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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

House of Wax (3D and 2D versions) [Blu-ray]

 

(André De Toth, 1953)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Bryan Foy Productions for Warner Bros.

Video: Warner

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:28:21.296

Disc Size: 45,141,773,700 bytes

Feature Size: 33,621,411,840 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.96 Mbps

Chapters: 9

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: October 1st, 2013

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2012 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2012 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio German 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Italian 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB / Dolby Surround

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, none

 

Extras:

Audio Commentary by David Del Valle and Constantine Nasr

Behind the Scenes: House of Wax: Unlike Anything You've Seen Before! (48:23 in 1080P)

Behind the Scenes: Round-the-Clock Premiere (Newsreel): Coast Hails House of Wax (2:16 in 1080P)
1933 Warner Bros. Feature Film: Mystery of the Wax Museum starring Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray (1:17:23 in 480i)
Theatrical Trailer (2:05 in 480i)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: In the wicked performance that crowned him the movie's master of the macabre, Vincent Price plays a renowned wax sculptor plunged into madness when an arsonist destroys his life's work. Unable to use his flame-scarred hands, he devises a new - and murderous - way of restocking his House of Wax.

 

 

The Film:

This simplified (but lavish) remake of the 1933 melodrama The Mystery of the Wax Museum was the most financially successful 3-D production of the 1950s. In his first full-fledged "horror" role, Vincent Price plays Prof. Henry Jarrod, the owner of a wax museum, whose partner, Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts), intends to burn the place down for the insurance money. When Jarrod tries to prevent Burke from torching the museum, he himself is trapped in the conflagration. Years pass: though now confined to a wheelchair, Jarrod manages to open up a new museum in New York, boasting the most incredibly lifelike wax statues ever seen. At the same time, a masked prowler has been stalking the city, murdering people and then stealing their bodies from the mortuary. One of the victims is Jarrod's old nemesis Burke; another is Cathy Gray (Carolyn Jones), the roommate of art student Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk). On a visit to the wax museum, Sue can't help but notice that the wax likeness of Joan of Arc is a dead ringer for her deceased friend Cathy -- while the courtly Jarrod declares joyously that Sue is the living image of Marie Antoinette. Guess where this is going to wind up? Frank Lovejoy and Paul Picerni co-star as the nominal heroes, while Charles Bronson -- still billed as Charles Buchinsky -- is a menacing presence as Jarrod's deaf-mute chief sculptor (appropriately named "Igor"). No opportunity to show off the 3-D process is wasted during House of Wax; the most memorable stereoscopic moments are provided by garrulous "paddle-ball man" Reggie Rymal. Ironically, Andre De Toth, the film's director, had only one good eye, and had to constantly ask his cast and crew if the various 3-D effects had come off properly.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

One of the better 3-D epics (Warners' first, pioneering effort). Handsomely mounted and directed with great care, it nevertheless remains oddly lacklustre by comparison with the 1933 Mystery of the Wax Museum, despite being an often word-for-word remake. One reason is that where the original acquired an additional charge of bizarrerie by locating its Grand Guignol monster within a private enclave of bustling, contemporary New York, this remake is much more conventionally set in the fantasy world of gaslight, ground fogs and opera cloaks. Still, Price is fun (this was the film that typed him as a horror star), the fire in the waxworks is good for a gruesome thrill, and De Toth brings off one classic sequence with Kirk fleeing through the gaslit streets pursued by a shadowy figure in a billowing cloak.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

House of Wax - with the 3-D version - is available on Blu-ray from Warner. I don't have a 3-D display but you may still watch the film in 2-D from the Blu-ray disc.

 

 

So, I can only review the 2-D (and audio/extras) of this package. 

 

The 1080P image quality of the 2-D is similar to that of Dial M For Murder - another 3-D/2-D Blu-ray. What I mean is that It is extremely grainy and shows a softness at times. Colors are bold and vibrant - notably reds. Skin tones are warm - contrast exhibits healthy levels. I would describe the visuals as 'rich'. The textures and deep colors are presented brilliantly on this Blu-ray.  In-motion it looks superb. Those who can appreciate the thickness and adherence to the original appearance should be extremely pleased with the dual-layered HD presentation with a high bitrate. This Blu-ray shows the 2-D version wonderfully film-like.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear not: the intermission is only a moment on the Blu-ray!

