The Man with Wax Faces

The Man with Wax Faces ★★★

2nd Maurice Tourneur (after Le Main du Diable)

I'm not in any way qualified to talk about the various developments of silent cinema that occurred from the 1890s up to the 1920s, where arguably the mechanics of film were solidified. That's something you can read about in Tom Gunning, or James Carrigy on here (letterboxd.com/jcarrigy/). My knowledge is in the field of horror cinema, and The Man with Wax Faces is a very interesting early development in the genre. It's not necessarily the most horrific or thrilling little film, but it has some really good moments of the uncanny at the end. The plot is a classic Grand Guignol- friend bets other friend that he can't spend the night in a wax museum. Friend tries it, goes a bit mad and stabs friend one. The highlight of the film is the deranged man at the end of his wits, laughing hysterically over the body of his friend as other people look on in horror. The stagey acting (a deliberate holdover from the fact it was a stage show originally) does really work in evoking a sense of tortured madness, and the shadow-play at the end of the film is very effective too. It does take some time to build up to this insanity, and closeups were a thing at this point so it would have been nice to see some more on various aspects of the waxworks. However, the end is a suitably grisly and creepy payoff.

Maurice Tourneur in Order:

1. Le Main du Diable
2. The Man with Wax Faces

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