Off Topic Messages

House of Wax Anniversary

Wed Apr 10, 2013 8:37 pm

Sixty years ago today, Warner Bros. premiered one of the greatest 3-D movies of all time: HOUSE OF WAX, starring Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, Paul Picerni and Charles Buchinsky (a.k.a. Bronson.) Directed by Andre DeToth and produced by Bryan Foy, it told the story of a crazed sculptor seeking revenge for the fiery destruction of his wax museum.

Based on the 1933 horror classic MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM, this WarnerColor re-make was the first feature film from a major studio to be photographed in Natural Vision 3-Dimension. (Arch Oboler's BWANA DEVIL, distributed by United Artists, had been the first.) Natural Vision utilized two strips of film, representing left and right eye views, and was projected in perfect synchronization on two projectors. This superior 3-D process utilized Polaroid filters and glasses, and should not be confused with the red/blue anaglyph 3-D system, which appeared primarily in comic books and magazines during that time.

It was also the first feature to be heard in WarnerPhonic Stereo sound, a new 4-channel process that utilized a full-coat 35mm magnetic track for the left, center and right speakers behind the screen, and a mono optical track for the surround channel. The 35mm full-coat audio was on a separate roll that was interlocked with the two projectors that ran the left/right 3-D images, and the surround track was on the right print of the feature. (The left print contained a mono optical composite track of the entire four channels, and served as an emergency audio back-up in case the dubber went out of sync with the picture.)

Sadly, this pioneering WarnerPhonic audio is lost today. The only surviving element of the original stereo mix is the mono surround channel. (The stereo sound that you are hearing on the film today is newly created by Chace Audio from mono elements. It is NOT the original WarnerPhonic sound.) The tragedy of this stereo audio not surviving is the fact that it was an important element in the original presentation of the 3-D film. With fully directional sound, and sound effects that emanated from the sides and rear of the auditorium (during the fire in the wax museum, for instance) it helped to immerse the viewer in the action, adding an important element to the superb realism of the dimensional photography. As an example of the important role of sound in this presentation, the New York Paramount installed 25 surround speakers throughout the huge auditorium.

The gala world premiere took place on April 10, 1953 at the magnificent 3,600 seat Paramount Theatre on Times Square. All the stars from the film were there, and the film proved to be a tremendous moneymaker for the studio. Boosting ticket sales was the stage show headlined by RCA recording star Eddie Fisher, making his first appearance back from a tour of duty in Korea. He performed such hits as "Any Time," "I'm Walking Behind You," "Wish You Were Here" and "Tell Me Why." The bobbysoxers lined up for hours to see the popular crooner, and filled the massive theatre for six shows a day!

The phenomenal success of this film opened the floodgates for 3-D movies. Within the next 14 months, Hollywood produced 50 features, and nearly two dozen shorts and cartoons, all in the Polaroid 3-D process. Titles include KISS ME KATE, HONDO, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, MISS SADIE THOMPSON, DIAL M FOR MURDER, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, CEASE FIRE, I THE JURY, and many more.

http://www.3dfilmarchive.com
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Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Wed Apr 10, 2013 8:45 pm

Do you like the film, Nelson (I'll call you Nelson, as Honey just sounds wrong)? I've never cared for it myself - although I haven't seen it in 3D, I might add. I much prefer the 1933 version which, bizarrely, is hi. hidden away as a bonus feature on the DVD release of the 1953 film despite not being listed as such. Of course the 1933 version was also rather special as it was made in colour. If memory serves me correctly the 1933 version was released in better quality as part of a dvd double bill around 2000 with Island of Lost Souls in the UK. The latest issue, on House of Wax, is rather washed out I find.

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Wed Apr 10, 2013 8:49 pm

Yes, I like the 1953 film very much. The 3-D adds to the mood immensely.

I also like the the 1933 version and think that and Dr. X are two relatively unknown gems from that period.

PS - Call me Bob!

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Wed Apr 10, 2013 9:52 pm

Time flies!

The 1953 "House of Wax" is a thoroughly enjoyable -- and still quite frightening -- film today. I also have the DVD with the 1933 original as a bonus, and the only thing that strikes me about it is how much of the narrative they used for the remake 20 years later. Lionel Atwill was quite good, though.

As a kid in the '70s, I stole away and saw the film in 3D at a showing in San Francisco. It was fantastic.

It is a great shame that neither "House of Wax" nor "Mystery of the Wax Museum" has seen a proper digital release -- for example, the pan-and-scan used for the 1953 film is infuriating.

