House of Wax


1h 28m 1953
House of Wax

Brief Synopsis

A scarred sculptor re-populates his ravaged wax museum with human corpses.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Wax Works
Genre
Horror
Release Date
Apr 25, 1953
Premiere Information
New York opening: 10 Apr 1953; Los Angeles opening: 16 Apr 1953
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono, Stereo (WarnerPhonic/RCA)
Color
Color (Warnercolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1, 2.20 : 1

Synopsis

In the 1890s, in New York City, Matthew Burke, part-owner of a wax museum, needs money and is impatient over his partner's, the refined and eccentric wax sculptor, Prof. Henry Jarrod's, insistence that the museum avoid lucrative sensationalism. For the insurance money, Burke sets fire to the museum. Jarrod, horrified to see his exquisite wax figures of famous historical people, which he considers "friends," melt away, fights Burke and tries to put out the flames, until gas fumes unite with the fire and the building explodes.

Later, Burke receives all of the insurance money, as Jarrod is believed to be dead, but Burke is then killed and left dangling in an elevator shaft. At a boardinghouse, a giddy, promiscuous blonde, Cathy Gray, who was dating Burke, is found dead in her room by her friend and fellow boarder, Sue Allen. Sue is chased out the window and through the streets by a man in black, until she takes refuge with friends of her family, Mrs. Andrews and her son Scott. The next day, when the Andrewses and Sue visit the police, Lt. Tom Brennan mentions that Cathy's body, as well as several others, have disappeared from the morgue. Meanwhile, Sidney Wallace, a wealthy financier, is contacted by a wheelchair bound Jarrod, who has survived the fire, but claims that he suffered permanent loss of his hands and legs. As he can no longer sculpt, Jarrod has hired assistants, the deaf-mute Igor and talented sculptor Leon Averill, to help him recreate his wax figures, and using a new procedure he has devised, build another museum. Jarrod says that, as he can no longer create beauty, he plans to make a horror museum and expects that the museum will be profitable.

After being shown Jarrod's basement laboratory, where plaster-of-paris figures are dipped in a vat of boiling wax, Wallace agrees to finance the museum. Scott, who has grown fond of Sue, takes her on opening day to the Grand Wax Museum and Chamber of Horrors, where they wander through recreations of executions by electrocution, torture and guillotine, as well as recent events, such as the mysterious hanging of Burke. When Sue sees the figure of Joan of Arc, she is shocked by its likeness to Cathy, which, except for its dark hair, is exact, even to its pierced ears. After Wallace introduces Scott and Sue to Jarrod, the sculptor remarks that Sue resembles his favorite creation, Marie Antoinette, who was destroyed in the fire, and offers Scott, who is also a sculptor, work in the museum. Sue's concern about the wax Joan of Arc's likeness to Cathy prompts Scott to take her to visit Brennan, who promises to investigate further. Brennan and his men check out the museum and find that the wax figure of John Wilkes Booth bears striking resemblance to a murdered city official, whose body recently disappeared. Brennan and Sgt. Jim Shane interview Wallace about Jarrod and his assistants, and later Shane remembers that an alcoholic prisoner in Sing Sing, who painted a recreation of "The Last Supper" in his cell, was recently paroled. They pick up Leon for questioning and after finding on him an inscribed watch belonging to the missing man, continue the interrogation.

At dusk, Sue goes to the museum to meet Scott for a date and enters the darkened establishment. She again approaches the figure of Joan of Arc and still troubled by it, climbs up for a closer look. When she inadvertently knocks off the brown wig, she finds blonde hair underneath and exclaims to herself that it is Cathy's body. Jarrod, whose dependence on a wheelchair was feigned, sneaks up behind her and, after confirming her suspicion, chases her around the museum. When her struggling causes a plaster mask to break off from his disfigured face, she faints. Meanwhile, at the police station, after being plied with drinks, Leon confesses that Jarrod uses real corpses dipped in wax for his exhibits and that the body of the missing city official is on exhibit as Booth. Leon goes on to confess that Cathy was killed for her resemblance to Jarrod's vision of Joan of Arc and that Burke was killed in revenge for setting fire to the original wax museum.

When Leon informs them that Jarrod wants Sue as his Marie Antoinette, the police race to the museum. Scott, who is waiting outside the museum for Sue, goes in and is confronted by Igor, who wants to behead him with the guillotine. The police arrive in time to save Scott, then break down the laboratory door. Inside they find that Jarrod is preparing to dip the drugged and naked Sue into a vat of wax. Just before her body is lowered into the cauldron, Brennan turns off the control switch and covers Sue with his jacket. While trying to escape the police, Jarrod falls into the vat and dies. Later, at the station, Scott and Sue thank Brennan for his help and Sue expresses an additional thanks for the use of his coat.

Photo Collections

House of Wax - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from House of Wax (1954). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Wax Works
Genre
Horror
Release Date
Apr 25, 1953
Premiere Information
New York opening: 10 Apr 1953; Los Angeles opening: 16 Apr 1953
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono, Stereo (WarnerPhonic/RCA)
Color
Color (Warnercolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1, 2.20 : 1

Articles

House of Wax (1953)


* Even though this movie was originally shown in theatres in 3-D with special glasses provided, we are airing the "flat" version.

