Warner Bros./Warner Home Video .
R4 . COLOR . 88 mins .
PG . PAL
I like a good scare.
I don’t mean your new fangled self-conscious teenybopper targeted scare which couldn’t scare an adult if he was the most easily scared person ever to be scared, but a good old fashioned “let’s scare the pants offa that fella!” black and white scary horror/sci-fi movie scare with deformed heads and gigantic freak insects and killer aliens abducting buxom young women wearing short skirts.
Yep. Especially the short skirt kind of scares. I loved them.
Granted, these kind of scares might not be very scary today, but when I was an impressionable young boy still living under my parents roof and the most important thing I had to worry about was which girl in my class was going to look the best in a t-shirt during P.E. the next day at primary school, any good black and white film had the ability to destroy the fragile peace and quiet of my dreams for days.
I don’t think there’s been any long term side effect of this, I feel like a normal well-adjusted guy with a penchant for knives and writing creepy letters to movie stars in a childish scrawl.
Yep, just as normal as the green guy next to me with the snake in his ear. That’s Mitch.
One of my favourite stars from this impressionable era was none other than Vincent Price, the grandfather of hammed up horror and shock. I dug this guy so much that, and, let’s face it, I was probably pretty stupid in my youth, I thought perhaps there was a chance my folks named me after him. After all, I was the only Vincent in my entire primary and high school. There were lots of Steve’s and Michael’s and David’s, but I was the solitary Vincent. I was so cool and special. I still am. I’m still the only Vincent I know.
Because of Price, I wanted to be a bit bizarre and macabre. Well, as macabre as a nine year old can possibly be. What could I do? Refuse to take a bath with a cackle?
“Noooooooo Mooooother, I shall never bathe again! Mwahahahahahaaaa!”
It’s not that impressive coming from a kid wearing moccasins and oversized flannel pyjamas. A slap in the head and I did what they said. But when I turned 26, boy, did I show them who was boss. Vincent Price would have been proud, God bless his soul.
Vincent was super cool in anything he did. The films may have been the occasional dud, but Vincent was Teflon, the shit never stuck to him. It would just slip right off and stick to the bit part actor next to him instead, which was fine with everyone, except probably the bit part actor.
Price is the owner of a high quality wax museum. He takes pride in his hand crafted creations and sees them as a living breathing part of his life which means he also has the occasional chat with them. So he’s nuts, okay? That’s established. It’s Price, he works with wax and it’s a horror film? You don’t think he’s gonna be the bad guy? Doofus.
His partner in the biz is looking to get out, needing the money to jump onboard some pyramid scheme or Amway or whatever business folk invested in back in the make-believe 1800s or early 1900s or whenever this film is set. Blame the fog. Fog in films makes everything look old and scary and dirty. I wish I had a fog machine, a little portable one. I’d walk into Coles supermarket to buy some milk and bread and have a little fog cloud around me wherever I went. People would shit themselves.
“Hey, look at that guy! He’s all foggy! It’s like he’s from 1834 or something! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE! Aiiiiiiiiiieeeeee!!!!”
...and I’d be like all “hehehehehe…”
So the partner beats crap outta Price and burns down the wax museum and pisses on his dog for good measure. We assume Price is dead. We think the movie has nowhere to go. We think, “why are we writing our private thoughts in a review?” Because that’s how my mind works baby. Deal with it.
Then the partner turns up dead. So do other people. And then... a new wax museum opens! A-HA! He must be alive! Price lives! Again... doofus. You think he wasn’t gonna turn up somehow?
But... the models in the new museum look mighty realistic, and... hmm... could it be?... nooo... surely just a trick of the light… the models, they look just like the dead partner and other recently murderilised folk. I wonder if…
DON’T GO THERE SISTER!
Oops, I pooped my pants.
You know, I’m not even going to re-read this review, because I get the feeling I’ll just have to rewrite it with something that makes sense.
