For the third year running, the WORLD 3-D FILM EXPO has come to Hollywood, with 35 screenings of rare, classic 3-D prints spread out over two weeks at the resplendently restored and iconic Grauman’s Egyptian Theater.
This year, audiences are treated to a stellar lineup that includes HOUSE OF WAX, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, JAWS 3-D, WINGS OF THE HAWK, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, THE MAD MAGICIAN, ROBOT MONSTER, HONDO, and many more.
The event began this past weekend, and I had the pleasure of being in attendance for a couple of the screenings. It was my first experience with the Expo, and it’s all been fantastic thus far. Over the next week, I’ll be discussing my experiences at the event (I’m attending four days), the movies, and the special guests in attendance (like THE Julie Adams, Joe Alves, and Piper Laurie). In fact, I got a chance to interview star Julie Adams, a chat that we’ll post here on the site later on this week. So stay tuned.
The Expo celebrates classic 3-D films that were made in 3-D and meant to be seen in 3-D, many of which have been lost or are rare. Some screenings feature the only existing print of the movie in existence. You’re watching history unfold, frame by frame, and hoping the projector doesn’t gobble it up like your neighbor with his popcorn. You’re witnessing 3-D movies that were made when 3-D movies were cool, and not a distracting stunt by money grubbing studios. You’re reliving the Golden Age of 3-D.
The movie that opened the festival was a 60th anniversary screening of HONDO, a John Wayne western from John Farrow. But for me, the real draw was 1953′s HOUSE OF WAX, another 60th anniversary special.
Shockingly, I had never seen HOUSE OF WAX in any form before that night (and thankfully had avoided the Paris Hilton remake, which yes, exists). Suffice it to say, I was stoked. This was arguably the most famous 3-D film of all time, the quintessential Andre de Toth movie, with the massive bonus/cherry on top of the immortal Vincent Price in a leading role. It’s the movie Price might be most identified with by the general public, and cemented his niche in horror, as he became the go-to actor for 3-D films (SON OF SINBAD, DANGEROUS MISSION, and THE MAD MAGICIAN).
Those in attendance got to see it on its original print, in dual 35 mm format, complete with the intermission needed to switch over the projections. There’s something awesome about seeing a movie that’s 60 years old in the exact same way that it first aired.
Before the film began, we were given a 5 minute opener, with footage from a screening at the famed Vagabond Theater in 1990 that featured Andre de Toth and Vincent Price in attendance, as well as other Hollywood luminaries (the quality was blurry, but I could make out Leonard Maltin). The poor quality added to the feeling of being invited to someone’s family reunion, 20 years late.
Afterwards, we were treated to the way-too-long but fun 3-D preview that aired with the movie in 1953, with a car being made from scratch, and all the parts poking you in the eye, ad nausea. It’s one of those time capsules that are a treasure.
Leave it up to a guy who can’t see in 3-D (Andre de Toth was blind in one eye) to craft one of the most famous 3-D projects ever.
I’m always amazed when I see old movies that stand up so well, and are still as captivating as they likely were when they first appeared on the big screen. HOUSE OF WAX, like many other showcased at the Film Expo, is one such movie, thanks largely to Vincent Price’s timeless performance as the tortured and demented Professor Jarrad, and the litany of eerie wax figures to be found in Price’s haunted storefront.
Studios wanted 3-D gags when de Toth was making the film, and they got them in droves, highlighted by the wonderfully cheesy paddle ball sequence with Reggie Rymal, the opening fire, and Charles Bronson’s sculpted head. For collectors, witnessing the prop itself outside the theater, was a of the highlight of the night.
The film transcends mere 3-D trickery, thanks to Price and Phyllis Kirk’s Sue Allen. The opening scene, when Jarrad is forced to witness his beautiful creations go up in flame, is heartbreaking and creepy, as he clearly sees his masterpieces as living, breathing people. You don’t blame the guy for killing his former partner after barely surviving attempted murder himself, and having had to watch his children burn. From there, it takes a demented, twisted turn, while still remaining lighthearted and charming.
Awesomely, at intermission, WB Home Video gave away tickets for free copies of the forthcoming 3-D Blu-Ray collection for HOUSE OF WAX. That is coming October 1st, and if you’re like me, and didn’t get it for free, you can order it here.
After the film, I was energized and inspired, like I am with any great movie, and as I was waiting for my ride, considered a trip to the tourist trap that is the wax museum across the street… then thought better of it.