The 1953 Warner Bros. horror-thriller masterpiece was directed by actor-turned-director Andre de Toth. He later directed several television series for Warners, including one episode of “Maverick” (1960, w/James Garner), several episodes of “77 Sunset Strip” (1959–60), “Hawaiian Eye” (1959–60) and an episode of “Bronco” (1960, w/ Ty Hardin). “House of Wax” was produced by veteran producer Bryan Foy, who was part of the original “Seven Little Foys” family vaudeville troupe with his father, Eddie Foy. The screenplay for “House of Wax” was written by Crane Wilbur and was based off of a story by Charles S. Belden.
Who was in “House of Wax” (1953)?
The Players who appeared in “House of Wax” were Vincent Price (as Prof. Henry Jarrod), Phyllis Kirk (as Sue Allen) Frank Lovejoy (as Det. Lt. Tom Brennan), Carolyn Jones (as Cathy Gray), Paul Picerni (as Scott Andrews), Angela Clarke (as Mrs. Andrews), a young Charles Bronson (as Igor, Bronson was credited under his original name of Charles Buchinsky), Roy Roberts (as Matthew Burke), Dabbs Greer (as Sgt. Jim Shane), Paul Cavanagh (as Sidney Wallace) and Reggie Rymal (as a Barker).
One year after “House of Wax” (1953), Vincent Price appeared in the title role of Don Gallico/”Gallico the Great” in John Braham’s Columbia 3-D thriller, “The Mad Magician” (1954, also produced by Bryan Foy). Phyllis Kirk later played the role of Nora Charles in MGM’s television adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man” (1957-59, with Peter Lawford as Nick Charles).
Carolyn Jones went on to greater fame for her role of Morticia Addams in the Filmways/ABC live-action TV macabre sitcom adaptation of Charles Addams’ “The Addams Family” (1964-66). Charles Bronson (post-Buchinsky) would later reunite with Vincent Price for William Witney’s American-International feature adaptation of Jules Verne’s “Master of the World” (1961).
Inspired by an earlier Warner Bros. pre-code thriller/horror feature
VHS preview/collage trailer for “Mystery of the Wax Museum” (1933).
Andre de Toth’s “House of Wax” (1953) was inspired by an earlier pre-code Warner Bros. feature directed by Michael Curtiz in two-strip Technicolor, “Mystery of the Wax Museum” (1933, according to the American Film Institute; with Fay Wray of “King Kong” fame, Glenda Farrell of Warners’ “Torchy Blane” series and horror/monster film veteran Lionel Atwill). Charles S. Belden’s story for “Mystery of the Wax Museum” was altered for the 1953 production to comply with the Motion Picture Association’s production code, according to IMDB.
“House of Wax” (1953): The first major studio production filmed in 3-D
According to Bob Furmanek’s extensive 3-D Film Archive article on Warners’ “House of Wax” (1953), de Toth’s feature was the first major studio production to be filmed in 3-D. The “Natural Vision” polarized 3-D process was utilized for the feature with Warners’ cost-saving Eastmancolor substitute for Technicolor, “WarnerColor.”
According to Jeff Stafford and Lang Thompson’s Turner Classic Movies article on “House of Wax,” the film was also presented in Warners’ “WarnerPhonic” sound system process (co-developed with RCA); which was an early forerunner to theatrical “surround sound” exhibition. This was done in order to compete with television (Warners entered TV production in 1955 , beginning with the “Warner Bros. Presents” anthology series).
Andre de Toth was not able to see his film masterpiece in 3-D, due to the fact that he was blind in one eye (according to additional details from Stafford and Thompson’s TCM article).
Vincent Price’s “unmasked” make-up struggle
A snippet of the “unmasked” sequence from “House of Wax” (1953).
Vincent Price had trouble with the make-up design for his role of Prof. Henry Jarrod, which was designed by Gordon Bau. According to additional details from Stafford and Thompson’s TCM article, Bau’s make-up process for Price took three hours to complete. Price’s make-up also startled several Warner Bros. studio workers, notably in the commissary of the Burbank studio lot. It was reported that Price was not allowed in Warners’ commissary with Bau’s make-up on, according to additional information from IMDB.
Be sure to watch Svengoolie’s big broadcast premiere of “House of Wax” (1953, in 2-D), this Sat. on Me-TV!
With Vincent Price, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, young Charles Bronson (Buchinsky), Frank Lovejoy, Paul Picerni, Angela Clarke, Roy Roberts, Dabbs Greer, Paul Cavanagh and Reggie Rymal, you will not want to miss out on Svengoolie’s big broadcast premiere of “House of Wax” (1953, in 2-D), this Sat. on Me-TV! Highly recommended for all fellow super SvenPals and aficionados of classic Vincent Price thrillers from coast-to-coast with Sven’s additional fun facts, Doug Graves’ parody song and Kerwyn’s “mail call” portion!
In the Frederick, Maryland/Washington, D.C. area: WTTG-5.3/Cable 196/FiOS 489/Antietam Cable 194 (also on QAM digital 68.6 for Antietam cable subscribers)
In the Baltimore, Maryland area: WBAL-TV 11.2/Cable 208/FiOS 460
In the Hanover/Gettysburg/York, Pennsylvania area: WGAL-TV 8.2/Cable 248/FiOS 460
Live-tweet with all fellow super SvenPals during #Svengoolie’s big broadcast premiere of “House of Wax” (1953), this Sat. on Me-TV (via Twitter)!
There’s still time to vote for Svengoolie for the category of “Favorite Horror Host of 2018” in the 17th annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards (now until April 20)! To our fellow readers and fellow super SvenPals who haven’t entered yet, enter by following all directions carefully on the official Rondo Awards site! Cast your vote for Sven and study the other categories on the official online Rondo ballot!
Help out one of our fellow super SvenPals’ friends:
Be sure to give generously/spread the word to help out one of the friends of fellow super SvenPal Jamie Lee from the PM&L players by giving whatever you can to her friend’s official “GoFundMe” fund site to help offset high costs of additional medical-related treatments. Any amount helps! Give generously/spread the word to help out one of Jamie’s friends from the PM&L ensemble! –C.H.
In relation to “House of Wax” (1953):
*From the “House of Wax campaign” section of “New Screen Techniques” (1953), written by Warner Bros. advertising executive Mort Blumenstock (featuring tips and advice for theaters on promoting “House of Wax,” from the Lantern Media History Archive)!
1953 article on Warner Bros. co-founder/studio head Jack L. Warner’s notation for the screening of “House of Wax” and 3-D film exhibition (via BoxOffice Magazine). Part II of the aforementioned BoxOffice article is also available (under the heading of “Jack L. Warner.”
1953 Natural Vision Corporation 3-D advertisement, featuring a letter from Natural Vision president M.L. Gunzburg to Warner Bros.’ Jack L. Warner on the success of “House of Wax” in 3-D (via Lantern Media History Archive)
“House of Wax” (1953) is also available on 3-D Blu-Ray and on DVD from Warner Home Video. The 3-D Blu-Ray disc and DVD disc editions also contain “Mystery of the Wax Museum” (1933) as a bonus. “House of Wax” is also available on Warners’ multi-film DVD set (WB and the pre-1986 MGM/Turner holdings), “Silver Screen Icons: Horror.” The 1953 feature (2-D edition) is also available from Warners for rent/purchase from participating streaming/video-on-demand providers.