This flm was a remake of `The Mystery of the Wax Museum' that was released in 1933. It started the association of Vincent Price’s with horror and thriller films. Today, Vincent Price is always thought of as an actor who did nothing but horror films. Very few people realise that he had played the Master Builder's role in Ten Commandments to perfection. House of Wax was also Warner Brothers’ first ever 3D film. Another thing that can be mentioned here is the Director, Andre Van de Toth, shot the entire thing with the help of only one eye.
Vincent Price plays an eccentric sculptor, Henry Jared, whose medium is the dummy made of wax. Jared is skilled at his work but the wax museum is not churning big money. This is because of Jared’s refusing to compromise his talents to make the kind of wax sculptures the public wants. Anthony and Cleopatra, Abraham Lincoln, and Marie Antoinette have some appeal for some people but the majority wanted sensational stuff. The public, as is the case in all ages, does not want sophistication and edification; it wanted crap! It wanted to see the gruesome.Jared’s business partner, Matthew Burke played by Roy Roberts, tries to convince him about the public tastes so that he can change his sculpting ways. Jared is unwilling and is looking for another interested partner but Burke is not in the mood for waiting for a long time. Burke’ wants to burn down the place and claim insurance. The place is under insuarnce for twenty five thousand dollars (quite a big amount in 1953). Jared is furious when he comes to know about Burke's plans.But Burke is keen to go ahead with his plan and he sets fire to Jared’s studio resulting in a tussle between the two men. Jared is knocked unconscious and sufferes severe burns to his face and body.
Burke spends the insurance money and gives Jared up as burnt and dead. Burke spends on an actress,Cathy Gray played by Carolyn Jones. To take the story further, Burke is killed by a man in black whose face is burnt beyond recognition. The next victim is Cathy and she is strangled to death in her bedroom one night while her roommate Sue Allen played by Phyllis Kirk has gone out. Sue finds Cathy’s body and finds that the man in black is running away, escpaing through the window.Sue has a friend, Scott Andrews played by Paul Picerni.
Scott is a sculptor and he takes Sue to a wax museum that has opened recently in towm. The owner of this `House of Wax', as it is called, is Henry Jared, reports of whose death were exaggerated in the papers. The fire had left him a cripple along with making his hands useless for sculpting. The exhibits in the museum are not his own creation as he supervises his apprentices, Igor played by Charles Bronson who was still going by the name of Charles Buchinsky and Leon played by Nedrick Young.
When Sue sets eyes on the sculpture of Joan of Arc, she realises that it resembles Cathy. This adds up to the fact that someone stole Cathy’s body from the morgue a few days earlier and Sue becomes suspicious that this Joan of Arc waxwork could be the body of Cathy. She is also a little scared when she learns that Jared wants her as a model for his new Marie Antoinette. He wants Scott to do the sculpting.
Sue is not the only one who is susoicious of the goings on at the House of Wax. Detective Sergeant, Lieutenant Tom Brennan played by Frank Lovejoy is actually investigating Cathy’s murder and the disappearance of her body rom the morgue. The Sergeant also realises that John Wilkes Booth in the Lincoln theatre drama resembles a city prosecutor who had vanished few weeks ago under suspicious conditions. He is also stunned by watching an exhibit in the crime section of the house of horrors that depicts the death by hanging of Matthew Burke, a case which the police department had been unable to solve. What adds up for the detective is that even Burke’s body had also gone missingfrom the morgue!
One day, Sue sneaks in after the closing hours and checks out the wax figure of Joan of Arc and discovers that it is Cathy’s body when she checks under the dummy’s wig. She sees not find wax pate but a real head with blonde hair. Her discovery naturally lands her in trouble and she finds herself bound beneath a vat of boiling wax by Henry Jared.Scott and the detective are meanwhile on the rescue trip.
The music score is provided by David Buttolph and creates the right support and effect for the plot and the 3D effectson the screen.