Horror Fest 2016 – Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

mystery-of-the-wax-museum-1Horror Fest 2016: Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
Cast:      Lionel Atwill as Ivan Igor
Fay Wray as Charlotte Duncan
Glenda Farrell as Florence Dempsey
Frank McHugh as Jim

From the story by Charles Belden (The Ghost Walks)
Screenplay by Don Mullaly & Carl Erickson
Directed by Michael Curtiz (Doctor X)

Plot: The movie opens in London 1921 as sculptor Ivan Igor has an argument with the financial partner of his wax museum, resulting in a fire that destroys his work. Flash forward to New York 1933 as Ivan, now wheel-chair bound with his hands horribly mangled, is hoping to revive his wax museum. When Ivan sees the lovely Charlotte, fiancée of Ivan’s assistant Ralph, the sculptor begins to hatch an evil plan. All is not right at the wax museum and Charlotte’s roommate, reporter Florence, is on the case to investigate.mystery-2

Personal Thoughts: Another Pre-Code effort that doesn’t shy away from such topics as girlie magazines, drugs and junkies. All of these elements would be removed when it was remade in 1953 as House of Wax with Vincent Price in the lead role. In this original, Lionel Atwill is wonderful, once again playing a mad man. We eventually see him with some very horrific makeup, which rivals that of the Price version. Fay Wray is in her usual role as the femme fatale but the stronger female lead is that of actress Glenda Farrell. Her portrayal of the intrepid reporter is a role usually filled by a comedic male lead. However, she pulls it off here quite well, including the inevitable marriage proposal mere seconds before the movie ends. Highly recommended and quite entertaining.


  • Like Doctor X the previous year, Warner Brothers made this film in the early two-color Technicolor process. And like Doctor X, it was considered lost until resurfacing in the personal collection of Jack Warner after his death.
  • The extremely bright lights of the Technicolor process melted some of the wax figures, forcing noticeably real actors to play the parts. It was the last studio feature with this Technicolor format.
  • Opening theme music by Bernhard Kaun was the same used in Doctor X, as were much of the cast and crew.


  • Watch the unofficial trailer on YouTube.
  • Available on Blu-ray as an extra alongside House of Wax (1953).
  • Be sure to listen to the upcoming episode 289 of the Monster Kid Radio podcast as Derek discusses the film with Chris McMillan.

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