The year was 1953. The relatively new medium of television had the big motion picture studios scared. How were they going to entice viewers away from the comfort of their living rooms and back into movie theaters? It was going to take a gimmick.

In late 1952, a crude and cheaply made safari adventure called Bwana Devil showcased a new filming technique called 3-D that required special glasses for viewers. A few months later, the honchos over at Warner Brothers decided that they were not only going to make a big-budget 3-D flick, but they were also going to introduce the world to WarnerPhonic Audio, a primitive precursor of Surround Sound. The result of this savvy move was House of Wax (1953).

Directed by Hungarian-born Andre de Toth, House of Wax is actually a remake of Warner's 1933 flick The Mystery of the Wax Museum (interestingly enough, also directed by a Hungarian, Michael Curtiz). De Toth, better known as Mr. Veronica Lake (he was married for eight years to the blonde actress), was an unusual directorial choice because he only had one eye. This handicap made it virtually impossible for de Toth to actually see the 3-D process he was creating but, like other gifted but visually impaired filmmakers of his era (Raoul Walsh, Fritz Lang, etc.), his complete understanding of the medium resulted in one of the most effective 3-D films ever made. At the time, though, studio head Jack Warner warned de Toth not to wear his eye patch on the set; he didn't want the director or House of Wax to be the butt of jokes in Hollywood.

The by-now familiar plot of House of Wax, which owes more than a nod to The Phantom of the Opera, goes something like this: sensitive sculptor lovingly creates historical figures out of wax, which he displays in his New York-based wax museum. Sculptor's greedy business partner wants to burn down said museum. Fight follows, fire breaks out. Assuming that sensitive sculptor is dead, greedy partner collects insurance money. But sensitive sculptor isn't dead! Instead he's hideously disfigured and more than a little loony. Wacko sculptor goes on killing spree, fonduing the bodies of his victims in boiling wax and using them as exhibits in his new museum. Will the police catch the fiend before he kills again? Will Scott Andrews (Paul Picerni) rescue Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk) from becoming the next wax attraction - Marie Antoinette? Will the busker with the paddleball ever work in Hollywood again?

Vincent Price, who had only dabbled briefly in the horror genre before this film, plays Professor Henry Jarrod and the role marked a major turning point in his career; afterwards, he found steady work in the movies playing a variety of homicidal maniacs and cursed aristocrats. In The Horror People by John Brosnan, Price admitted that House of Wax was "very demanding as I had to get to the studio every morning at 5:30 a.m. to put that makeup on. It took three hours to put on and it was agony, absolute agony." He also added that the film "was made with two enormous cameras photographing in a mirror, so that you could get two tracks, and because of the unwieldy camera I had to do my own stunts. They couldn't do a close-up of me and then cut to a double. The most difficult stunt was at the beginning when the fire starts in the museum, and I run under this balcony that's in flames just before it falls. I actually did that. I worked it out with a stuntman. Anything on the floor that I might trip over or slide on was moved away and we figured out a course for me to take around these burning figures so that I could get into a tiny closet when this 3,000 lbs of burning balcony fell. It was scary."

In addition to Price, House of Wax co-stars Phyllis Kirk, who went on to play Nora Charles in the hit TV series The Thin Man (1957-59), and Frank Lovejoy, in the role of Lieutenant Tom Brennan. Lovejoy made a career out of playing no-nonsense authority figures in films like I Was a Communist for the F.B.I. (1951) and Retreat, Hell! (1952). Also look for Carolyn Jones (aka Morticia Addams of TV's The Addams Family, 1964-66) in a brief but memorable performance as both blonde victim Cathy Gray and wax centerfold Joan d'Arc. And Igor, Professor Jarrod's Neanderthal deaf mute assistant, is none other than Charles Buchinsky. Don't recognize the name? Well, Buchinsky later went on to star in a slew of '70s action hero roles like Death Wish (1974), under the name Charles Bronson.

Today, the then-innovative recording techniques of House of Wax are all but lost on the television screen. As for the 3-D technology? Well, without the benefit of cheap Polaroid glasses, today's audiences won't see what the fuss was all about. Yet, even without the special glasses, viewers will notice camera set-ups where images are thrust toward the screen, such as the wild fight scene in the museum at the beginning which climaxes with a fiery wax meltdown. (This sequence obviously inspired the makers of The Devil's Rain, 1975.) There's also a completely random and overly long paddleball gag. And, of course, what would any period horror movie be without an extended cancan sequence? While the high-kicking chorus line looks dazzling in Technicolor and 3-D, it also brings the plot to a screeching halt. But, House of Wax is great fun, nonetheless. As the film's worldly Scott Andrews says to the prim Sue Allen, "You can't get entertainment like this in Provincetown."

