Welcome, dear readers! Today, we are going to talk about one of the most thrilling and enigmatic movies of all time – “Mystery of the Wax Museum.” This suspenseful classic was made back in 1933 and has been a favorite of movie enthusiasts for decades. Although the film has a chilling and eerie theme, it is an outstanding work of art that has helped make the horror genre so widely beloved and intriguing. So, buckle up and get ready to go on a spine-tingling journey with us to unravel the mystery behind the wax museum!
The Mystery of the Wax Museum
History of Wax Museums
Wax museums have a long and fascinating history dating back to the 18th century, when Madame Tussaud established her first museum in London. Madame Tussaud was known for her life-sized wax sculptures of famous people, including royalty and celebrities, which drew large crowds of visitors.
The popularity of wax museums soared in the 19th century when various other museums opened across Europe, showcasing wax figures of notorious criminals, historical figures and popular musicians. In the United States, wax museums began to flourish during the same period with the creation of the Barnum’s American Museum in New York City and its famous “Chamber of Horrors” exhibit.
The Tragic Fire at Madame Tussauds
On March 18, 1925, Madame Tussauds in London experienced a devastating fire that destroyed much of the museum and many of its wax figures. Fortunately, the vast majority of the most cherished exhibits were saved, including those of celebrities and important historical figures. However, the infamous “Chamber of Horrors” was completely destroyed along with its 70 gruesome wax figures.
The fire at Madame Tussauds is particularly noteworthy to the film, “Mystery of the Wax Museum”, as it played a crucial part in the creation of the movie’s plot and setting.
The Plot of “Mystery of the Wax Museum”
“Mystery of the Wax Museum” is a classic horror movie released in 1933. The story follows a sculptor, Ivan Igor, who, after being thrown out of an exhibition to make way for modern artists, decides to move to New York City and open up his wax museum. Igor’s museum was unique, however, as he specialized in creating lifelike sculptures of notorious criminals, featuring them in his “Chamber of Horrors” exhibit.
As Igor starts to run out of funds to keep his museum up and running, he begins to use real humans as models for his sculptures, killing them in the process. An investigative reporter, Florence Dempsey, begins to become suspicious of Igor’s intentions and begins to unravel the dark secrets of his wax figures.
The climactic scene involves Igor’s wax museum catching fire, a nod to the 1925 tragedy at Madame Tussauds. The burning wax figures cause the people inside to believe they are seeing actual people on fire, creating chaos and confusion.
“Mystery of the Wax Museum” was praised for its innovative use of color in an era where most films were still black and white. Additionally, the film’s sophisticated and eerie atmosphere, as well as its grotesque imagery, were unlike anything else in cinema at the time. The movie is now considered a classic of the horror genre and a testament to the artistry of wax museums.
The Legacy of “Mystery of the Wax Museum”
Influences on Horror Cinema
Released in 1933, “Mystery of the Wax Museum” is believed to be one of the earliest and most significant contributions to the development of horror cinema. The film featured the classic tropes of the genre – suspense, mystery, and gore – which captured the imagination of the audience and influenced future filmmakers and writers.
The use of “60-80” degree low key lighting, a trademark of the film, created a vivid chiaroscuro visual depiction that became a staple of horror movies. The mannequins in the film, eerily posed by the wax museum’s proprietor, set the precedent for mannequins and dolls being used in horror films. The movie was also noted for being one of the first horror films to use the twist ending to create a sense of ambiguity and horror. The addition of a classic “Whodunit” plot only made it better.
“Mystery of the Wax Museum” opened the door to many of the ground-breaking horror films made in the ensuing decades. Notably, it served as inspiration for “House of Wax,” a mainstream feature produced in 1953. Again, the wax figures are featured prominently, and they are just as frightening. Combining elements of horror and film noir, “House of Wax” demonstrates the continued legacy of “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” even into the mid-20th century.
Restoration and Rediscovery
After years of being lost, “Mystery of the Wax Museum” was rediscovered and restored in the 1960s. The restoration garnered significant attention, which led to newfound interest in the film. The restoration also highlighted the artistry of the 1933 movie and its influence on the horror genre.
The re-release of “Mystery of the Wax Museum” allowed audiences to see the movie again, this time with the benefits of the technological advancements in sound and color. Critics noted the stunning cinematography, impressive script, and masterful direction, all of which contributed to the remarkable reappraisal of the film. As a result, the movie found new life in the midst of the Cold War during the 1960s and became an important part of the burgeoning horror fan culture.
Remakes and Reboots
“Mystery of the Wax Museum” stands as a classic in American horror cinema, but its influence wasn’t restricted to its own era. The story of “a Wax Museum and a mad love” was remade or rebooted several times over the years, as filmmakers recognized its continued appeal to audiences.
Perhaps the most famous adaptation of “Mystery of the Wax Museum” was “House of Wax.” The 1953 movie features the same basic plot of a wax museum, a mad proprietor, and wax figures that aren’t quite what they seem. After that, the story was adapted once again in the 1970 TV film “Terror in the Wax Museum” which survived mostly on its TV airings. It was later adapted as a 2005 film, featuring actor Elisha Cuthbert, being a loose adaptation with a modern twist.
However, despite the legacy which these re-adaptations hail, none of them lived up to the original’s acclaim. They failed to capture the subtleties and nuance that made the original so memorable, let alone its significant stamp on horror movie making. The magic of “Mystery of the Wax Museum” is simply beyond replication.