6.8/10
4,186
94 user 44 critic

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

The disappearance of people and corpses leads a reporter to a wax museum and a sinister sculptor.

Director:

Michael Curtiz

Writers:

Don Mullaly (screen play), Carl Erickson (screen play) | 1 more credit »
Reviews

On Disc

at Amazon

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Doctor X (1932)
Comedy | Crime | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A wisecracking New York reporter intrudes on a research scientist's quest to unmask The Moon Killer.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Lee Tracy
House of Wax (1953)
Certificate: GP Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

An associate burns down a wax museum with the owner inside, but he survives only to become vengeful and murderous.

Director: André De Toth
Stars: Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk
Mad Love (1935)
Certificate: Passed Horror | Romance | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

In France, an insane surgeon's obsession with an actress from England leads him to replace her pianist husband's hands that got mangled in an accident with the hands of a late knife murderer which still have the urge to throw knives.

Director: Karl Freund
Stars: Peter Lorre, Frances Drake, Colin Clive
Crime | Horror | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

After hapless pianist and ex-con John Elman is framed for murder, he is resurrected by a scientist after his execution.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: Boris Karloff, Ricardo Cortez, Edmund Gwenn
Certificate: Passed Action | Adventure | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

An insane hunter arranges for a ship to be wrecked on an island where he can indulge in some sort of hunting and killing of the passengers.

Directors: Irving Pichel, Ernest B. Schoedsack
Stars: Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Leslie Banks
Certificate: Passed Drama | Horror | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

When corpses drained of blood begin to show up in a European village, vampirism is suspected to be responsible.

Director: Frank R. Strayer
Stars: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Melvyn Douglas
Certificate: Passed Crime | Horror | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A mad scientist seeks to mingle human blood with that of an ape, and resorts to kidnapping women for his experiments.

Director: Robert Florey
Stars: Bela Lugosi, Sidney Fox, Leon Ames
Certificate: Passed Horror | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

When a nobleman is murdered, a professor of the occult blames vampires; but not all is what it seems.

Director: Tod Browning
Stars: Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan, Bela Lugosi
Certificate: Passed Drama | Horror | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Twenty years after 3 murders occur in a castle's "blue room", three men who each want to marry a beautiful girl decide to spend a night in the room to prove their bravery to her.

Director: Kurt Neumann
Stars: Lionel Atwill, Gloria Stuart, Paul Lukas
Certificate: Passed Drama | Horror | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

An escaped convict uses miniaturized humans to wreak vengeance on those that framed him.

Director: Tod Browning
Stars: Lionel Barrymore, Maureen O'Sullivan, Frank Lawton
Horror | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

An obsessed scientist conducts profane experiments in evolution, eventually establishing himself as the self-styled demigod to a race of mutated, half-human abominations.

Director: Erle C. Kenton
Stars: Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, Richard Arlen
The Raven (1935)
Crime | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A brilliant surgeon obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe saves the life of a beautiful dancer and goes mad when he can't have her.

Director: Lew Landers
Stars: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lester Matthews
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
Lionel Atwill ... Ivan Igor
Fay Wray ... Charlotte Duncan
Glenda Farrell ... Florence Dempsey
Frank McHugh ... Jim
Allen Vincent ... Ralph Burton
Gavin Gordon ... George Winton
Edwin Maxwell ... Joe Worth
Holmes Herbert ... Dr. Rasmussen
Claude King ... Mr. Galatalin
Arthur Edmund Carewe ... Sparrow - Professor Darcy
Thomas E. Jackson ... Detective (as Thomas Jackson)
DeWitt Jennings ... Police Captain
Matthew Betz ... Hugo
Monica Bannister ... Joan Gale
Edit

Storyline

In London, sculptor Ivan Igor struggles in vain to prevent his partner Worth from burning his wax museum...and his 'children.' Years later, Igor starts a new museum in New York, but his maimed hands confine him to directing lesser artists. People begin disappearing (including a corpse from the morgue); Igor takes a sinister interest in Charlotte Duncan, fiancée of his assistant Ralph, but arouses the suspicions of Charlotte's roommate, wisecracking reporter Florence. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Women of FLESH become WAX in his hands... women of wax become flesh! See more »


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 February 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Mystery of the Wax Museum See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Vitaphone)