Producer: Bryan Foy
Director: Andre de Toth
Screenplay: Charles Belden (story), Crane Wilbur
Art Direction: Stanley Fleischer
Cinematography: Bert Glennon, Peverell Marley, Lothrop B. Worth
Makeup: George Bau, Gordon Bau
Film Editing: Rudi Fehr
Original Music: David Buttolph
Principal Cast: Vincent Price (Prof. Henry Jarrod); Frank Lovejoy (Lt. Tom Brennan); Phyllis Kirk (Sue Allen); Carolyn Jones (Cathy Gray); Paul Picerni (Scott Andrews); Charles Buchinsky, aka Charles Bronson (Igor); Roy Roberts (Matthew Burke); Paul Cavanagh (Sidney Wallace).
C-88m.

by Lang Thompson & Jeff Stafford
House Of Wax (1953)

House of Wax (1953)

* Even though this movie was originally shown in theatres in 3-D with special glasses provided, we are airing the "flat" version. The year was 1953. The relatively new medium of television had the big motion picture studios scared. How were they going to entice viewers away from the comfort of their living rooms and back into movie theaters? It was going to take a gimmick. In late 1952, a crude and cheaply made safari adventure called Bwana Devil showcased a new filming technique called 3-D that required special glasses for viewers. A few months later, the honchos over at Warner Brothers decided that they were not only going to make a big-budget 3-D flick, but they were also going to introduce the world to WarnerPhonic Audio, a primitive precursor of Surround Sound. The result of this savvy move was House of Wax (1953). Directed by Hungarian-born Andre de Toth, House of Wax is actually a remake of Warner's 1933 flick The Mystery of the Wax Museum (interestingly enough, also directed by a Hungarian, Michael Curtiz). De Toth, better known as Mr. Veronica Lake (he was married for eight years to the blonde actress), was an unusual directorial choice because he only had one eye. This handicap made it virtually impossible for de Toth to actually see the 3-D process he was creating but, like other gifted but visually impaired filmmakers of his era (Raoul Walsh, Fritz Lang, etc.), his complete understanding of the medium resulted in one of the most effective 3-D films ever made. At the time, though, studio head Jack Warner warned de Toth not to wear his eye patch on the set; he didn't want the director or House of Wax to be the butt of jokes in Hollywood. The by-now familiar plot of House of Wax, which owes more than a nod to The Phantom of the Opera, goes something like this: sensitive sculptor lovingly creates historical figures out of wax, which he displays in his New York-based wax museum. Sculptor's greedy business partner wants to burn down said museum. Fight follows, fire breaks out. Assuming that sensitive sculptor is dead, greedy partner collects insurance money. But sensitive sculptor isn't dead! Instead he's hideously disfigured and more than a little loony. Wacko sculptor goes on killing spree, fonduing the bodies of his victims in boiling wax and using them as exhibits in his new museum. Will the police catch the fiend before he kills again? Will Scott Andrews (Paul Picerni) rescue Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk) from becoming the next wax attraction - Marie Antoinette? Will the busker with the paddleball ever work in Hollywood again? Vincent Price, who had only dabbled briefly in the horror genre before this film, plays Professor Henry Jarrod and the role marked a major turning point in his career; afterwards, he found steady work in the movies playing a variety of homicidal maniacs and cursed aristocrats. In The Horror People by John Brosnan, Price admitted that House of Wax was "very demanding as I had to get to the studio every morning at 5:30 a.m. to put that makeup on. It took three hours to put on and it was agony, absolute agony." He also added that the film "was made with two enormous cameras photographing in a mirror, so that you could get two tracks, and because of the unwieldy camera I had to do my own stunts. They couldn't do a close-up of me and then cut to a double. The most difficult stunt was at the beginning when the fire starts in the museum, and I run under this balcony that's in flames just before it falls. I actually did that. I worked it out with a stuntman. Anything on the floor that I might trip over or slide on was moved away and we figured out a course for me to take around these burning figures so that I could get into a tiny closet when this 3,000 lbs of burning balcony fell. It was scary." In addition to Price, House of Wax co-stars Phyllis Kirk, who went on to play Nora Charles in the hit TV series The Thin Man (1957-59), and Frank Lovejoy, in the role of Lieutenant Tom Brennan. Lovejoy made a career out of playing no-nonsense authority figures in films like I Was a Communist for the F.B.I. (1951) and Retreat, Hell! (1952). Also look for Carolyn Jones (aka Morticia Addams of TV's The Addams Family, 1964-66) in a brief but memorable performance as both blonde victim Cathy Gray and wax centerfold Joan d'Arc. And Igor, Professor Jarrod's Neanderthal deaf mute assistant, is none other than Charles Buchinsky. Don't recognize the name? Well, Buchinsky later went on to star in a slew of '70s action hero roles like Death Wish (1974), under the name Charles Bronson. Today, the then-innovative recording techniques of House of Wax are all but lost on the television screen. As for the 3-D technology? Well, without the benefit of cheap Polaroid glasses, today's audiences won't see what the fuss was all about. Yet, even without the special glasses, viewers will notice camera set-ups where images are thrust toward the screen, such as the wild fight scene in the museum at the beginning which climaxes with a fiery wax meltdown. (This sequence obviously inspired the makers of The Devil's Rain, 1975.) There's also a completely random and overly long paddleball gag. And, of course, what would any period horror movie be without an extended cancan sequence? While the high-kicking chorus line looks dazzling in Technicolor and 3-D, it also brings the plot to a screeching halt. But, House of Wax is great fun, nonetheless. As the film's worldly Scott Andrews says to the prim Sue Allen, "You can't get entertainment like this in Provincetown." Producer: Bryan Foy Director: Andre de Toth Screenplay: Charles Belden (story), Crane Wilbur Art Direction: Stanley Fleischer Cinematography: Bert Glennon, Peverell Marley, Lothrop B. Worth Makeup: George Bau, Gordon Bau Film Editing: Rudi Fehr Original Music: David Buttolph Principal Cast: Vincent Price (Prof. Henry Jarrod); Frank Lovejoy (Lt. Tom Brennan); Phyllis Kirk (Sue Allen); Carolyn Jones (Cathy Gray); Paul Picerni (Scott Andrews); Charles Buchinsky, aka Charles Bronson (Igor); Roy Roberts (Matthew Burke); Paul Cavanagh (Sidney Wallace). C-88m. by Lang Thompson & Jeff Stafford

