Monday, October 19, 2009

31 Days of Halloween - Day 19 - Movie 2

"Chamber of Horrors" (1966) features a trio of crime solving, amateur detectives who also run a House of Wax featuring display after display of unusual murders. These exhibits are often so up to date that some of the crimes had just happened only the day before. These sleuths are currently assisting the police in apprehending Jason Cravette (Patrick O'Neal) a murderer once apprehended, but who escaped execution by chopping off his own hand. Now he has a series of murderous devices which he can screw into the cap covering his stump. He uses these to murder and butcher the men responsible for convicting him, building a corpse out pieces he takes as souvenirs.

This movie starts off with a bang with Cravette ordering a priest at gunpoint to marry him to a corspe. O'Neal turns Cravette into a great villain, making him soft spoken, polite, and completely sinister. Wilfred Hyde-White, Cesare Danova and José René Ruiz (billed as "Tun Tun") are very likeable as the amateur sleuths/wax museum artisans. The rest of the cast is engaging. The gimmick for the villain is also clever, and some of teh wax museum display pieces, like the one shown above, are disturbing.

With so much going for it, surprisingly the movie as a whole felt a bit flat to me. All the wonderful parts did not add up to successful whole. The movie also felt like it was a first outing for a possible franchise. Supporting characters are given implied relationships to the main characters and suggested intriguing back stories, suggesting more was planned for this trio of investigators. The movie also ends with a lead in to another bizarre crime for them to solve. Doing a little digging, it turns out that this was in fact a pilot for a television series based on "The House of Wax." The pilot was deemed too grisly for tv and was released theatrically instead. It's too bad, as this would probably have made an interesting series in the mold of "Wild, Wild, West."

The theatrical version (also present on the DVD) includes a William Castle worthy gimmick; the Fear Flasher! and Horror Horn! a noisy flashing red screen meant to warn you of an impending gruesome moment. If you are brave enough to watch you will see the camera pan away, or the scene cut from Cravette's murder weapons to something else entirely, without the wepon and victim ever coming into contact on screen.

"Chamber of Horrors" is worth watching, but ends up not being entirely satisfying.

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