House of Wax

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

House of Wax (1953) is an American horror film starring Vincent Price, a remake of Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). It was the first 3-D color feature film from a major American studio, following independent movie Bwana Devil. These two movies sparked the 3-D movie boom of the 1950s.

Price plays Professor Henry Jarrod, a devoted wax sculptor with a museum in 1910s New York. A disagreement with his financial partner, Matthew Burke, leaves Jarrod amid the burned ruins of his own museum, alive but severely injured. With the aid of a deaf-mute sculptor named Igor, Jarrod builds a new House of Wax that showcases historical and contemporary crimes, including the murder of his former business partner. However, all is not what it seems in Jarrod's wax museum, and a friend of Burke's fiancee is about to make a horrifying discovery...

House of Wax was remade in 2005 as a slasher movie starring Elisha Cuthbert, with Paris Hilton in her feature film debut (for which she won a Golden Raspberry Award for worst actress).

The 1953 movie was named to the National Film Registry in 2014.

Tropes used in House of Wax include:

All three films are examples of:

Both the 1933 and 1953 films contain examples of:

The 1953 movie contains examples of:

  • 3D Movie
  • The Alcoholic
  • Anti-Villain
  • Axe Before Entering
  • Berserk Button: Don't ask Jarrod about some crazy ideas like ... burning down his beloved wax figures.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The paddle ball barker.
  • But Liquor Is Quicker: Cathy is onto him, though.
  • Chairman of the Brawl
  • Chase Scene
  • Composite Character: 3-into-2 instead of the usual 2-into-1. Mystery of the Wax Museum has the heroine, a victim she didn't know who becomes Joan of Arc, and her best friend who almost becomes the Marie Antoinette victim. Sue is a composite of the heroine and the Marie Antoinette victim, and Cathy is a composite of the best friend and the Joan of Arc victim.
  • G-Rated Drug: More of a PG Rated Drug here -- the cops are able to track down Jarrod after depriving an alcoholic assistant of his of booze during the interrogation. In Mystery of the Wax Museum, it is strongly implied to be something much stronger (an injected drug like morphine, cocaine, or heroin).
  • The Igor: Jarrod's helper, named... Igor. Played by Charles Bronson.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun
  • Of Corset Hurts: Mentioned twice -- the heroine's ditzy friend Cathy Gray has Sue lace her up until she can barely breathe, and a woman has trouble breathing prior to fainting, in Jarrod's Chamber of Horrors.

"Is it your corset?"
"No, my stomach; it turned over."


Cathy Gray: Oh that's all right, I don't need much breath anyway-- as my late friend Matty used to say, if a girl don't watch her figure the men won't.


Jarrod: The end will come quickly, my love. It is a pain beyond pain, an agony so intense, it shocks the mind into instant oblivion.

  • Vincent Price: This film was the point when Price's career took a turn primarily towards horror films.
  • Waking Up At the Morgue: Subverted twice -- the first time, a corpse sits up due to cadaveric spasm, but is still dead. The second time -- well, the character was just Hidden in Plain Sight.

The 2005 movie contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Carly, she kills both of the villains.
  • Actor Allusion: The entire point of Paris Hilton's character.
  • Agony of the Feet: Wade, and later, Paige
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted. One of the killers brothers is shot and impaled with two arrows. He slowly (and very painfully) pulls out one from under his arm (which releases a lot of blood, and he promptly bandages it) and then tries to remove the one from the side of his chest, but the pain makes him vomit. Rather than risk passing out and bleeding to death he just cuts off the end of the arrow, leaving the rest in his chest. While one could argue that he should still have died from these injuries, Carly beats him to death with a baseball bat later anyway.
  • Backup Twin: At the end of movie Bo and Vincent are revealed to have a third brother.
  • Badass: Nick. Not once, not twice, but three times encountering and singlehandedly beating the hell right out of the main villain, including shooting him with a crossbow. Considering that one of these encounters involves the villain ambushing him with a knife, and the other has him effectively outnumbered in a slowly-melting house...
    • Carly, in a way, qualifies. Having the self control to calm down and use her own blood after having her finger cut off to open her recently glued mouth so she can warn her brother was pretty impressive.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted for the females as Carly gets her finger cut off and her lips glued together meaning she has to pull them apart and spends the rest of the film with a bloody mouth. Even Paige gets stabbed in the ankle. However Nick manages to go through the whole film with only just a little bit of dirt on himself.
  • Can Only Move the Eyes
  • Convection, Schmonvection: The main characters escape from said house as it melts and burns, not bothered by the heat at all.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Wade is pretty damn jealous whenever other guys show an obvious attraction to Carly. From Dalton, who uses his camera as an excuse to be a pervert, to the truck driver, who is damn creepy, and Bo, who takes a good few seconds of what Wade thinks is Love At First Sight between the two. Fair enough with that last one, as after Wade is left for Vincent to kill, Bo kidnaps Carly to have "fun" with her.
  • Death by Disfigurement: Averted; the Final Girl has one of her fingers cut off and survives.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: You're begging for them to start dying about a minute into their introduction.
  • Don't Go in The Woods
  • Evil Twin
  • Fan Service: Nick removes his shirt for Carly to wear which allows viewers to see Chad Michael Murray shirtless and doubles by placing Elisha Cuthbert in a tank top for the rest of the movie. Oh and Paris Hilton's striptease of course.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Wade. He gets turned into a wax sculpture, but doesn't die right away...]]
  • Fingore: Bo cuts the tip off of one of Carly's fingers.
  • Forceful Kiss: Averted. After gluing Carly's mouth closed, Bo seeming attempts to kiss her... but instead blows on the glue to help it dry faster. Though he does kiss her on the forehead.
  • Incest Subtext: Lots and lots of it. The movie gives the strong impression that Nick and Carly are actually the main couple of the story. There's even a whole analysis page for this. It's serious.
  • In Name Only: The movie's plot seems to have been lifted almost completely from an obscure 1979 horror called Tourist Trap.
  • MacGuffin: The college football game that Blake is dying to see is what causes the gang to be traveling that particular weekend.
  • The Place
  • Playing Against Type: Chad Michael Murray had initially only really played teen heartthrobs in movies and of course his One Tree Hill role so it was quite difficult for him to play bad boy Nick. Similarly Paris Hilton had pretty much just played herself before this film. Also Elisha Cuthbert's most well known role was as a Ms. Fanservice, almost the complete opposite of a Final Girl.
  • Plot Induced Stupidity: All over the place.
  • Shout-Out: The villain is named Vincent.
  • Sibling Rivalry
  • Traumatic Haircut: If you allow facial hair, Wade gets his beard and eyebrows waxed off against his will.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Nick and Blake