Blu-ray Review: Wax Mask (1997)

October 11, 2019

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Paris: the early 1900’s: As a new age begins, a wax museum, operated by Boris Volkoff (Robert Hossein) and his strange assistants, is set to open and all of the city seems to be balls deep into that prospect. Along with that, there have been a rash of disappearances, mainly involving children and prostitutes. Swept up in the mix is young fashion designer Sonia (Romina Mondello), who’s mother was murdered twelve years prior. I wonder if there is a connection?

As this fright flick contains zero mystery for the audience (it’s based on Gaston Leroux’s The Waxwork Museum which has been the basis of roughly eleven-billionty films, most famously as House of Wax starring Vincent Price in 1953), we know Volkoff is up to no good… and holy hell is he ever, as his wax creations are made of living victims and arcane science! Before long ol’ Sonia, along with her bland-as-shit pal Andrea (Serventi Longhi), are deep into the horror biz and must attempt to stop the murderous machinations of the madman!

Let’s clear something up before we get to the ghoulish goodies on display in Wax Mask; narrative is not this film’s chief concern. The screenplay was slapped together by Italian genre-maestros Dario Argento, and Lucio Fulci (who was also slated to direct before he caught a case of the deads… the gig ultimately went to F/X wiz Sergio Stivaletti), along with Daniele Stroppa; and it manages to tell an at times logic defying, yet entertaining yarn, but the strength of this flick lie in the visuals (minus the rather fart CG work that was inevitable in a film made in the mid to late ’90s).

Loaded with Gothic ambience, splashes of lurid color, lush period costuming, and best of all; impressive (and plentiful) practical gore, the entire affair comes across like a more extreme Hammer film (minus the caliber of acting one would find in those pictures… with one exception discussed in a bit). Also of note is the laboratory set where viscous Volkoff gets his “no-good” on; this is a location ripped from the pages of a horror comic book and it’s is superbly realized and downright fun to behold! Speaking of fun; I had an absolute fuckin’ blast with the climax to this one cats n’ creeps… I won’t spoil what goes down, but it’s so delightfully ludicrous that I had a ghoulish grin plastered on my puss a monstrous mile-wide!

Adding to the positives is the performance of Hossein as Volkoff; this dude actually manages to play it low-key and menacing, rather than go over-the-top as you’d imagine… no small feat when playing a character that turns hookers into wax displays and possesses a friggin’ mechanical hand… I also must pay mention to Gabriella Giorgelli who provides a solid turn as blind Aunt Francesca.

As for beastly bonuses on this Blu-ray release from Severin, they are plentiful indeed! First up we get an audio commentary featuring Sergio Stivaletti and his son Michelangelo that features an engaging chat that takes us through the film’s production with focus being given to the film’s sets and effects, followed by a collection of interviews with Italian horror luminaries about their relationships with Fulci (Argento in particular doesn’t hold back… believe me, this isn’t a puff piece by any means), as well as two interview collections with the filmmakers behind Wax Mask covering the production in greater detail.

There are also a selection of solo interviews on hand (that get even more granular as to how the film was made) as well including chats with Stivaletti, Composer Maurizio Abeni, Argento (along with Stivaletti and Producer Giuseppe Colombo), and film writer Alan Jones (who was on set, and provides a nice anecdotal compliment to the material present).

Also included are archival features such as a behind-the-scenes featurette, a look at the film’s special effects, and footage of Argento on set.

If you are looking for a gore-splashed, period piece fright flick sprinkled with a hefty dose of “why the fuck not?” then I urge you to give Wax Mask a ghoulish go… especially with this absolutely bonus packed release!




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