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MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM reconsidered


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#1 of 16 Richard--W

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Posted April 13 2008 - 07:46 PM

I wonder if Warner Home Video could be persuaded to license MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM to a company like Criterion, and if Criterion could be persuaded to release a special edition. I believe that Warner Home Video under-estimates the value and popularity of this film.

MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM has been released twice, first as a bonus at the end of the remake, HOUSE OF WAX (1953), and later as a bonus in its own keepcase, shrinkwrapped with the 2005 "remake" starring Paris Hilton as a Walmart exclusive. Both editions treat the film as an afterthought, as if it had no other value than to support remakes. Yet appreciation for the film has increased over the years, thanks to these two perfunctory releases and occasional airings on AMC and TCM. Film buffs have come to recognize its qualities and most people consider it infinitely superior to the remakes.

MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM is an important film for many reasons. The film has an interesting history, starting out as a successful stage play inspired by earlier wax museum films. Its development at the studio and the decision to try out the new color process on this particular title is another interesting story. What this story is about and how it's being told should be addressed in the commentary, at least one commentary. Part hardboiled gangster classic, part horror innovation, the film is a time-capsule of early 1930s Art-Deco production design on the First National / Warner backlot. It is brilliantly designed, photographed, and directed by Michael Curtiz. It is an early experiment in the 2-color Technicolor process, and in my opinion, an experiment that is technically and creatively successful. It was a major release that received major attention in 1933, and today it is regarded as an important film from that era.

Perhaps Criterion could bind the screenplay with the stage play and include that in one of their book-and-DVD box-sets. Original trade ads, news articles, contemporary reviews and recent essays could fill a thick booklet. MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM could also be paired with both versions of DOCTOR X, the 2-color experiment and its monochrome alternate, both shot back-to-back by Michael Curtiz the year before. DOCTOR X is another title that has not received its due on DVD, released as part of the ICONS OF HORROR compilation without the monochrome alternate or supplements. Further, Vitaphone / First National / WB produced some short-subject films in the 2-color process that could supplement the DVD set. I forget what they are called, but I remember seeing them on AMC's restoration festival some 12-odd years ago before that network lost its presence of mind. One of the shorts was a musical comedy in the horror vein that experimented with the unstable color of red. It had red fog and red flames and a red devil, too.

Pairing MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM together with DOCTOR X is also an opportunity to provide documentaries on the stars of both films, Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray, both popular actors of the time who are horror icons today. It is also a fitting occasion to talk technical and explain the trials and tribulations of Technicolor's early 2-strip process. Although primitive, the 2-strip process resulted in a kind of antique color pallet that many of us find aesthetically pleasing.

Properly transferred and mastered, MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM would prove its popularity and cement its reputation on DVD.

#2 of 16 Will Krupp

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Posted April 13 2008 - 10:28 PM

I didn't hear about the version packaged as a Wal-Mart exclusive. Is is the same lousy blue and pink transfer that can be found on the HOUSE OF WAX (1953) disc? The laser is actually preferable to that dvd release because the colors are so terribly wrong. They would have been better off just porting the laser disc transfer to dvd as at least the colors are correct.

#3 of 16 dana martin

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Posted April 14 2008 - 12:05 AM

as stated in one of the many chats with WB ( I wish the would continue), they do not release their properties through third party companies, including Criterion, granted i agree with you that i would like to see this in a better version, , lucky for me my daughter got that paris hilton crap, and didnt know what was with it, so she thought she was giving me , wal-mart fluff, she has since then sat and watched it. and stated that i got the better movie.
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#4 of 16 Richard--W

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Posted April 14 2008 - 07:40 AM

Your daughter has the makings of an astute film buff.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Will Krupp
I didn't hear about the version packaged as a Wal-Mart exclusive. Is it the same lousy blue and pink transfer that can be found on the HOUSE OF WAX (1953) disc?

Yep, same transfer. Some dealers are selling it on amazon at extremely low prices apart from the Paris Hilton "remake."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Will Krupp
The laser is actually preferable to that dvd release because the colors are so terribly wrong.
You know the fate of early color films owned by WHV once Ned Price gets his hands on them. He can't turn the dials where there is no color, so at least the monchrome films are safe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Will Krupp
They would have been better off just porting the laser disc transfer to dvd as at least the colors are correct.
I wish now I had bought the laser disc when it was available. I'd seen the 35mm film projected a couple of times and assumed the DVD would be fine. But the color has been corrupted. All the more reason for Warner Home Video to please please please let someone else supervise the transfer and release it.

