken from a print that is remarkably clean for its age and shows little damage.

    The audio transfer is a faithful representation of the original soundtrack and is in a similarly good condition.

    The extras include the original film on which House Of Wax was based, a very nice idea indeed.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-525, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX76PW10A 76cm Widescreen 100Hz. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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