“Before this terrible thing happened to me, I made a very beautiful statue… And my child, you are that figure, come to life!”
A plucky reporter (Glenda Farrell) discovers that a mad artist (Lionel Atwill) has been using corpses as the models for his wax sculptures — and that his next victim is her beautiful roommate (Fay Wray).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Amateur Sleuths
- Disfigured Faces
- Fay Wray Films
- Lionel Atwill Films
- Mad Doctors and Scientists
- Michael Curtiz Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary is less than impressed by this once-lost early horror film, lamenting that it has “several dull stretches, unfunny comedy, and uninteresting subplots”. While there’s some truth to this assessment, I think it’s unduly harsh; and unlike Peary, I find this film to be superior to its 1953 remake, the 3-D extravaganza House of Wax. In Mystery‘s lead role, Glenda Farrell is infinitely more interesting than House of Wax‘s insipid Phyllis Kirk, who doesn’t have much to do other than look wide-eyed and worried. Farrell, on the other hand, is a go-getting journalist with genuine spunk and, as noted by DVD Savant, “pre-code attitude”; her wisecracking banter with editor Frank McHugh is a delight. Atwill is also wonderful — he approaches his role differently than Vincent Price, but just as effectively. Perhaps most memorable, however, is the use of muted, two-tone Technicolor hues, which (Savant again), “give the film the look of a faded vintage magazine”. This, along with the expressionistic sets, make the film a visual treat.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
Yes, simply for its historical notoriety.