TCM Remembers Charles Bronson - Sept. 13th - TCM Remembers Charles Bronson this Saturday, Sept. 13th 2003.


Turner Classic Movies will honor the passing of Hollywood action star Charles Bronson on Saturday, Sept. 13, with a four-film tribute.

After years of playing supporting roles in numerous Western, action and war films, including THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960, 8 p.m.) and THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967, 1:15 a.m.), Bronson finally achieved worldwide stardom as a leading man during the late 1960s and early 1970s. TCM's tribute will also include THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963, 10:15 p.m.), Bronson's second teaming with Steve McQueen and James Coburn, and will conclude with FROM NOON TILL THREE (1976, 4 a.m.), co-starring Jill Ireland.

TCM will alter it's prime-time schedule this Saturday, Sept. 13th. The following changes will take place:

8:00 PM - The Magnificent Seven (1960)
10:15 PM - The Great Escape (1963)
1:15 AM - The Dirty Dozen (1967)
4:00 AM - From Noon Till Three (1976)

Charles Bronson, 1921-2003

Charles Bronson, the tough, stony-faced actor who was one of the most recognizable action heroes in cinema, died on August 30 in Los Angeles from complications from pneumonia. He was 81.

He was born Charles Buchinsky on November 3, 1921 in Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, one of fifteen children born to Lithuanian immigrant parents. Although he was the only child to have graduated high school, he worked in the coalmines to support his family until he joined the army to serve as a tail gunner during World War II. He used his money from the G.I. Bill to study art in Philadelphia, but while working as a set designer for a Philadelphia theater troupe, he landed a few small roles in some productions and immediately found acting to be the craft for him.

Bronson took his new career turn seriously, moved to California, and enrolled for acting classes at The Pasadena Playhouse. An instructor there recommended him to director Henry Hathaway for a movie role and the result was his debut in Hathaway's You're in the Navy Now (1951). He secured more bit parts in films like John Sturges' drama The People Against O'Hara (1951), and Joseph Newman's Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952). More substantial roles came in George Cukor's Pat and Mike (1952, where he is beaten up by Katharine Hepburn!); Andre de Toth's classic 3-D thriller House of Wax (1953, as Vincent Price's mute assistant, Igor); and De Toth's fine low-budget noir Crime Wave (1954).

Despite his formidable presence, his leads were confined to a string of B pictures like Gene Fowler's Gang War; and Roger Corman's tight Machine Gun Kelly (both 1958). Following his own television series, Man With a Camera (1958-60), Bronson had his first taste of film stardom when director Sturges casted him as Bernardo, one of the The Magnificent Seven (1960). Bronson displayed a powerful charisma, comfortably holding his own in a high-powered cast that included Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. A few more solid roles followed in Sturges' The Great Escape (1963), and Robert Aldrich's classic war picture The Dirty Dozen (1967), before Bronson made the decision to follow the European trail of other American actors like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. It was there that his hard, taciturn screen personae exploded in full force. In 1968 alone, he had four hit films: Henri Verneuil's Guns for San Sebastian, Buzz Kulik's Villa Rides, Jean Herman's Adieu l'ami which was a smash in France; and the classic Sergio Leone spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West.

These films established Bronson as a huge box-office draw in Europe, and with some more stylish hits like Rene Clement's Rider on the Rain (1969), and Terence Young's Cold Sweat (1971) he soon became one of the most popular film stars in the world. It wasn't easy for Bronson to translate that success back in his homeland. In fact, his first few films on his return stateside: Michael Winners' Chato's Land, and The Mechanic (both 1972), and Richard Fleischer's Mr. Majestyk (1973), were surprisingly routine pictures. It wasn't until he collaborated with Winner again for the controversial Death Wish (1974), an urban revenge thriller about an architect who turns vigilante when his wife and daughter are raped, did he notch his first stateside hit. The next few years would be a fruitful period for Bronson as he rode on a wave of fine films and commercial success: a depression era streetfighter in Walter Hill's terrific, if underrated Hard Times (1975); Frank Gilroy's charming offbeat black comedy From Noon Till Three (1976, the best of many teamings with his second wife, Jill Ireland); Tom Gries tense Breakheart Pass; and Don Siegel's cold-war thriller Telefon (1977).

