Mystery of the Wax Museum

Mystery of the Wax Museum ★★★★

As much as I love Fay Wray and her legendary lungs of scream, this is Glenda Farrell's picture. She's fabulous as the hard-bitten, wisecrackin' reporter and has literally all the best lines - "You can go to some nice, warm place - and I don't mean California!"; "I've been in love so many times, my heart's calloused"; "You raise the kids, I'll raise the roof. I'd rather die of an arthritic heart from shaking cocktails and daiquiris than expire in a pan of dirty dishwater". Glenda's scenes with Frank McHugh have a fantastic fizz that positively bellows "1930s WARNER BROS".

This is wonderful mish-mash of two genres - the horror movie (hey folks, just watch those wax faces melt!) and the newspaper movie (the quintessential early 30s genre). It should feel disjointed but for me it works - the cynicism of the newspaper office counterbalances the slightly ridiculous horror shenanigans. There are so many  characters jostling for attention that Lionel Atwill feels like a supporting player in his own picture, an oversight that Vincent Price would most definitely rectify in the remake House of Wax.

Much of it is silly (London in the 1921 prologue has characters still riding horse-drawn hansom cabs as if they were Sherlock Holmes) but moves at quite a zip that doesn't allow much time to ponder the implausibilities. Warners should have made more horrors to judge by this offering, and it boasts the weirdest off-centre sign-out of any 30s horror movie.

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