 

 

 

 

 

 

3-D Effect - ping pong balls in your face!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel sounds exceptional at a healthy 2012 kbps. Now, House of Wax was the first 3-D film with stereophonic sound to be presented in a regular movie theater. But:

"To accompany its stereoscopic imagery, House of Wax was originally available with a stereophonic three-track magnetic soundtrack, although many theaters were not equipped to make use of it and defaulted to the standard monophonic optical soundtrack. Previously, films with stereo sound were only produced to be shown in specialty cinemas, such as the Toldi in Budapest and the Telecinema in London. Apparently, only the monophonic soundtrack has survived; as of 2013, no copy of the three-channel stereo soundtrack is known to exist." - Wikipedia

Still both On the Rue de la Paix musical piece and David Buttolph's (Rope, Three Secrets, Kiss of Death, Blood and Sand and many more.) - often regarded as the best of the entire genre! - sounds very impressive in lossless. Effects, including the fire probably take a backseat to the fabulous score which certainly benefits from the robust uncompressed transfer. It's a shame we can't have the 3 channel version (dialogue-front, stereo the remainder) but as mentioned in the commentary - maybe it will show up one day somewhere. There are foreign-language DUBs and subtitles options and m
y Oppo verifies it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

NOTE: (sent to us in email): The original 3D release of House of Wax was actually a 4-track mix (as opposed to a 3-track mix). The film was stereoscopic, and so it required two simultaneous 35mm projectors, each with their own optical track: one was the mono down-mix of the entire soundtrack, and one was the 4th channel of music and effects for the speakers along the rear and side walls of the theater. The front three channels of sound (left, center, right) were playing off a third strip of film (magnetic tape) that was interlocked with the two projectors.

The original left-center-right mag-tracks are said to be lost entirely, but both the mono down-mix and -- most importantly -- the original rear effects track have both survived. The re-release of the DVD several years ago (not the snapper, but the keep case version) actually featured 4.0 soundtrack comprised of a "reconstructed" left-center-right with the original rear surround channel. It is a shame that Warners decided to not include this 4.0 track on the most recent Blu.

 

 

Extras :

There are plentiful extras including an informative audio commentary by David Del Valle and Constantine Nasr who take turns detailing and describing production information and the careers of the actors etc. Vintage film fans should be appreciative. We get a 'Behind the Scenes: House of Wax: Unlike Anything You've Seen Before!' piece in HD running shy of 50minutes. It has Scorsese, Joe Dante and many others reflecting on the impacting of the film and the 3-D process. Of course, it covers Vincent Price and includes an old interview with him. Behind the Scenes: Round-the-Clock Premiere: Coast Hails House of Wax is a 2-minute newsreel. What may be intriguing to some is the full feature - the 1933 Michael Curtiz' 'Mystery of the Wax Museum' starring Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray. It is actually Pre-Code but I didn't find much in the way of stepping on the toes of future censors. The film is credited as being the premiere horror film situated in a modern large-city setting; New York City. Unfortunately it is in 480i and the colors (shot originally in two-color Technicolor), including skin tones, are funky and all over the board with a definite leaning to 'pink'. I've included some screen grabs at the very bottom of this review - The DVD version of the film is said as being from a flawed master, with the inaccurate color timing. Not having seen the SD this would be my suspicion - if it was corrected, I expected it would have been transferred in 1080P. There is also a trailer.

 

 

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
This is a true gem of 50's horror. I love the grainy appearance with exuberant colors. It makes me itch for a 3-D player (perhaps one day I will relent!)  This is a great vintage movie to have on Blu-ray. It carries so much nostalgia and the score, alone, is iconic. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

September 19th, 2013

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

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Gary W. Tooze

 

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