House of Wax (1953)
This will be a quick entry. After all, it’s the middle of October and I have a ton of creepy flicks I need to catch up on before another spooky movie season passes us by.
Speaking of which, I recently had the opportunity to see the horror classic, House of Wax, the way it was intended to be seen: on the big screen. I love it when theaters re-release classic films. As much as I like the home viewing experience, there’s something special about the idea of watching an old move in the theater. It offers something that you just can’t get from home video.
I can’t quite put my figure on it, but I think it has something to do with the idea that televisions – though pretty nice now-a-days – just can’t duplicate the experience that the original film makers intended. In 1953, very few people had TVs. So when they made a movie, they made it solely with the theater-going audience in mind. The big screen. The darkened room. The rows and rows of like-minded strangers gathering together to experience something as a group. Call me crazy, but when I see a classic film in this way, I oddly feel like I’m somehow connected – at least by experience – to the people who actually came out to the theater to see it when it originally opened decades before my birth.
The theater-going experience has the power to do this, and the Halloween season is a perfect time to seek it out. What’s better than watching a horror movie in the confines of a darkened theater? And if that film happens to star the great Vincent Price, then all the better.
House of Wax is a about a man named Henry Jarrod (Price) who runs his own wax museum in New York at the turn of the Twentieth Century. He considers his wax sculptures to be intimate works of art. But when a business partner tries to pressure him to make figures of horror to bring in more business, Jarrod refuses. The partner then burns the place down for the insurance money. Jarrod is lost in the fire and presumed dead. But eighteen months later, he resurfaces with a new wax museum. This time, he’s taken his previous partner’s advice and has made macabre figures out of wax, along with other…less-wholesome materials.
Vincent Price was a master at these kinds of roles. Other classics such as The Fly, The House on Haunted Hill, The Last Man on Earth, and the House of Usher give him a horror pedigree that few could match. Getting a chance to watch him on the big screen in this one was a great addition to my October spooky film time.
In addition, this particular viewing offered another cool feature. It was presented in the glorious spectacle of 3D! I looked it up, and it turns out that House of Wax was one of the first 3D movies ever put out by a major studio. Now, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of 3D. Personally, I think that modern 3D movies are somewhat gimmicky and don’t really add much to the movie-going experience. But seeing this one in 3D was a rare treat. It goes back to what I said earlier about seeing the movie in the way the filmmakers intended it. You can watch this on TV or get the Blu-ray, but that would rob you of the experience of seeing it in the same way that the people in 1953 got to see it. And also, surprisingly, I really enjoyed the 3D aspects of it in this viewing. They knew how to do it right back then. The images popped, and the story meshed well with the 3D effects.
For example, in one scene, Charles Bronson’s character (yes, that Charles Bronson!) jumps up from the right side of the screen and runs deep into the frame in pursuit of another character. For a second there, I actually thought someone was standing up in the audience and running toward the screen. I’ve never seen that effect in a 3D movie before and it was ka-reapy!
This played at an art-house theater that’s about an hour from where I live, but I didn’t mind the drive and I was grateful for the experience. I wish that more theaters would offer this sort of thing. Classic films are great at home, but I feel there is a place for theatrical re-release as well, especially this time of year, when the darkened theater and the larger-than-life screen has the power to bring us the scares in the way that nature truly intended them.
How about you? Do you like watching old films in the theater? Would you like to see more of this? If you had the chance, what classic film would you pay hard earned money to see this Halloween season?
If you get the chance, I highly recommend it.
And if it happens to star Vincent Price and is shown in 3D, then all the better.