This isn’t quite perfect, and has a few things going against it, namely that it’s another stupid NTSC transfer, but even so it looks pretty good for an old horror/novelty film. So, buyer beware, your gear must be NTSC compatible to view this DVD, etc etc. Curses on them all.
I see you baby, shaking that frilly ass..
Moving on, the biggest problem is 3D, or more correctly, lack of 3D. See, this fillum was made to showcase 3D effects the likes of which had never been seen before. At least, not in 3D. Forgetting for a minute that once you take out the 3D elements the film isn’t particularly well made, it’s almost criminal to watch this without being able to savour the spectacular illusion of a cancan dancer shoving her arse through your screen, or a busker popping his paddleball into your face.
Christ, that last line sounds really disgusting. “Pooping his paddleball in your face.” If I was a reader of this review I’d be firing off a nasty email to me right about now.
And worse, you don’t get to look like a demented geek wearing cheap cardboard 3D specs in your loungeroom. We’ve been CHEATED!
Viewed in the standard 2D process, all the gimmick value is gone, and you’re left with a bunch of scenes that don’t belong and run too long. Well, the cancan dancers shaking their arses I can live with. The poppin’ paddleball guy gave me the shits.
The 1.33:1 picture can be a bit grainy and some pans a little jerky, but colours are nice, not too oversaturated if sometimes ruddy on complexions. The grain shows up fairly heavily in the foggy chase scene and night scenes at its worst, but it’s to be expected really, so that and all the little bits of dirt and print damage is sort of in character you could say.
Ranking a little higher on the annoyance scale is a weird picture defect visible on the extreme right hand vertical edge of the frame. It looks like the print is reflecting back on itself, kind of like if it was slightly folded over. It varies from barely detectable in still scenes free from camera movement to very obvious with panning.
The short featurette of the opening night shows the marquee briefly with a sign proclaiming the film uses an audio process known as WarnerSonic 3D. This was the same as standard stereo but had a name using capital letters and a ‘D’ to make people think it was something excitingly different and new. Kinda like ‘Superbit’ without the ‘D’ which would make it ‘SuDperbit’ which is the technical term for a transfer that looks a bit soapy.
The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround encoding, although it doesn’t sound like much goes on back there. It’s reasonably clear sounding, the dialogue sharp enough to keep it easy listening, but sometimes the background noise comes to the fore even. Generally it’s not too worrisome though.
How cool is this? Or this? Or maybe even this? Oh, you can’t see me pointing to my collection of stuffed wombats? Well then, how cool would it be if you bought this DVD and found that they’ve included VINCENT PRICE WITH EVERY PURCHASE!!! Admittedly that would be cool, but they haven’t done that. They have done the next best thing though – THEY’VE INCLUDED BOBCAT GOLDTHWAITE INSTEAD! Again, I jest. What they’ve done is actually supplied the original Mystery of the House of Wax on the flip side. That’s is cool, isn’t it? It’s the inspiration for House of Wax and you can see the similarities. In fact, much of the time it’s a far better film played straight and feeling much more contemporary. The quality isn’t great though, with average picture and so-so mono sound, but the transfer itself is okay.
Back on side 1, there’s a theatrical trailer with title cards that have gone nuts and a quick black and white newsreel of the premiere event. Looking at this you realise how much things have changed. Back then they stood around outside drinking coffee and eating sandwiches while these days the actors hoover drugs in the limo and then quaff champers before getting a rogering in the projection booth.
The usual rules apply for this genre. If you dig this kind of shebang then you’re already out the door on the way to the store to pick up a copy and some pet food. If you’re not a fan, then this film won’t make you one. It’s a real pity that it couldn’t have been released as a 3D DVD with specs and all as that would have brought the film to life and added another couple of points to the score easily.
Then again, the NTSC formatting gets a few points knocked off the total for the blatant disregard in the face of our beloved Australian PAL. I don’t give a damn what people say about the NTSC compatibility level in newer Aussie gear and the existing culture of importing NTSC titles from the States, if you spend your DVD dollar in this country on a region 4 title you should be getting a PAL product. Simple.