Thanks for the post.

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Wed Apr 10, 2013 10:13 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:Time flies!

The 1953 "House of Wax" is a thoroughly enjoyable -- and still quite frightening -- film today. I also have the DVD with the 1933 original as a bonus, and the only thing that strikes me about it is how much of the narrative they used for the remake 20 years later. Lionel Atwill was quite good, though.

As a kid in the '70s, I stole away and saw the film in 3D at a showing in San Francisco. It was fantastic.

It is a great shame that neither "House of Wax" nor "Mystery of the Wax Museum" has seen a proper digital release -- for example, the pan-and-scan used for the 1953 film is infuriating.

Thanks for the post.


There have been rumours for a long while that House of Wax will get a restored release. However, the aspect ratio on the 2003 DVD release is as per the original film (1.37:1). It was not made in any form of widescreen format, as this review and the imdb entry verify.

http://www.horrortalk.com/reviews/378-house-of-wax-1953.html

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:24 am

About 6 months ago, a Blu-ray release was announced:

http://www.hometheaterforum.com/topic/316035-house-of-wax-3d-official/
http://www.theblurayblog.com/2012/10/house-of-wax-1953-being-restored-for-2013-3d-blu-ray-release/

I wonder where it is?

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:30 am

They're working on it now. It should be released in the fall.

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Thu Apr 11, 2013 3:18 am

Hopefully, they'll do as good a job as possible.

Here's a neat still from the film:


530410_Vincent Price_Phyllis Kirk.JPG
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Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Thu Apr 11, 2013 3:22 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:Hopefully, they'll do as good a job as possible.

Here's a neat still from the film:


530410_Vincent Price_Phyllis Kirk.JPG


Warner's restorations are normally top-notch, although the delay following the announcement seems to be quite lengthy, but good that it's still coming our way this year. That said, the delay is nothing to one for the 1977 film Ode to Billy Joe. With a release date of 2009, and with DVDs printed (some leaked out), that edition finally emerged last month!

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Fri Apr 12, 2013 4:26 am

Growing up as a kid in the 70's, every Friday night late movie was a horror. Locally produced, the compare of each screening was "Deadly Ernest", who would come out of his coffin with a skull. Lots of B grade and Sci-Fi movies from the 50's. As a kid, some were rather scary, and unlike today's blood and guts horror flicks, you were left to use your imagination. I always find those old black and white horror movies to have a lot more eeriness to them. A great time to be growing up as a kid. Vincent Price was the king of horror.

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Sat Apr 13, 2013 6:08 am

Bosley Crowther never gave a good review to a 3-D movie, but his comments on Warnerphonic sound are quite interesting. It's a shame this pioneering stereo track is lost.
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Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Sat Apr 13, 2013 9:59 pm

Looks like this is from Crowther's second report on the film, from April 19, 1953.

He does make interesting, detailed observations regarding the aesthetics of stereoscopic sound, but they come off today like that of a cranky 47 year-old resistant to innovation. One imagines he would soon detest the rock 'n' roll explosion in 1956, and would have been no fan of 5.1 surround sound.

That said, they don't write reviews like this anymore:

"The moment was pregnant and propitious …"


His initial review of the film is, as you implied, not favorable:

THE SCREEN IN REVIEW
House of Wax,' Warners' 3-D Film With Vincent Price, Has Premiere at Paramount

By Bosley Crowther
New York Times, Saturday, April 11, 1953

A slight paraphrase of the first message sent over telegraph wires might signal the staggering appearance of the first major stereoscopic film. "House of Wax," the historic production unveiled at the Paramount yesterday in as wild a display of noise and nonsense as has rattled a movie screen in years, may well cause a dazed and deafened viewer, amazed and bewildered, to inquire in wonder and genuine trepidation: What hath the Warner Brothers wrought?
For this mixture of antique melodrama, three-dimensional photography, ghoulish sensationalism and so-called directed sound (which means noises coming at you from all parts of the theatre) raises so many serious questions of achievement and responsibility that a friend of the motion picture medium has ample reason to be baffled and concerned.

It isn't only that the story projected in this first major whack with 3-D is a bundle of horrifying claptrap that was cheap and obvious twenty years ago—which is precisely how long ago it was the Warners first made it under the title of "The Mystery of the Wax Museum." Even then it was a raw, distasteful fable fit only to frighten simple souls with the menace of a crazy, fire-scarred sculptor embalming his victims in a wax-works chamber of horrors.

