Jason’s review published on Letterboxd:
Pre-Casablanca Michael Curtiz directed this surprisingly funny horror film that was later remade as House of Wax with Vincent Price in the 50s (and again with Paris Hilton in the 2000s). Don't get me wrong, it has elements that would have been terrifying for their day, but there is a lot of humour.
Lionel Atwill plays Ivan Igor, the owner of a wax museum which gets burned down by his partner for insurance purposes and he is left for dead. Fast forward to 12 years later and he has rebuilt his wax museum, although this time he may not be using wax for his figures. Glenda Farrell plays Florence, a motor mouth reporter in the mould of Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday who provides a lot of the comedic elements in her back and forths with her boss as she suspects some sinister happenings at the wax museum. Also featured is Fay Wray as Florence's sister, and the girlfriend of Ralph who works as Igor's assistant at the museum. 1933 was a big year for her as King Kong also came out then.
There are some very cool makeup effects in the film. The shot of the wax figures melting at the beginning of the film were undeniably creepy and set the scene for the weirdness to come. There is an odd roughness to the film though, and I'm not sure if it was just the print I was watching or not. The editing is abrupt at times and one particular scene cut off early. It's also worth mentioning too that the film is in colour, which was not particularly common for the time. Of course it looks dated, and it might have been creepier looking in black & white, but considering that it is now 83 years old it's pretty solid.