#5 of 16 Dick

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Posted April 14 2008 - 01:34 PM

MOTWM and DR. X were paired on the two-disc laser disc release. It was a nice set, and frankly, the color on the WAX MUSEUM laser was better than its DVD incarnation, which fiddled with the color values and basically ruined it. DR. X. is better. It would make a nice and logical pairing again. Both hugely entertaining movies, as far as I'm concerned.

#6 of 16 Stephen_J_H

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Posted April 14 2008 - 01:48 PM

What would be great is if Warner put these two films into the Forbidden hollywood series, as they are both pre-Codes. Mystery of the Wax Museum is less controversial than Doctor X, but at least they might get some respect by being released in this series.
"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#7 of 16 Patrick McCart

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Posted April 14 2008 - 04:48 PM

Mystery would be worth its own single release, maybe.

The ideal disc would have a new remaster with the faithful 2-strip color timing, a commentary, and since little else probably exists for the film, the usual "Night at the Movies" pre-show. It's a great film on its own.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard--W
You know the fate of early color films owned by WHV once Ned Price gets his hands on them. He can't turn the dials where there is no color, so at least the monchrome films are safe.

Evil Ned Price at least got The Wizard of Oz right.

(That's sarcasm)

#8 of 16 dana martin

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Posted April 15 2008 - 12:31 AM

Hollywood Legends of Horror collection 2 would be a better choice for this, i know that some of the titles would be re releases, like the March/ Hyde or Laughtons turn at Hunchback, but i belive that WB also has a large holding of Lugosi's Monogram pictures? i know that they have the Bowery boys Monogram pictures, but uncertian as to weather they have the whole library, if so that would be an easy way of redoing this and doing it correctly.

thanks for the comment on her being a film buff, actually she normally has pretty good taste, but for some reason wanted to see the paris movie,
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#9 of 16 JohnPM

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Posted April 15 2008 - 09:22 AM

More about "Doctor X" and "Mystery Of The Wax Museum", along with many rare images, at the link below ...

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#10 of 16 Derek M Germano

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Posted April 15 2008 - 03:15 PM

I would love to see MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM and DOCTOR X in high definition. Hopefully they will someday be released on Blu-ray.
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#11 of 16 Jim_K

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Posted April 15 2008 - 11:24 PM

Personally I'd rather Warner redo Wax Museum themselves. Then it won't be windowboxed and I can avoid the 400% markup for the "Criterion tax". Posted Image

It would make for a nice addition to a Hollywood Legends of Horror Collection Volume 2.
  • Mystery of the Wax Museum
  • Kongo
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  • Svengali

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#12 of 16 Jack Theakston

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Posted April 16 2008 - 02:33 AM

You know, if you want Warners to re-issue MotWM on DVD, bashing Ned Price is not a good idea. I don't think that any of the bigwigs actually frequent this site, but some industry people do and word gets back to people. You're going to draw more flies with sugar than with honey.
-J. Theakston

#13 of 16 dana martin

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Posted April 16 2008 - 02:37 AM

Jack, who bashed Ned Price?

on a side note to classic film , since I haven't gotten around to it, thanks for you work on Hunchback, really great set.
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#14 of 16 Jack Theakston

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Posted April 16 2008 - 03:20 AM

"You know the fate of early color films owned by WHV once Ned Price gets his hands on them" and "Evil Ned Price" were the two quotes I was referring to specifically. Like I said, you're going to draw more flies with honey...

Thanks for the kind words on the HUNCHBACK. I think it got lost in the shuffle, but it's as good as that film is going to get anytime soon.
-J. Theakston

#15 of 16 dana martin

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Posted April 16 2008 - 04:11 AM

well while not being a complete out of the park home run, look at what it is competing with, first there is no way it was going to compete with something as lavish as what WB did with Jazz Singer. Secondly the larger group of people that are going to buy a title like that are either fans of the film itsself, or somone who is intrested in Chaney or classic silent film.


Back to Wax Museum, The film was once thought lost as the elements to the film were lost in a fire. With no Technicolor negative or print available, it was fortunate that a slightly used, but otherwise complete print was discovered in Jack Warner's private vault. In the 1980s the UCLA Film and Television Archive restored the film so it can be seen as intended, although the 2004 DVD from Warner Bros. maladjusts the colors to give most of the film a blue, rather than green, bias. The film makes fine use of elaborate modern Gothic settings and is essential viewing as a landmark of early color and the early 1930s horror cycle.
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#16 of 16 dana martin

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Posted April 16 2008 - 04:44 AM

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