Way, way back in September when I started this year’s It’s All Connected, one film popped into my head that I really wanted to watch. You’ll find out which movie that is next time, but I began working on a plan back then on how to get there. I don’t mind admitting that a movie called The Uncanny became the key to the whole thing. It happened to be on Amazon Video, so I was good…until it wasn’t there anymore! With that, I began scrambling to find a replacement and stumbled upon a different Amazon Video streamer: Terror In The Wax Museum from 1976!
This film offers a bit of an interesting connection to last year’s It’s All Connected, which I barely blogged about. Fairly early on in that process, I wound up watching four different waxworks movies: 1933’s Mystery Of The Wax Museum, the 1953 Vincent Price milestone House Of Wax and both Waxwork flicks from the 80s (the second one is WILD…and also not a horror movie). Plus, I would have checked out the 2005 House Of Wax if I’d have been able to get my hands on it (guess what just came in the mail yesterday). After all that, I realized one thing: scary wax museums are tough to get across on the screen because they either don’t look real enough or you can tell you’re just looking at real people!
So, I didn’t come in to Georg Fenady’s Terror In The Wax Museum with much enthusiasm, even though it stars John Carradine (the connection back to House Of Long Shadows), but I tried to keep an open mind though be warned, the transfer on Amazon is not good.
In this one, Carradine plays Claude Dupree, the owner of a waxwork who’s thinking of selling his pieces off to Amos Burns (Broderick Crawford). However, he begins to question this decision in regards to his employees Harry Flexner (Ray Milland) and Karkov (Steven Marlo). Dupree doesn’t have a chance to change his mind or not because he gets killed by Jack the Ripper, one of his wax figures!
This not only brings in the police — Inspector Daniels (Dr. Zaius himself Maurice Evans!) and Sergeant Michael Hawks (Mark Edwards) — but also Dupree’s niece Margaret (Nicole Shelby) and her overbearing caretaker Julia (Elsa Lanchester, yes The Bride). From there Fenady (who’s from my hometown Toledo and went on to direct a bunch of Baywatch episodes!) builds a mystery around who killed Dupree and whether it’s really a wax figure doing the deed…or something more sinister.
To my surprise, I actually had a pretty great time with this film. The cast definitely surprised me. Lanchester absolutely relishes her role as the greedy busybody and there’s just something fascinating to me about Carradine. But then you’ve got great parts for Milland — who gives a delightfully creepy tour of the museum — as well as the always commanding Crawford who I could watch in anything. There are scenes with characters that seem like they have nothing to do with the plot (it turns out they do), but the players are so enjoyable, that I really did not mind.
And really, the cast carries this film. Even with as bad as it looked on Prime, they kept me absorbed long enough to get me further into the mystery which got me to a cool-creepy dream sequence, a few kills and a fall from heights into the ever-present bubbling vat of wax which looked very real (the fall, not the ensuing horrible burns). So, while I wasn’t looking forward to this movie and don’t usually like the subgenre, I actually had a good time with it.
And, most importantly, it got me to tomorrow’s movie, which I’ve been wanting to rewatch for years!