A little seen classic...

Friday, September 29, 2017

A little seen classic...

"Mystery of the Wax Museum"

...1933's "Mystery of the Wax Museum " is being shown Saturday morning (10:30am) on cable TCM, Channel 97, and it's well-worth recording if you're otherwise engaged.

The reason why it's "little seen" is that for decades it was thought to be a "lost" film... only some production stills survived to tantalize cinema buffs.

I first learned of that film in 1953 when our father took my sister and myself to the Jewel Theater in Mount Clemens, Michigan to see the first-ever 3D movie in color, "House of Wax" with Vincent Price.

(The very first 3D flick of the sound era, the black and white "Bwana Devil," had debuted four months earlier in late 1952.)

On the way home Dad opined that the original was a scarier film, and, a significant bonus, featured Fay Wray, the original "scream queen."

From that point onward, I had a yen to see that film, but several film books I'd bought in the mid-'60s asserted that it was in fact a lost film.


Then in the Summer of 1970, in a Sunday New York Times Arts section, a full page advertisement for the Lincoln Center Film Festival listed a screening of "Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)," but, maddeningly, no further information.

I never hesitated, and quickly sent away for a pair of $5.00 tickets to the solitary screening.

While I enjoyed finally catching up with a 77-minute piece of film history, I was seriously perplexed by the story of how the film came to be "found."

Along the line, I learned that the full-length, uncut version of another Fay Wray movie, 1933's "King Kong," unseen since Production Code-dictated cuts were made for its 1938 re-release, was discovered in a trunk in an attic in Philadelphia in 1969.

But it wasn't until just recently that I uncovered the mystery of the films mysterious reappearance in 1969... a relatively unmarred two strip Technicolor print was found in studio head Jack Warner's private collection. The unstable nitrite print was fully restored and transferred to film stock with an acetate base.

Set your video recording devices.


1. Fjmarkowitz said...

Watching - in color? Good movie. Like "how's your sex life" in the police station while the cop has an erotic magazine!

When it was initially released, it had been made before the Production Code guidelines were in place, so there was some "racy" dialogue and the one supporting actor was openly "a junkie." In the 1953 remake, he was an alcoholic.

And during the intense ending, while the police frantically trying to access the basement chamber, there are several tight shots of Fay Wray's bare shoulders that makes her appear nude, even though we know from the longer shots that her breasts are covered by a sheet.

I just realized how much the below ground set design was "inspired" by 1920's impressionistic masterwork, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari." Glad you saw it.
– Dean

2. Fjmarkowitz said...

Yes, I too noted the below ground settings but couldn't tie them to another movie. Thanks "Waldo" for the tip. Love those pre-Code flicks. Entertaining movie.

Absolutely... and glad to be of some small service.

Always loved Fay Wray, and not just because she was "the girl in the hairy paw." Enjoyed the perennially wise-cracking Glenda Farrell as well.

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