House of Wax (1953) (PAL)

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Released 4-Oct-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Featurette-House Of Wax Premiere Newsreel
Short Film-Mystery Of The Wax Museum-1933 Technicolor Original
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1953
Running Time 84:40
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 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 ?
RPI $14.95 Music David Buttolph


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Romanian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

KC & Woody   

    Vincent Price stars as Professor Henry Jarrod, a wax sculptor with an uncanny ability to make wax characters come to life. While other wax studios are making money depicting the macabre, Vincent is more focused on making characters look lifelike. It is this unreasonableness towards selling his art out that forces his partner and financial backer to burn down the house of wax for insurance money instead.

    Later (much later), we find the good Professor has opened up another wax studio. This is despite us believing he was burned alive in the aforementioned fire. It's about this time in the movie, as we are shown various new wax sculptures that have people believing they are "alive", that we start to join some dots ...

    Jarrod's new studio features the type of exhibits that are making money elsewhere. Famous historic scenes of torture and death, combined with more recent gruesome events, such as a well known stockbroker who hung himself. Jarrod is the mastermind behind the studio despite his hands being badly burnt. He now employs artists and guides them in the art, including one Charles Bronson as Igor in an early role.

    It's when a young lady becomes convinced that a wax work too closely resembles her dead friend that things get complicated.

    "It doesn't seem proper all those girls showing their, talents" proclaims Phyllis Kirk at a burlesque dance show.

    I'm not exactly sure what time period this film depicts, but the police are still getting around in horse and buggy. And pretty soon they are taking an interest in the house of wax.

    This movie struck us as more of a thriller than a horror, though the lines can be blurred at times. This film is also known as being originally released in 3-D. This DVD is a standard film, however, and no attempt is made to make it jump out of the screen. Rob Giles reviews the same movie here, although that version is NTSC. The transfer reviewed here is PAL. PAL is the Australian standard colour system and so theoretically this should be a better transfer than the NTSC version.

    Obviously there is also the 2005 version of the House of Wax, starring Elisha Cuthbert. What's that you say - there's another star in that film? Hmm? Anyway, the storylines are very different. Whereas the 1953 version centres around a bitter and twisted wax sculpture out for revenge,  the 2005 version is about two boys who went through a difficult childhood making their own wax studio in an isolated rural town. The 2005 version provided us with more thrills and scares than the 1953 version. However, whereas  the 2005 version gets silly towards the end (don't all horror movies nowadays have disappointing endings?),  the 1953 version gets more poignant. It's an obvious comparison, but the 2005 version has better effects and kept us more engaged but the 1953 version has the better story line.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Well I was surprised by how good this film looked. It was made in 1953 but the transfer looks great and the colour is surprisingly good. Let's get into it.

    This PAL video transfer is presented in full frame, 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The clarity is excellent. Shadow detail, like the rest of the transfer, is pretty good and there is very little grain or low level noise to speak of.

    Colour was surprisingly good despite being a little on the red side. The movie on the whole is a little dark (it is an early horror and has night scenes) and doesn't have a great deal of contrast. Perhaps faces and the reds and blues of eyes and makeup provide the most contrast in scenes. High marks for colour.

    The English subtitles are close to matching the spoken word. A few times they don't, but they still convey the message clearly. There are also subtitles in French, Italian, Dutch, Arabic and Romanian.

    We did not notice a layer change.

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

Audio

    The sound was clear throughout. The movie is mostly dialogue driven and at no time will it test your system's limits.

    There are three sound tracks; English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), French Dolby Digital (192Kb/s) and Italian Dolby Digital (192Kb/s). We confined ourselves to the English track only.

    The dialogue is clear and despite a few times where the lip sync is out ever so slightly the audio track is very good.

    As was typical for movies of the day, dramatic music accompanies this film. It builds up the tension nicely and adds to the "old style" atmosphere.

    There is no surround sound or subwoofer activity. Given what takes place in the film, even by today's standards there would be limited opportunities for a more enveloping sound experience.

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

Extras

Main Menu

    Here we've got a still picture of Prof Jarrod with music.

Featurette - Round the Clock Premier (2:14)

    Footage of the premiere of the House of Wax, celebrities arriving, streets lined with people either waiting to get in or to see who's on the red carpet, with dramatic music designed to build intrigue. Interesting to watch perhaps only the once, to compare premieres from the 1950s to today.

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) (77:18)

    Another (earlier 1933 version) take on the Wax Museum theme. This time starring Lionel Atwill (who closely resembles Vincent Price for mine) and directed by Michael Curtiz. This extra long feature is in Technicolor, though not to the same standard as the main feature. There are lots of obvious artefacts and sound drop-outs but this only serves to remind you of how old the film is you are watching, and transports you back to an earlier time.

R4 vs R1

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

    Given the choice we think most DVD buffs would prefer the PAL version reviewed here over the NTSC version and the Region 1 release, simply due to PAL being the preferred format in Australia. However, the Region 4 PAL version does not contain the original theatrical trailer which runs 2:04 and appears on the NTSC and Region 1 versions of this disc. So, you decide. PAL or theatrical trailer? Having said this the NTSC version reviewed here got good marks for video so any drop off in quality might be minimal.

Summary

    While labelled a horror, this movie is perhaps closer to a thriller in today's market. It has a place in history due to it being a pioneer of screening in 3-D, has star power in Vincent Price and is also notable due to Charles Bronson's extended cameo in a non-speaking part.

    The colour and sharpness of the video transfer surprised us both, and is very good given the age of the movie.

    Sound is of a functional two-channel variety.

    Extras range from the interesting to an extra movie along the same lines as the main feature movie, and as such are pretty good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Kristen Clark & Ryan Woodforde (I love the smell of bio in the morning.)
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-533K, using Component output
DisplayPioneer PDP436HD 43" Plasma Display Panel. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to Amplifier.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS494
SpeakersKrix Lyrix front speakers, Krix KDX-C centre speaker, Krix Equinox rear speakers, BIC D-121OR 12' 200 watt powered sub-woofer.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Some Technicolor history - Phillip Sametz