And now, as a story, it is no different. It is still a fantastic conceit, highlighted by a fire in the wax museum and the subsequent depredations of a repulsively disfigured ghoul who establishes a new museum with wax-encased cadavers snatched from the morgue. And its performance by Vincent Price as the monstrous hero, Phyllis Kirk as a potential victim, Frank Lovejoy as a baffled detective and several others in assorted comic-strip roles, under Andre De Toth's direction, is in a consistently stiff and graceless style.

Nor is it that the stereo-photography, while more effective than any other yet seen in New York theatres, is of but moderate advantage to the film. The picture is in Technicolor (as was the previous "The Mystery of the Wax Museum") and the illusion of contour and depth in the images, as viewed through polaroid glasses, is good. On a few occasions, such as a scene in which a barker bounces a rubber ball toward the audience or figures tumble forward in the picture, the shock effect is pronounced. But the so-called added dimension of "deepness" is of slight significance.

The major causes for anxiety presented by this film are in the savagery of its conception and the intolerable artlessness of its sound. It is thrown and howled at the audience as though the only purpose was to overwhelm the naturally curious patron with an excess of brutal stimuli. And this is betrayed not only in the morbidity of many scenes but in the violence of the noises that are brayed from the theatre's screen and walls.

The intended effect of having sounds come from areas in which they would naturally develop in relation to the images on the screen—such as the voice of an actor out of the frame to the left coming from that side wall—is not only confusing but incongruous with the visual illusion of the screen. It is as though someone were speaking from a box or the stage wings, with no relation whatsoever to the images before the eyes. The mechanical distraction of it may wear off with time, if this sort of thing is repeated, but it is disturbing and almost comical now.

Likewise, the noisy sound of footsteps clattering in the back of the theatre a moment after an actor has appeared to rush forward from the screen is completely illogical and unnerving. It sounds like a riot outside.

But the most frightening thing about this picture is the thought of the imitation it will encourage, if it proves to draw customers to the theatre, which it more than likely will do. Some may accept this dismal prospect with the same casualness they accord the idiocies and eventually comical monstrosities of the film. But not so this reviewer. It's a prospect we view with alarm. Dimly we foresee movie audiences embalmed in three-dimensional wax and sound.

On the stage at the Paramount are Eddie Fischer, The Beach-combers, Joey Forman and Henry Winterhalter and his band.


HOUSE OF WAX, screen play by Crane Wilbur, based on a story by Charles Belden; directed by Andre de Toth; produced by Bryan Foy in Natural Vision for Warner Brothers. At the Paramount. 

Prof. Henry Jarrod . . . . . Vincent Price 

Lieut. Tom Brennan . . . . . Frank Lovejoy 

Sue Allen . . . . . Phyllis Kirk 

Cathy Gray . . . . . Carolyn Jones 

Scott Andrews . . . . . Paul Picerni 

Matthew Burke . . . . . Roy Roberts 

Mrs. Andrews . . . . . Angela Clarke

Sidney Wallace . . . . . Paul Cavanagh 

Sgt. Jim Shane . . . . . Dabbs Greer

Igor . . . . . Charles Buchinsky

Barker . . . . . Reggie Rymal 

Bruce Allison . . . . . Philip Tonge

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Sun Apr 14, 2013 3:27 am

I've always liked the name Igor. 8)

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Sun Apr 14, 2013 5:26 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:Looks like this is from Crowther's second report on the film, from April 19, 1953.

He does make interesting, detailed observations regarding the aesthetics of stereoscopic sound, but they come off today like that of a cranky 47 year-old resistant to innovation. One imagines he would soon detest the rock 'n' roll explosion in 1956, and would have been no fan of 5.1 surround sound.



Crowther was cranky at all ages, to be honest.

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Sun Apr 14, 2013 8:21 pm

Thanks, John, I appreciate that article.

I had the earlier review somewhere but couldn't find it.

Yeah, Crowther was a VERY hard to please individual.

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:29 pm

HoneyTalkNelson wrote:Thanks, John, I appreciate that article.

I had the earlier review somewhere but couldn't find it.

Yeah, Crowther was a VERY hard to please individual.


He did appreciate Elvis in "King Creole." I shudder to think what he felt about the follow-up two years later.

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:48 pm

Crowther might have appreciated King Creole, but I'm not sure how you'd know that considering the NYT review was by Howard Thompson. Nonetheless, here is Crowther's review of G I Blues. Just for the Doc.

*

Whatever else the Army has done for Elvis Presley, it has taken that indecent swivel out of his hips and turned him into a good, clean trustworthy, upstanding American young man. At least, that's the cinematic image projected in the first post-service picture of 1958's most celebrated draftee, the Hal Wallis production "G.I. Blues."

