Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

House of Wax (1953)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

House of Wax (1953)

In Andre de Toth's highly-successful, classic Technicolored horror film - created in "Natural Vision" 3-D (it was the first 3-D film produced by a major studio, Warner Bros' first 3-D film, and the first 3-D film released with a stereophonic soundtrack); in homage to the original film, it was remade as House of Wax (2005) starring Paris Hilton and Elisha Cuthbert:

  • in the film's opening set in the 1890s in NYC, Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts) was in a business partnership with eccentric wax sculptor Professor Henry Jarrod (Vincent Price) - they co-owned a wax museum; Jarrod was in his workshop when Burke entered and proposed dissolving the partnership to receive "a quick return" on his investment; Jarrod suggested a buy-out arrangement, but after he met with Sidney Wallace (Paul Cavanagh), an art critic and wealthy financier, it was determined that it would take at least a few months to accomplish
  • the wax museum was deliberately set on fire by the impatient Burke who had suggested it would be the fastest way to collect on the insurance (a total of $25,000); all of the historical figures (considered "friends" and living and breathing creatures by Jarrod) inside the museum melted, and it was presumed that Jarrod died in the burning building

Melting Historical Figures in the Wax Museum Fire

The Wax Museum's Burning and 'Death' of Prof. Jarrod
  • later, a cloaked black-garbed disfigured individual went on a rampage of murder; Burke was confronted by the murderer in his office and killed, and then his body was hung by a rope in an elevator shaft (to make it look like a suicide)
  • then Burke's promiscuous, gold-digging ex-fiancee Cathy Gray (Carolyn Jones) living in a boarding house was drugged and strangled by a cord; Cathy's friend - leading lady Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk), who had discovered Cathy's corpse in her rooming house bedroom, was forced to escape through the window from the killer; during a lengthy chase scene, she was pursued along fog-shrouded streets and alleyways of turn-of-the-century New York City, but she escaped
  • Detective Lt. Tom Brennan (Frank Lovejoy) was called upon to investigate the recent murders; meanwhile, in the morgue body storage room, the black-garbed killer emerged from under a sheet; he and two assistants were there to steal Cathy's body; her corpse was lowered from a window by a rope and loaded into an awaiting hearse; soon after, Lt. Brennan reported that Cathy's corpse and several others (including Burke's) had disappeared from the morgue