Color:

Color (2-strip Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Contrary to Technicolor's edict, United Artists shot a black-and-white version of Doctor X (1932) and "Mystery of the Wax Museum". At least two scenes in the black-and-white version use different takes than the color one: the scene with Lee Tracy and Mae Busch in the house of prostitution scene and the sequence with Tracy in the skeleton room. See more »

Goofs

Florence enters the editors office she is carrying a long horn in her hand, but when she leaves and when she enters the police station she is carrying a much smaller one. See more »

Quotes

Florence: As I live and breathe and wear spats, the prince.
Jim: You been doing experiments with scotch and soda again?
Florence: Where'd you get that news item, from a little bird?
Jim: Yeah, have a pleasant vacation?
Florence: Charming, more delightful people crippled.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Carry On Screaming! (1966) See more »

Soundtracks

The Prisoner's Song
(1925)(uncredited)
Written by Guy Massey
Sung a cappella by Glenda Farrell
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
"Made Frankenstein look like a lily"
24 September 2010 | by Steffi_PSee all my reviews

The early 1930s was perhaps the only real golden age of the horror. It didn't really introduce much that was new to the genre, but it contributed many of its unrivalled classics. The horrors of this time have a certain quality whereby they on the one hand revel in all the clichés of the form, whilst at the same time twisting and stretching them with all the playful inventiveness typical of the early sound era.

Take for example the fact that Mystery of the Wax Museum is filmed in two-strip Technicolor. Colour was a rarity at the time and was mostly used to augment the splendour of the many depression-era musicals, and yet the two-strip process seems ideally suited to making this picture what it is. Cinematographer Ray Rennahan (later to receive Academy Awards for Gone with the Wind and Blood and Sand), rather than splurging on a multitude of shades, seems to view colour filming in dual terms of light and dark tone. What you see on the screen bares little resemblance to the usual bland red and green of two-strip. Instead figures tend to be picked out in warm reddish-yellow tones against the gloom, which by contrast almost takes on the blue that was impossible for this format. This warm hue which bathes people and sculpture alike brings to mind blood, fire and wax and is just as eerie as stark monochrome.

Director Michael Curtiz had a real feel for the macabre, as well as a slightly misanthropic tendency to view props and players as being of more or less equal importance. This ironically works in Wax Museum's favour, as Curtiz brings out the various waxworks as characters in their own right. The opening shot is almost like a spoof of the elaborate crowd sweeps with which Curtiz would open pictures like Angels with Dirty Faces and Casablanca, tracking through the lifeless sculptures as if it were some frozen street-scene, eventually alighting on Lionel Atwill like one of the figures come to life. Curtiz also encourages relaxed, understated performances, far more so than was the norm at the time, especially for a director of European origin. Perhaps he didn't want the actors upstaging their inanimate counterparts… Whatever his reasoning, the low-key performances are ideal for the creepy tone of this picture. Lionel Atwill gives one of his most believable turns, presenting Igor as a generally mild-mannered artist, giving a vague, delusional quality to his occasional lapses into anger. His gentle eastern-European accent is enough to remind us of his foreign beginnings without turning him into a vulgar stereotype. The overt hamminess of Bela Lugosi may be massively more fun, but Atwill wins out in the stakes of genuine scariness. And Atwill's success here has much to do with the kind of horror it is he appears in. As we see in Psycho or Silence of the Lambs, a cruel and unusual human mind is a far more frightening prospect than a mere monster.

The other great player here is Glenda Farrell, giving an engaging and likable spin on the wise-cracking go-getting heroine, a character of a sort she would later reprise in the Torchy Blane serial. She may get third billing, just under the better-known Fay Wray, but Farrell is the true lead of this horror-drama, and this in itself is part of the beguiling oddness of Mystery of the Wax Museum. Wray is the then-obligatory female victim, but from the gaggle of male good-guys no-one emerges as her heroic saviour. In a refreshing twist it is this smart sassy woman who takes on the eponymous mystery. The strong conventions of the day around women and action may mean Farrell is excused from the final rescue sequence, but the cunning and determination of her character mean we can view her as a forerunner of Ellen Ripley and Clarice Starling.


8 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 94 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Action and Adventure Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular action and adventure titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed