Waxworks (1924)


*. The omnibus, portmanteau, or anthology format (they all mean the same thing) seems particularly well suited for horror flicks. Think Dead of Night, those Vincent Price films (Tales of Terror, Twice-Told Tales), Creepshow, the Tales from the Crypt series, V/H/S, etc. I’m not sure why this is (the only other genre so drawn to the format is porn), but Waxworks is one of the earliest examples, if not the first of its kind.
*. It is, I think, a horror film. I’ve heard it described otherwise, as a romance, for example, or a historical costume drama. Of course it’s not that scary, but few horror films from this period still are (I can only think of Nosferatu). The intent, however, seems to have been to make a thriller. You do see a guy (supposedly) having his arm cut off, another being cruelly tortured to death, and in the finale the two romantic leads are stalked by a psycho killer.
*. The interior landscapes of German expressionism. I love them. What’s that design on the wall in the room where the groom is being tortured in the Ivan the Terrible segment? Is it a horse? Who came up with all this stuff?


*. Indeed, the sets and designs are so interior that the city streets in the Arabian story look like a scope of someone’s stomach. Expressionism has rarely been so grotesquely organic.
*. There seems to have been some confusion on someone’s part over the final bad guy. Is he Jack the Ripper or Spring-Heeled Jack? They were two different figures (the latter being a penny-dreadful legend).
*. The final episode feels abbreviated, almost like an afterthought. I wonder if they blew their budget on the first two parts.
*. This isn’t a favourite film of mine, but it is a fun bit of entertainment done with professionalism throughout. I don’t think anyone involved took it very seriously, but it still works.


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