The Black-Clad Killer Hid in the Morgue Storage Room

Cathy's Corpse Was Stolen
  • it was revealed that Jarrod had survived the fiery blaze and appeared about 18 months later (although he claimed: "Jarrod is dead. I am a reincarnation") - his face appeared normal, but he had scarred and useless hands, and he was wheelchair-bound; Jarrod met again with Sidney Wallace to invest in and support his new venture - the creation (and rebuilding) of a new House of Wax exhibition museum; he explained that the new museum would showcase a "Chamber of Horrors" - commemorating famous and fresh "crimes of violence" through wax figures to give the people what they wanted: "sensation, horror, shock"; he demonstrated how plaster-of-paris figures were dipped in a vat of boiling hot wax to create the exhibits
  • the new museum was constructed, with Jarrod receiving additional assistance from deaf-mute sculptor Igor (Charles Buchinsky/aka Charles Bronson) and student-artist Leon Averill (Nedrick Young)
  • in front of the newly-opened House of Wax (Chamber of Horrors) during its debut, the carnival barker (Reggie Rymal) bounced paddle-balls (shown off with an amazing 3-D "trick effect"); he admonished the crowd and broke "the fourth wall": ("Watch it, young lady. Careful, sir, keep your head down or I'll tap you on the chin. Look out! Duck. (He turned to other customers behind him) Wow, that's a becoming hat you're wearing, madam. I wonder if I can clip the flower off it. Hold steady now, don't move your head, or you'll lose the powder off your nose. Wow, there's someone with a bag of popcorn. Close your mouth. It's the bag I'm aiming at, not your tonsils. Here she comes. Well, look at that, it's in the bag")
  • Jarrod was centrally involved in leading customers (and Sidney Wallace) through the museum on a personal tour; as Sue wandered around the museum's exhibits, she was suspiciously amazed by the likeness of the figure of Joan of Arc to Cathy, even down to a pierced right ear lobe; she asked Jarrod: "Why should it be so much like Cathy?"; Jarrod explained that he had copied her face from newspaper pictures, and then imagined how Sue had a great living likeness to Marie Antoinette; shortly later, Jarrod (without his makeup) stalked Sue in her bedroom but was forced to flee when she woke up and screamed
Sue With a Perfect Likeness to Marie Antoinette
  • another scene also took advantage of the 3-D effect - can-can dancers at the 14th Street Music Hall performing high-kicks during a Sunday matinee show
  • the film's obvious twist was that the vengeful Jarrod (in the disguise of the cloaked, face-disfigured killer and later wearing a facial mask to hide his melted face) had been committing the many murders; he then stole their corpses from the New York City Morgue and coated them with molten wax using wax body dip machinery to produce very life-like statues for his waxworks exhibits: (he asserted: "Each subject must be taken from life")
  • later during Sue's scary 3rd visit to the museum after-hours while she was being watched, she made the shocking discovery that her friend Cathy's corpse had been dipped in wax to create the Joan of Arc wax figure; she suspected that Cathy's body had been used as a "model" for the figure of Joan of Arc: ("It is Cathy. It's Cathy's body under the wax! I knew it! I knew it all the time!"); when she confronted Jarrod, he admitted his hideous plan; Sue was to be his next "leading lady" for immortality - Marie Antoinette: "Everything I ever loved has been taken away from me. Not you, my Marie Antoinette, for I will give you eternal life"; he rose from his wheelchair (he had been feigning being crippled), and chased her
  • in the film's most shocking moment, the Phantom-of-the-Opera-like Jarrod had his face beaten by Sue and his wax mask was broken off to reveal his hideously-burned and disfigured face below; she fainted
The Unmasking of Professor Jarrod
  • in the finale, set in the museum's cellar laboratory, Sue was strapped and naked under a boiling vat of wax as Jarrod prepared her to be his next exhibit victim as Marie Antoinette: "This is where I recreated my Joan of Arc. It's an interesting process. If you have patience with me, my dear, I'll show you how it's done...That look of horror spoils your lovely face. What if it should show, even through the wax?...The end will come quickly, my love. There's a pain beyond pain, an agony so intense, it shocks the mind into instant oblivion. We'll find immortality together, for they'll remember me through you"

Sue - Jarrod's New "Marie Antoinette"

Jarrod's Death in His Own Cauldron of Wax
  • during a struggle with authorities who arrived at the scene just in time to rescue Sue, Jarrod wound up falling into his own burning cauldron of tallow (at over 450 degrees F.) from an upper bridge - it was his apt and richly-deserved fate

Professor Jarrod (Vincent Price) Working on a Sculpture

Jarrod's Impatient Business Partner Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts)

Jarrod Seemingly in Love with His Creations - Especially Marie Antoinette

Burke with Ex-Fiancee Cathy Gray (Carolyn Jones)

Cloaked Murderer on a Rampage - First in Burke's Office

Burke's Corpse Was Hung in an Elevator Shaft

The Killer in Cathy's Bedroom After Strangling Her

Jarrod with Igor (Charles Bronson) and Investor Sidney Wallace

3-D Effect: Carnival Barker with Paddle Ball in Front of the New House of Wax Museum

3-D Effect: Can-Can Dancers

Sue's Amazement at the Figure of Joan of Arc

Sue's Second Visit to Investigate the Joan of Arc Wax Figure

Sue's 3rd Visit and the Shocking Discovery: "It's Cathy's body under the wax!"


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