Sadly, Bronson could not keep up the momentum of good movies, and by the '80s he was starring in a string of forgettable films like Ten to Midnight (1983), The Evil That Men Do (1984), and Murphy's Law (1986, all directed by J. Lee Thompson). A notable exception to all that tripe was John Mackenzie's fine telefilm Act of Vengeance (1986), where he earned critical acclaim in the role of United Mine Workers official Jack Yablonski. Although he more or less fell into semi-retirement in the '90s, his performances in Sean Penn's The Indian Runner (1991); and the title role of Michael Anderson's The Sea Wolf (1993) proved to many that Bronson had the makings of a fine character actor. He was married to actress Jill Ireland from 1968 until her death from breast cancer in 1990. He is survived by his third wife Kim Weeks, six children, and two grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

TCM Remembers Charles Bronson - Sept. 13th - TCM Remembers Charles Bronson this Saturday, Sept. 13th 2003.

Turner Classic Movies will honor the passing of Hollywood action star Charles Bronson on Saturday, Sept. 13, with a four-film tribute. After years of playing supporting roles in numerous Western, action and war films, including THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960, 8 p.m.) and THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967, 1:15 a.m.), Bronson finally achieved worldwide stardom as a leading man during the late 1960s and early 1970s. TCM's tribute will also include THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963, 10:15 p.m.), Bronson's second teaming with Steve McQueen and James Coburn, and will conclude with FROM NOON TILL THREE (1976, 4 a.m.), co-starring Jill Ireland. TCM will alter it's prime-time schedule this Saturday, Sept. 13th. The following changes will take place: 8:00 PM - The Magnificent Seven (1960) 10:15 PM - The Great Escape (1963) 1:15 AM - The Dirty Dozen (1967) 4:00 AM - From Noon Till Three (1976) Charles Bronson, 1921-2003 Charles Bronson, the tough, stony-faced actor who was one of the most recognizable action heroes in cinema, died on August 30 in Los Angeles from complications from pneumonia. He was 81. He was born Charles Buchinsky on November 3, 1921 in Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, one of fifteen children born to Lithuanian immigrant parents. Although he was the only child to have graduated high school, he worked in the coalmines to support his family until he joined the army to serve as a tail gunner during World War II. He used his money from the G.I. Bill to study art in Philadelphia, but while working as a set designer for a Philadelphia theater troupe, he landed a few small roles in some productions and immediately found acting to be the craft for him. Bronson took his new career turn seriously, moved to California, and enrolled for acting classes at The Pasadena Playhouse. An instructor there recommended him to director Henry Hathaway for a movie role and the result was his debut in Hathaway's You're in the Navy Now (1951). He secured more bit parts in films like John Sturges' drama The People Against O'Hara (1951), and Joseph Newman's Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952). More substantial roles came in George Cukor's Pat and Mike (1952, where he is beaten up by Katharine Hepburn!); Andre de Toth's classic 3-D thriller House of Wax (1953, as Vincent Price's mute assistant, Igor); and De Toth's fine low-budget noir Crime Wave (1954). Despite his formidable presence, his leads were confined to a string of B pictures like Gene Fowler's Gang War; and Roger Corman's tight Machine Gun Kelly (both 1958). Following his own television series, Man With a Camera (1958-60), Bronson had his first taste of film stardom when director Sturges casted him as Bernardo, one of the The Magnificent Seven (1960). Bronson displayed a powerful charisma, comfortably holding his own in a high-powered cast that included Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. A few more solid roles followed in Sturges' The Great Escape (1963), and Robert Aldrich's classic war picture The Dirty Dozen (1967), before Bronson made the decision to follow the European trail of other American actors like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. It was there that his hard, taciturn screen personae exploded in full force. In 1968 alone, he had four hit films: Henri Verneuil's Guns for San Sebastian, Buzz Kulik's Villa Rides, Jean Herman's Adieu l'ami which was a smash in France; and the classic Sergio Leone spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West. These films established Bronson as a huge box-office draw in Europe, and with some more stylish hits like Rene Clement's Rider on the Rain (1969), and Terence Young's Cold Sweat (1971) he soon became one of the most popular film stars in the world. It wasn't easy for Bronson to translate that success back in his homeland. In fact, his first few films on his return stateside: Michael Winners' Chato's Land, and The Mechanic (both 1972), and Richard Fleischer's Mr. Majestyk (1973), were surprisingly routine pictures. It wasn't until he collaborated with Winner again for the controversial Death Wish (1974), an urban revenge thriller about an architect who turns vigilante when his wife and daughter are raped, did he notch his first stateside hit. The next few years would be a fruitful period for Bronson as he rode on a wave of fine films and commercial success: a depression era streetfighter in Walter Hill's terrific, if underrated Hard Times (1975); Frank Gilroy's charming offbeat black comedy From Noon Till Three (1976, the best of many teamings with his second wife, Jill Ireland); Tom Gries tense Breakheart Pass; and Don Siegel's cold-war thriller Telefon (1977). Sadly, Bronson could not keep up the momentum of good movies, and by the '80s he was starring in a string of forgettable films like Ten to Midnight (1983), The Evil That Men Do (1984), and Murphy's Law (1986, all directed by J. Lee Thompson). A notable exception to all that tripe was John Mackenzie's fine telefilm Act of Vengeance (1986), where he earned critical acclaim in the role of United Mine Workers official Jack Yablonski. Although he more or less fell into semi-retirement in the '90s, his performances in Sean Penn's The Indian Runner (1991); and the title role of Michael Anderson's The Sea Wolf (1993) proved to many that Bronson had the makings of a fine character actor. He was married to actress Jill Ireland from 1968 until her death from breast cancer in 1990. He is survived by his third wife Kim Weeks, six children, and two grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

