“Nightmare in Wax” (1969)
Studio: Crown International Pictures
Starring: Cameron Mitchell, Anne Helm, Scott Brady, Berry Kroeger
Directed by: Bud Townsend
Running Time: 94 min.
Synopsis: A former actor who runs a wax museum gets revenge on his old acting friends and the studio head that deformed him.
Another bad movie from the people at Crown International, which is the company that made many horror, action, and comedy films in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Nightmare in Wax is one of those films that could have been so good. It had all the right elements to make it a great horror film, but it failed to do so. Any film that takes place in a wax museum and features horror vet Cameron Mitchell has got to be good or at least decent. This flick wasn’t.
The film is about Vincent (Mitchell), a former actor turned wax museum curator who vows revenge on his old acting buddies and the company he use to work for. Years ago he was going to marry an actress, Marie (Anne Helm), but she had to break it off with the head of the studio, Max Black (Berry Kroeger). Max is furious with their announcement to be married and during an argument between Max and Vincent, Max throws a drink in the face of Vincent as he was lighting his cigarette. This causes his face to catch fire. Vincent quickly puts out the fire by jumping in a pool, but it’s too late for his face. The damage is already done and he is scarred for life.
One thing about this scene is that it’s a little farfetched. The flame wasn’t that large for his whole head to catch fire and there wasn’t even that much liquor in the glass. I can see a can a hair spray doing the job though. Also, Vincent isn’t scarred much at all. He has a few patches on his face that you can hardly see and the only worse thing about it is he lost sight in one of his eyes and he has to wear a patch for the rest of the movie.
Anyways, the rest of the film has Vincent kidnapping actors and ejecting a serum into their bodies making them mindless zombies that he controls. He has them as exhibits in his wax museum and tells people they’re just waxed figures of the missing actors. He then tries to get back at the man who disfigured him, Max, and also tries to make his ex-girlfriend, Marie, a part of his wax exhibit as one of his zombies.
What I didn’t like about the film was that nothing really happened to make the story interesting. Most of it had Mitchell whining about getting his revenge. I believe only one person was murdered throughout the film. The film had an all right opening, but after that it just dragged on and on. The acting was decent, but not great. The film also had a confusing ending, which I won’t give away, but I’ll just tell you that it was very lame.
The film did have great atmosphere to it in the creepy wax museum. They were some eerie shots of the wax figures, but like I mentioned before, they had all the great elements to make a scary horror film and they failed. With a cool creepy wax museum like they had you’re expecting to see Vincent Price come out of the shadows, but instead you get Cameron Mitchell. Don’t get me wrong, I like Mitchell’s work. For me, his best role is in The Toolbox Murders. Mitchell always plays these disturbed messed up characters that you never know what they’re thinking and what they’re going to do. Two chase scenes in the film, with one having Mitchell chasing an actress around the museum and the other has Mitchell hiding from the cops down by a waterfront are well done, but that’s about it.
Nightmare in Wax is one of those films that you wonder what it could have been if it actually had a good story and it was directed better. With many key horror elements they had, I was surprised that the movie was that bad. Bud Townsend who made his directorial with this film only made a few other films after that such as, Terror House, Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy, and two other Crown International pictures, Coach and the God awful Beach Girls. Nightmare in Wax wasn’t one of his best works.