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House of Wax 3D(1953)
Professor Henry Jarrod is a true artist whose wax sculptures are lifelike. He specializes in historical tableau's such a Marie Antoinette or Joan of Arc. His business partner, Matthew Burke, needs some of his investment returned to him and pushes Jarrod to have more lurid exposes like a chamber of horrors.
For more about House of Wax 3D and the House of Wax 3D Blu-ray release, see House of Wax 3D Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 5, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Vincent Price, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, Frank Lovejoy, Charles Bronson, Paul Cavanagh
Director: André De Toth
» See full cast & crew
House of Wax 3D Blu-ray Review
Warner's original house of 3-D horrors makes its triumphant return...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 5, 2013
André de Toth's House of Wax (not to be confused with Jaume Collet-Serra's god awful, almost entirely unrelated 2005 quasi-remake of the same name) is arguably one of the most overlooked classics in all of horror. It was not only the first color 3-D feature film released by a major studio, it vaulted horror icon Vincent Price into genre stardom and took the 1953 box office by storm, offering filmfans something they quite literally had never seen before. More than that, House of Wax still holds up pretty well all these years later, six decades after it first brought audiences to the edge of their seats. Its mystery won't offer modern genre addicts much in the way of shock or surprise, its murders and revelations are far less gruesome than they must have seemed in the silver age of cinema, and its frights and more unsettling imagery have taken on a campier hitch than intended. But there's enough here to place House of Wax alongside Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, Horror of Dracula, Psycho and Carnival of Souls, among others. Its influence can still be felt in horror films today, and its value should not be dismissed.
Professor Henry Jarrod (Vincent Price) is the owner and sculptor in a wax museum whose specialty is historic figures. When he and his business partner, Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts) quarrel over the choice of exhibits displayed, Burke suggests it would be more profitable to burn down the museum in order to obtain the insurance money. The two men fight, the museum burns, and Jarrod is left for dead. It's not until much later, with Jarrod confined to a wheelchair and overseeing a new wax museum with the help of a mute sculptor named Igor (Charles Bronson), that the classic horror film's gruesome mystery begins; a mystery that threatens the life of a young woman (Phyllis Kirk) whose friend has been murdered (Carolyn Jones).
House of Wax 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
Releasing House of Wax 3D on Blu-ray marks another bold and interesting choice for Warner Bros. Catalog 3D presentations are a rarity in today's home video market, and yet there's a lot to be gained in watching André deToth's 1953 thriller as it was meant to be seen (and then some). Restored and remastered using a 4K scan of the original dual-projection film elements by the highly regarded Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging (MPI) team, the now sixty-year-old horror classic delivers House at its finest, and with a lovingly assembled, unexpectedly effective 3D experience to boot. There's just one problem: the film is often very soft; to the point that some will wonder why the studio invested so much time and effort into releasing a movie on Blu-ray that, for all intents and purposes, doesn't deliver the sort of presentation that moves discs and breaks sales records. Beware such shortsightedness, though. There are several important factors at play here. First, the source, not the encode, is the cause of most of the transfer's woes. (Most, not all. More on that in a moment.) Second, the presentation's grain field (among other less obvious clues) points to a filmic restoration created with the utmost respect for director's intent and the original texture of the film. Third, and this can't be overstated, the criteria for choosing which classics receive Blu-ray releases should not include "how crisp is its detail?" Ideally, the preservation, restoration and market analysis quandaries considered by a studio should be, "is the film important?" "Is it possible to preserve the elements' integrity and present the film as it was meant to be seen?" "Can a near-definitive restoration be achieved?" "If softness or other inherent problems are present, is there value in the release beyond that which a modern audience might first realize?"
More than any other studio, Warner Bros. asks and answers these questions as it should. Which is precisely why Warner continues to proudly and successfully dip deeper and deeper into its catalog than any other studio, producing more highly regarded classic Blu-ray releases each year. House of Wax 3D is most certainly an important film, as it broke new ground in both 3-D and the horror genre, and even holds up well six decades after its debut. The chance to bring the movie and its 3D experience into the 21st century -- utilizing current technology that has evolved from the polarized glasses and left-eye/right-eye" dual projection process of old -- must have been an enticing one. And I'm sure the go-ahead to do so, niche consumer base or no, was cause for celebration at MPI.
The subsequent 1080p/MVC-encoded transfer showcases the fruits of MPI's labor. Grain is pleasing and refined, the image is remarkably more revealing than it's ever been in the home theater environment, noise reduction and/or filtering isn't apparent, scratches and instances of print damage have all but been eliminated, and the film has quite simply never looked better. (Skintones are a touch strong at times, black levels so deep that they invite negligible crush, and contrast a bit too overbearing, but toss each one on the nitpick pile.) Moreover, artifacting, banding and other encoding issues are nowhere to be found, and ghosting, aliasing and other 3D anomalies aren't at play. In fact, when viewed in 3D, actors and other foreground objects boast some surprising dimensionality, depth is occasionally quite striking, and the 3D effect is more pronounced than I anticipated. The only real downside in 3D and 2D? Slight ringing is apparent on occasion, and, at least in part, the product of digital sharpening techniques. None of it borders on offensive, or even edges close to severe, but it's noticeable enough to warrant a mention. That said, the good, the bad and -- pardon -- the ugly are the result of an intensive, not invasive, restoration; a meticulously faithful, not jarringly artificial, presentation. Substantial softness remains the film's deadliest enemy, although I hope by now most filmfans understand full well that not every movie in Hollywood history is going to be, nor should be, a razor-sharp stunner. The proof is in the restoration, folks, and Warner's restoration is commendable and most satisfying.
House of Wax 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
House of Wax features a solid 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track, and MPI's restorative efforts are just as evident in the disc's lossless mix as its video presentation. Dialogue is clear, grounded, smartly prioritized, and unhindered by any significant hiss or notable noise floor. Purists will also be pleased with the the rest of the soundscape. There may not be LFE support or rear speaker activity to speak of, but there's still a welcome sense of period-appropriate weight, tension and atmosphere to the experience, enough to place Warner's Blu-ray release among the best horror catalog classics available in high definition.
House of Wax 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
House of Wax 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The horror classics of yesteryear may not be as frightening or terrifying as they once were, but there's a craft to their atmosphere, method to their scares, and boldness in their innovation that they weather the decades and live on. House of Wax is one such classic, having stood the test of time, and for good reason. Price is excellent, the film's mystery is cleverly constructed, and its reveals devious enough to keep things memorable. Warner's 3D Blu-ray release is just as impressive, with a faithful restoration and video presentation, effective 3D experience, solid lossless audio, and a number of welcome extras.
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