TCM Remembers Andre de Toth


Andre De Toth, the director and writer behind such memorable genre films as Pitfall (1948), a film noir, The Indian Fighter (1955), a Western, Play Dirty (1968), a war thriller, and arguably the best 3-D movie ever made, House of Wax (1953), died on October 27 of an aneurysm in his Burbank home. He was believed to be 89, although biographical references to his birth year vary from 1910 to 1913.

Born in Mako, Hungary to the son of a civil engineer, De Toth showed an early artistic bent, having his first exhibit of paintings and sculpture at age 14 and seeing his first play produced at age 18. After obtaining his law degree from the University of Budapest, he began acting, writing and working as a cameraman for cinematographer Istvan Eiben. In 1939, he went to England, where he worked as a second unit director for Alexander Korda on The Thief of Bagdad and other films. De Toth immigrated to Hollywood in the early '40s, and worked with Korda on The Jungle Book (1942) and several other films.

He made his Hollywood directing debut with the 1943 feature, Passport to Suez, a propaganda thriller about the Nazis wanting to bomb the Suez Canal.

Impressed with his ability, Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, put the director under contract for one film and the result, None Shall Escape (1944), launched his Hollywood career. This tense, sensitive drama about a Nazi officer made to examine his actions was fascinating in its structure: Set after the war's end, the film centers around the trial of a Nazi butcher, Wilhelm Grimm (Alexander Knox), in Poland and makes excellent use of flashbacks illustrating the prosecution's testimony to form the bulk of the film. In a way, the film predicted the Nuremberg Trials after the war.

de Toth earned considerable critical acclaim with the taut, intense noir thriller Pitfall (1948) which he co-wrote. Starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott and Raymond Burr, this story of a bored insurance salesman who embarks on an affair because he feels stifled in his picture-perfect home (a devoted wife, son, nice house, successful career, etc.) was striking as one of the first films to examine the American dream gone sour. De Toth followed that with a shared Oscar nomination with William Bowers for Best Original Motion Picture Story for The Gunfighter (1950), a haunting character study of a killer (Gregory Peck) trying to live down his past.

His biggest commercial hit came with House of Wax (1953), the movie that launched Vincent Price's horror film career and is still regarded as the best of all three-dimensional films to be released during that period. Unlike other directors who seemed to be dabbling with a new technique, De Toth emphasized character and plot over the special effects: Price was a sculptor rebuilding his wax figure collection (destroyed by fire) by making statues out of his murder victims. The one-eyed de Toth was an odd choice to helm a 3-D film as he could not experience the stereoscopic process, having lost an eye in his youth, but he persevered and it was the most successful 3-D film of its day.

De Toth followed that hit with some fine films: Crime Wave (1954), a hostage thriller that boasts some fine performances by Sterling Hayden and Gene Nelson and excellent location shooting on the streets of Los Angeles; The Indian Fighter (1955) an exciting Kirk Douglas vehicle about a wagon master leading his train through rough territory that won accolades for depicting the Native Americans with more depth than contemporary directors; and Day of the Outlaw (1959), the stark, stylish, low budget western about an outlaw (Burl Ives) and his gang taking over taking a small town and matching wits with one of its citizens (Robert Ryan). For many, this film best articulated many of the recurring themes in De Toth's work that would be evaluated only decades later by film scholars: survival, betrayal, the capacity for evil and complexities of human relationships.

In the early sixties film work became increasingly scarce for De Toth and he found himself relegated to directing for television: Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip and The Westerner. Tired of the limitations he was finding in Hollywood, De Toth headed to Europe in the '60s, where he found work as an uncredited consultant and location scout on David Lean's extravagant Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He directed a few films abroad, the best of which was the World War II action film Play Dirty (1968), starring Michael Caine, and then he more or less retired from active filmmaking. It was not until recently that De Toth began to receive critical recognition for his entertaining body of work. The last few years have seen several retrospectives and he enjoyed a renewed popularity at film festivals from Scotland to San Francisco. His contributions to film were recognized with the 1995 life achievement prize by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the publication of his autobiography, Fragments: Portraits From the Inside, as well as an interview book, De Toth on De Toth, by Anthony Slide. De Toth was married for a time to Veronica Lake (1944-1952) with whom he had two children. He is survived by his wife, Ann Green.

