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House of Wax 3D (1953)

The 3D fad of the 1950s was at its height 70 years ago when Warner Bros. conquered the genre with this horror remake directed by André De Toth, a man with ironically only one eye. Of course, you didn’t need two eyes to follow the gimmick’s formula by throwing everything from paddle balls to a severed head at the audience at regular intervals. De Toth’s sense of pace and his ability to leaven the frights with humor, however, were huge assets.

Vincent Price became a horror icon playing the demented sculptor who creates lifelike statues by murdering people and coating their bodies with wax. The only thing missing is his masterpiece, Marie Antoinette. Then her perfect lookalike (Phyllis Kirk) walks in on him as he dispenses with his latest victim (Carolyn Jones). Can the police, headed by Frank Lovejoy, uncover Price’s secret before he adds Kirk to his collection?

Warner’s supplemented the film’s 3D effects with an early stereophonic system, WarnerPhonic Sound. That was enough to make the film one of the year’s top grossers. But the 3D craze faded quickly. Within a year, films shot in that process, like Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder (1954), were released only in “flat” versions. What didn’t fade, however, was Price’s renewed popularity. He would remain a top horror star for the rest of his career. Also on the rise were two young cast members: Jones, who would go on to TV stardom in The Addams Family, and Price’s assistant, Charles Buchinsky, who would become more famous when he changed his last name to Bronson.

d. Andre de Toth, 88 minutes, DCP

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Classics