Honest, you'd hardly know Elvis--the pre-Army Elvis, that is--in the sweet-natured, morally straight young soldier now to be seen on the Victoria's screen. Gone is that rock 'n' roll wriggle, that ludicrously lecherous leer, that precocious country-bumpkin swagger, that unruly mop of oily hair. Almost gone are those droopy eyelids and that hillbilly manner of speech. Elvis has become sophisticated. He's a man of the world-- almost.

To be sure, he still sings a brand of music that, to many adult ears, is downright Greek, while he whomps a guitar clamped to his pelvis and rhythmically cracks his knees. And he still gets off solemn aphorisms which are not likely to be attributed to Voltaire, such as, "Ef people got t'know each other better, ever-thin'll be better all aroun'."

But his hairbrush haircut is trim and tidy, his G.I. uniform is crisp and neat and his attitude is cheerful. Elvis is now a fellow you can almost stand.

Even the script writers of his picture, Henry Garson and Edmund Beloin, have considered (perhaps with the people in the Army) to show him as a model young man. They have put him forth as a singing G.I., recently arrived in Frankfurt, Germany, who is picked by his gambling buddies as their champion to win a date with a notoriously undatable girl. (Honestly, the challenge is as literal and innocent as that--a far cry from the obvious inspiration of the whole thing, the old play, "Sailor Beware!")

The fact that the girl is a night club dancer, (performed by the shimmering Juliet Prowse, whose long-legged sleekness was the one pure thing in "Can Can") only renders the challenge more intense.

And how do you think they've arranged it for Elvis to win the bets? (You'll never believe this, knowing the old Elvis!) By being a good clean Joe! First, they have him rescue the young lady from a grabby old guy at the club. Then they have him behave with the politeness and deference of a modern Galahad had. They have him take her for a ride on a Rhine steamer, on a scenic cable car and to a pretty little park where cheery Elvis becomes a singing participant in a kiddies puppet show.

But the critical invasion of her apartment is accomplished (shuddering shades of "Jailhouse Rock"!) when Elvis doing a job of baby sitting for a tardily marrying friend has to take the baby there to get her help. He hasn't the slightest ulterior motive. How do you like that for being good?

Well, it's not a question of how you like it--you older quieter people, that is--you who will naturally like the pretty color and the occasional pleasant scenery of this film. It's a question of how those squealing youngsters, Elvis' erstwhile fans, are going to take to a rock Œn' roll singer with honey in his vein instead of blood.

Miss Prowse makes a pleasant companion--a little unreal, but nice--and James Douglas, Robert Ivers and Arch Johnson make conventionally amusing G.I. pals. Sigrid Mater and Leticia Roman are other attractive girls, and the music--if that's what you call it--is frequent, energetic and loud.

It is nice to see that Elvis has become such a fine young man. But he doesn't have to overdo it. There are limits to everything.

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Mon Jun 17, 2013 7:34 am

Coming Soon!
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Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Mon Jun 17, 2013 8:41 pm

HoneyTalkNelson wrote:Coming Soon!


this is good news indeed, although I admit I don't have a 3-D player - finding one multiregion was hard enough!

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Mon Jun 17, 2013 9:11 pm

HoneyTalkNelson wrote:Coming Soon!

Waxfinal-web.jpg


This is terrific news.

Will the release be strictly Blu-ray, or will it also have a DVD edition?
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Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Mon Jun 17, 2013 10:32 pm

It's a Blu-ray exclusive release. Here are the specs:

http://www.hometheaterforum.com/topic/3 ... d-blu-ray/

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Mon Jun 17, 2013 10:36 pm

HoneyTalkNelson wrote:It's a Blu-ray exclusive release. Here are the specs:

http://www.hometheaterforum.com/topic/324148-whv-press-release-house-of-wax-3d-blu-ray/


Thank you for the link.

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Mon Jun 17, 2013 11:31 pm

My pleasure, John. We should be doing a full review once it's released. I'll be sure to post a link.

Bob

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Mon Jun 17, 2013 11:32 pm

Nice to see the (arguably better) 1933 version also on the disc again.

Re: House of Wax Anniversary

Mon Jun 17, 2013 11:42 pm

Yes, although it's the same standard def transfer that's been around for years.

My friend Jack Theakston located a near mint nitrate print a few years ago which now sits in the UCLA Film Archive. It had sub-titles but those could have been removed to create a stunning new HD master.