The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Mystery of the Wax Museum Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

The late Fay Wray is showcased here in this pre-'King Kong' horror movie. as a potential victim of a madman who makes exhibits out of his victims.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Horror, Mystery & Suspense, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Carl Erickson, Don Mullaly
In Theaters:
MGM Home Entertainment


Lionel Atwill
as Ivan Igor
Fay Wray
as Charlotte Duncan
Glenda Farrell
as Florence Dempsey
Gavin Gordon
as Harold Winton
Edwin Maxwell
as Joe Worth
Holmes Herbert
as Dr. Rasmussen
Allen Vincent
as Ralph Burton
DeWitt Jennings
as Captain of Police
Claude King
as Mr. Galatalin
Bull Anderson
as the Janitor
Pat O'Malley
as Plainclothesman
Frank Darien
as Autopsy Surgeon (unc...
William B. Davidson
as Detective (uncredite...
James Donlan
as Morgue Attendant (un...
Perry Ivins
as Copy Editor (uncredi...
Edward Keane
as Doctor (uncredited)
Robert E. O'Connor
as Joe the Cop (uncredi...
Lon Poff
as Thin Man (uncredited...
Guy Usher
as Detective (uncredite...
Robert E. Homans
as Desk Sergeant (uncre...
Thomas Jackson
as Detective
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Mystery of the Wax Museum

Critic Reviews for The Mystery of the Wax Museum

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (4)

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

One of the punchiest, most watchable '30s horror films made anywhere outside of Universal.

Full Review… | October 25, 2014
Antagony & Ecstasy

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.

Full Review… | October 5, 2013
Creative Loafing

Audience Reviews for The 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.

Aj V

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

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.

Ryan M
Ryan Marshall

Super Reviewer

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