When a horror movie takes place in a wax museum, one can almost guess as to what is going to happen. As for Terror in the Wax Museum released in 1973, what most might surmise does indeed take place and it begins with a bit of a twist at first until it falls into familiar territory.
One of the more interesting facets of the film is that it feels like it was made thirty years previous, having that old-fashioned horror feel to it and that is not a bad thing. It also features a cast that could have starred in it thirty years past with James Mason, Elsa Lanchester, John Carradine and Broderick Crawford among them. That is not necessarily a bad thing but where the film seemed to be going during the first half, turned into something else during the second and that is perhaps where it all got away from director Georg Fenady. Again, it was not all that disappointing as it was expected – one went into this film expecting it, but the makers of this picture could have done something a little different, expanding on the visions of the museum’s owner as played by Carradine and perhaps making him a real madman and the villain of the piece, of which he was ultimately proved not to be, what with having been killed.
The icing on the cake and what gives the film even more of a vintage flavour is Karkov, a hunchback servant who works at the museum, disfigured and slightly less than intelligent who somehow never really gets the blame for the murders that happen there. That at least was slightly refreshing as people always blame the ugly, the monsters for the evil that happens. Suffice it to say, Karkov survives and the murderer most believe, is Jack the Ripper, having returned after a decade of silence to begin again right where he left off. Or is it? Despite there being a few bodies that drop throughout the feature, there is very little action to move it along at anything one might call a brisk pace, which might have scared off the audience when it was released. Even now, fifty years later, it tends to move a little slowly, though if one enjoys the actors enough, who do a good job of what they are given and carry the material more than anything else, some members of the audience might think it fun enough to stick with it.
Also starring Louis Haward, Maurice Evans and Patric Knowles, the movie does not lack for big names but it does in story which is a bit of a shame. There is some good atmosphere present and a fair buildup of suspense at times but horror, at this point in time, had moved beyond this style so to speak and while this was a decent throwback to those times gone by, Terror in the Wax Museum definitely would have performed better had it been released then.
3 out of 5