by Michael T. Toole

TCM Remembers Andre de Toth

Andre De Toth, the director and writer behind such memorable genre films as Pitfall (1948), a film noir, The Indian Fighter (1955), a Western, Play Dirty (1968), a war thriller, and arguably the best 3-D movie ever made, House of Wax (1953), died on October 27 of an aneurysm in his Burbank home. He was believed to be 89, although biographical references to his birth year vary from 1910 to 1913. Born in Mako, Hungary to the son of a civil engineer, De Toth showed an early artistic bent, having his first exhibit of paintings and sculpture at age 14 and seeing his first play produced at age 18. After obtaining his law degree from the University of Budapest, he began acting, writing and working as a cameraman for cinematographer Istvan Eiben. In 1939, he went to England, where he worked as a second unit director for Alexander Korda on The Thief of Bagdad and other films. De Toth immigrated to Hollywood in the early '40s, and worked with Korda on The Jungle Book (1942) and several other films. He made his Hollywood directing debut with the 1943 feature, Passport to Suez, a propaganda thriller about the Nazis wanting to bomb the Suez Canal. Impressed with his ability, Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, put the director under contract for one film and the result, None Shall Escape (1944), launched his Hollywood career. This tense, sensitive drama about a Nazi officer made to examine his actions was fascinating in its structure: Set after the war's end, the film centers around the trial of a Nazi butcher, Wilhelm Grimm (Alexander Knox), in Poland and makes excellent use of flashbacks illustrating the prosecution's testimony to form the bulk of the film. In a way, the film predicted the Nuremberg Trials after the war. de Toth earned considerable critical acclaim with the taut, intense noir thriller Pitfall (1948) which he co-wrote. Starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott and Raymond Burr, this story of a bored insurance salesman who embarks on an affair because he feels stifled in his picture-perfect home (a devoted wife, son, nice house, successful career, etc.) was striking as one of the first films to examine the American dream gone sour. De Toth followed that with a shared Oscar nomination with William Bowers for Best Original Motion Picture Story for The Gunfighter (1950), a haunting character study of a killer (Gregory Peck) trying to live down his past. His biggest commercial hit came with House of Wax (1953), the movie that launched Vincent Price's horror film career and is still regarded as the best of all three-dimensional films to be released during that period. Unlike other directors who seemed to be dabbling with a new technique, De Toth emphasized character and plot over the special effects: Price was a sculptor rebuilding his wax figure collection (destroyed by fire) by making statues out of his murder victims. The one-eyed de Toth was an odd choice to helm a 3-D film as he could not experience the stereoscopic process, having lost an eye in his youth, but he persevered and it was the most successful 3-D film of its day. De Toth followed that hit with some fine films: Crime Wave (1954), a hostage thriller that boasts some fine performances by Sterling Hayden and Gene Nelson and excellent location shooting on the streets of Los Angeles; The Indian Fighter (1955) an exciting Kirk Douglas vehicle about a wagon master leading his train through rough territory that won accolades for depicting the Native Americans with more depth than contemporary directors; and Day of the Outlaw (1959), the stark, stylish, low budget western about an outlaw (Burl Ives) and his gang taking over taking a small town and matching wits with one of its citizens (Robert Ryan). For many, this film best articulated many of the recurring themes in De Toth's work that would be evaluated only decades later by film scholars: survival, betrayal, the capacity for evil and complexities of human relationships. In the early sixties film work became increasingly scarce for De Toth and he found himself relegated to directing for television: Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip and The Westerner. Tired of the limitations he was finding in Hollywood, De Toth headed to Europe in the '60s, where he found work as an uncredited consultant and location scout on David Lean's extravagant Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He directed a few films abroad, the best of which was the World War II action film Play Dirty (1968), starring Michael Caine, and then he more or less retired from active filmmaking. It was not until recently that De Toth began to receive critical recognition for his entertaining body of work. The last few years have seen several retrospectives and he enjoyed a renewed popularity at film festivals from Scotland to San Francisco. His contributions to film were recognized with the 1995 life achievement prize by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the publication of his autobiography, Fragments: Portraits From the Inside, as well as an interview book, De Toth on De Toth, by Anthony Slide. De Toth was married for a time to Veronica Lake (1944-1952) with whom he had two children. He is survived by his wife, Ann Green. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Warner Bros.' first 3-D movie, filmed by director Andre De Toth -- who was blind in one eye and hence could not see the effect.

The scene where 'Picerni, Paul' is rescued from the guillotine by Frank Lovejoy seconds before the blade came down was filmed in one take, using a real guillotine blade. Picerni and director Andre De Toth got into a heated argument when Picerni, on advice from the film's stuntmen, refused to do the scene as too dangerous (a prop man was to hold up the blade off camera and tell the actors when he dropped it so they could yank Picerni away). De Toth threw him off the picture, but several days later, on orders from studio head Jack Warner, De Toth recalled him, and had the prop department modify the guillotine to make it less dangerous. After examining the guillotine, Picerni said he would do one take and no more, which is exactly what happened.

