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Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)


No Reviews Yet...

Release Date: Feb 17, 1933 Wide



liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 638

My Rating

Movie Info

The Mystery of the Wax Museum begins in London in the 1920s. Lionel Atwill plays Ivan Igor, a brilliant sculptor who manages a wax museum. Regarding his historical creations as his friends, Igor refuses the entreaties of his business partner, Joe Worth (Edwin Maxwell), to turn his labor-of-love museum into a more profitable "house of horror." Worth responds by setting fire to the museum, hoping to collect the insurance; as Igor looks on in horror, his effigies of Marie Antoinette, Queen


Horror, Mystery & Suspense, Classics

MGM Home Entertainment



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All Critics (14) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (8) | Rotten (1) | DVD (3)

This benefits from Anton Grot's excellent set design but suffers from the decision to make the central character an annoying reporter (Glenda Farrell) who's as much of a hindrance as she is a help to the police.

October 5, 2013 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

A fun weirdo classic pulp horror tale from the 1930s.

October 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Has its share of creeps, but noteworthy for its early 2-strip Technicolor.

February 22, 2008

...the movie's quick-paced dialogue makes it a combination "Front Page" and "Frankenstein," representing two genres picking up steam in the early thirties.

August 8, 2003 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Mystery of the Wax Museum is not without its drawing cards, but it's nowhere near as fun as its eventual remake.

August 4, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

A swell mix of comedy and creepiness

April 30, 2003
Kalamazoo Gazette

A true classic of horror.

August 7, 2002 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for Mystery of the Wax Museum

A very cool movie, I especially love Atwill, he's a favourite of mine, and he does a great job in this movie. The story is really engaging, the special effects are awesome, there are some funny moments, and the ending was interesting too. I just wish that the wax figures could have been creepier like they are in real life. Overall I really liked this movie, though, and I highly recommend it.
September 24, 2011

Super Reviewer

a landmark mystery/horror made by warner brothers, this was later remade (twice) as house of wax. much as i love vincent price, i think this one is superior altho it has a healthy dose of comedy too. after being disfigured in a fire at his london museum, lionel atwill moves to new york and tries to recreate his masterpieces in wax. when bodies start vanishing from the morgue, intrepid reporter glenda farrell is on the case. also starring fay wray as farrell's rommate, who looks a little too much like marie antoinette...this was the last picture from a major studio in the early two color technicolor process
October 29, 2009
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer


There is one fatal flaw to "Mystery of the Wax Museum". It does not have the twist that it wants to have. Thanks to the existence of plot synopses and the like, we already know what the big reveal is going to be. That's not to say that the film has a bad ending, but it is underwhelming compared to the fear that we are intended to experience.

Otherwise, the movie still makes for a pretty solid, creepy time. It is thoroughly entertaining. It is engaging. And while it's not really scary, it has a heck of an atmosphere, and that's more than enough. It's probably not as good as its first remake, "House of Wax", but it's still worth seeing just for what it's got; and believe me, it's got plenty. I liked how it looked, how it felt, and pretty much everything else. It was well-acted, somewhat well-written, and with only that one little-big flaw keeping it from absolute greatness.

Ivan Igor, the owner and operator of a wax museum (which he sculpts for), loses his creations to a fire, the source of which was his greedy business partner; whose reason for burning the place was to use the insurance money for himself. Igor was left burn and disfigured both internally and externally after the incident, but it's clear that he's not ready to give up on life.

Twelve years after the destructive fire, Igor re-opens a NEW Wax Museum for the entertainment and admiration of those who like his hard work. But will the wax make a Marie Antoinette? Will the man's "children" live once again? The answers to each question are predictably answered in the end, but I guess it's worth sticking around.

Meanwhile, a reporter-woman investigates the disappearance and possible suicide of a local model. She is given the possibility that maybe it was murder, so she goes as deep as she possibly can with the case. The body is stolen from the morgue in which it resided, which adds to the mystery.

The story is simple in an endearing sense. But what makes the movie work, as I said, is the fact that it redeems itself through atmosphere. It was tense, undeniably creepy, and man, I liked it quite a bit for that. The production is lush, colorful, and the cinematography is at least fairly interesting. I also liked how the film made time for humor and comic relief, which never really consists of stuff that I laughed at, but it made the experience a better one than it needed to be. I enjoyed myself, as much as I possibly could, whilst watching it. And I'm glad I sat through it.

There are better horror movies. There are worse horror movies. I don't recommend this one, per se, but "Mystery of the Wax Museum" is definitely a good thriller if not a good horror movie. It works, as a chiller and a thriller; but I don't know about something that's actually scary. But what is "scary"? I mean, come on; you could do worse. I didn't jump, I didn't cringe, but the film definitely has a lot going for it, and I liked what I saw.

I also would like to take some time to acknowledge the performance of Lionel Atwill, who plays Igor. He is very good in this role. He's one of the finer attractions, of the entire product. And while the film may be a tough sell with this generation of horror fans, you don't need to be an old-timer to appreciate such fine acting. All-in-all, I'd tell you to see this movie only if you like the genre, and if you're willing to accept a flawed ending. I'm eager to watch "House of Wax" now; and I'm hoping that it will be better; because better is...well, better.
July 22, 2011
Ryan M
Ryan Marshall

Super Reviewer

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