House of Wax

Saw Andre de Toth's House of Wax. Wonderful fun, especially with Vincent Price's velvet-voiced villain (a wronged villain, something--I'm not sure, but I seem to remember it that way--he often liked to play (well, there was the Phibes movies)) and Charles Bronson perfectly cast as his mute assistant (lovely touch there, where the camera pans past a row of grotesque wax heads, then zooms in to point out Bronson's among them--a shot parodied in Young Frankenstein).

The subtext seems to be the transient nature of art, and the inverse manner in which it is received by its audience. Price's character (which seems to borrow elements, even images, from The Phantom of the Opera) starts out as a genuine if unsuccessful artist; when the fire burns his prized waxworks, he continues as some kind of horrible but commercially triumphant parody, ingenious in the way he continues his trade, but with something essentially perverse, essentially false under the surface success (funny--what makes him a false artist is that he uses real material for his art). What ruins him is the temptation to reach out once more, to recreate a past masterpiece (his beloved Marie Antoinette), to become, however fleetingly, an artist again (As a final stroke of irony, he becomes, in effect, what he strives to achieve).

Of course, de Toth had to make concessions to the 3-D effect. Some of the staging is painfully odd (the fainting lady, the fencers) some of it, I'm guessing (not having the necessary glasses), must have been a startling success (the swinging pinata, the skeleton turning its hand, the hanged man in the elevator cage).

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