Notes

The working title of the film was The Wax Works. In several reviews, Carolyn Jones, who played her first major role in House of Wax, was mistakenly identified by her character's name, "Cathy Gray." According to an April 1953 Daily Variety news item, actor Ned Young, who played "Leon Averill" in the film, was stripped of all billing after he appeared "vociferously unfriendly" before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. A February 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that cameraman Robert Burks filled in for Bert Glennon, when the latter fell ill with the flu. During production, February 1953 Hollywood Reporter news items reported that director Andre De Toth sought nurses and medical assistants to play extras in the chamber of horrors sequences. After three female extras were reported to have fainted during a guillotine scene, De Toth acknowledged that the tight 1890s corsets were partially responsible.
       House of Wax was the first 3-D film produced by a major studio. According to March and April 1953 Hollywood Reporter news items, House of Wax opened at the Downtown Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles with a "round-the-clock premiere," consisting of twelve showings, starting with a midnight "spook premiere" on April 16, 1953. This was one of many publicity stunts exhibitors used to promote the film. To experience the special 3-D effects of House of Wax, the audience donned special Polaroid viewers, which cost the theater ten cents each to distribute. According to an undated Hollywood Reporter news item found in the AMPAS clipping file for the film, Arch Oboler, who produced the first 3-D film, Bwana Devil, sent sample pairs of "Magic-Vuers" polarized glasses to film reviewers before the House of Wax premiere, claiming they were more comfortable than the Polaroid viewers distributed by the theaters and had a larger viewing surface. The cost of the Polaroid viewers were tacked onto the admission price.
       According to a Variety article, film executives, after finding that the higher admission price had not scared away New York teenaged patrons, speculated whether the draw was due to the novelty of 3-D or the opening stage-show headliner, popular singer Eddie Fisher. Other articles discussed how some theaters shrewdly itemized the prices for admission and the 3-D viewers, thereby decreasing the prevailing twenty percent Federal admissions tax. The high ticket prices and novelty of 3-D inspired a Ohio store, McKelvey's, to print a full page Jantzen swimsuit ad in a Youngstown, OH paper that made light of the film. After the Independent Theatre Owners of Ohio, who considered the ad "one of the most vicious pieces of copy ever seen," notified Warner Bros., the studio threatened action, which resulted in a retraction of the ad.
       Although most reviewers found the plot of House of Wax to be "serviceable" at best, they praised the picture's 3-D photography, which they felt was superior to previous 3-D fares, as well as its stereophonic sound. The Hollywood Reporter, Newsweek and New York Times reviewers found House of Wax to be the best example of 3-D photography to date and commended the paddle ball and can-can dancer scenes as being particularly effective. However, the Daily Variety review applauded the WarnerPhonic sound as the most important technological feat of the film and the Hollywood Reporter reviewer predicted that sterophonic sound, was "here to stay." However, the New York Times reviewer, complained about the "intolerable artlessness of its sound," which was "thrown and howled at the audience" as if to "overwhelm" with "brutal stimuli." A May 1953 New York Times letter to the editor accused the producers of irresponsibility toward the public and prayed "for guidance from an enlightened government."
       According to a May 1953 Variety article, House of Wax was the longest running film at the New York Paramount Theatre in four years and was expected to generate for the house one of the largest returns in its history. Although, as some reviewers predicted, the film became a tremendous box office hit and was successful enough for exhibitors to pay for the installation of special stereophonic and 3-D equipment, according to a Variety article, by June 1953, the film had almost run out of equipped theaters.
       According to an August 1971 Daily Variety news item, Stereovision International paid Warner Bros. for a two-year license to reissue House of Wax as a single strip 3-D. In December 1971, a Hollywood Reporter news item reported that House of Wax producer Bryan Foy had filed a complaint with the Producers Association and considered suing Stereovision for omitting his name from ads and promos for the reissue. July 1972 Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter articles reported that Milton L. Gunzberg, who served as Natural Vision supervisor for House of Wax and the 1953 Warner Bros. Charge at Feather River, filed suits against Warner Bros., Stereovision executive Al Silliphant, Seven Arts and Sherpix International for failing to credit him for photographing the two pictures and for failing to pay him his share of the profits, as called for in a contractual agreement.
       Charles Belden's story was originally used as the basis of the 1933 Warner Bros. film Mystery of the Wax Museum. For more information about that film and other productions based on it, see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40. Another version of House of Wax, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and starring Elisha Cuthbert and Chad Michael Murray, was released by Warner Bros. in 2005. That version had a modern setting, involving a college road trip.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States August 1989

Released in United States Spring April 1953

Re-released in United States September 22, 2000

Shown at Film Forum Summer Festival of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction in New York City August 4-7, 1989.

Remake of "Mystery of the Wax Museum" (1933) directed by Michael Curtiz.

2000 re-release features a newly restored 3-D print.

Remade as "House of Wax" (1953) directed by Andre DeToth.

Released in United States Spring April 1953

Released in United States August 1989 (Shown at Film Forum Summer Festival of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction in New York City August 4-7, 1989.)

Natural Vision 3-D

Re-released in United States September 22, 2000 (Film Forum; New York City)