OHC Day 3 – Lionel Atwill (ooh ooh ooh) Double Feature

Here we are, day three of the October Horror Challenge! This day was much lighter, because of a full work day, and also because even though I’m trying to complete the challenge well before the end of the month due to a major writing project that’s due 1 November, I don’t exactly want to burn out, either. Turner Classic Movies just happened to come to the rescue when I needed them most, with Lionel Atwill night. Horray!

The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
Doctor X (1932)
Directed by Michael Curtiz

Two of the last two-color Technicolor films produced by a major studio and starring much of the same cast, these films go exceptionally well together, although I wish TCM had shown them in chronological order. Perhaps since Doctor X is the more shocking film, in terms of subject matter, they flipped the order. No matter. Both are as entertaining the second time around as they were the first. I watched both of these last year, or perhaps the year before that, for a wholly different, year-long challenge*. The odd thing is, I don’t recall watching Doctor X in color, and indeed, there are still black-and-white versions of the film floating around still. To be honest, I wish both had been in black-and-white, because the old red/green Technicolor is rather distracting. Oh, I suppose it works for The Mystery of the Wax Museum, lending that film a kind of vintage postcard look, but still. Ah, early color processes.

Is she live, or is she Memorex?

Both films share not only actors and opening credit music (no really, it’s the same), but there’s a kind of similarity in that wax or synthetic figures play a large role in the overall story, and in that the main villain disguises himself with synthetic flesh. While neither film is scary in the more traditional sense of the word, the content of each is quite disturbing once you lift the veil – in Mystery, the villain recreates his beloved wax museum with actual human victims; in Doctor X, the villain cannibalizes his victims to find a way to synthesize artificial flesh. That’s messed up, dude. With the latter film, it’s especially evident that these were the pre-Code days.

Anyhow, each film is fun on its own, but put together, they do make quite the double feature. The follow-up to Doctor XThe Return of Doctor X (1939) – is far more weird, and really has nothing to do with the first film, but it does feature Humphrey Bogart in the title role, looking ghoulishly handsome. And the remake of Mystery of the Wax MuseumHouse of Wax (1953), starring Vincent Price in the Lionel Atwill role – is notable for being an early 3D film, and egregiously plays up that fact. My favorite part is the wholly unnecessary scene where a man with a paddleball paddles his ball right in the audience’s face. Oh my!

*Jon Kitley’s Kryptic Army Challenge, which consists of watching two themed first time view horror films each month.

Tally so far:
8 FTVs

3 repeat views
11 total views


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