Friday, October 25, 2013

House of Wax (1953)

WHO: André de Toth directed this.

WHAT: There's Raoul Walsh, who directed Gun Fury. There's John Ford, who directed (uncredited) the final scenes of Hondo when John Farrow was contractually forced to give up his director's chair to go make another picture. There's even the little-remembered Herbert L. Strock, who directed the science fiction picture Gog. But of all the one-eyed filmmakers of the 1950s, the one most famous for making a 3D picture is André de Toth. This is probably because he was first out the gate; before House of Wax no major studio had released a color 3D picture, and the horror film became an immediate sensation. De Toth secured his legacy as a stereoscopy specialist by following House of Wax up with two 3D Westerns starring Randolph Scott, 1953's  The Stranger Wore A Gun and 1954's The Bounty Hunter, although the latter was filmed but never shown in 3D as by the time of its release the 3D craze was already over- to lie dormant for decades.

WHERE/WHEN: 5 screenings: Tonight, Sunday and Monday at 6:30 PM, and tomorrow and Sunday at 2:15 PM, all at the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.

WHY: A big week for special screenings at the Rafael; in addition to these five shows there's also a 30th anniversary screening of the epic astronaut drama The Right Stuff with director Philip Kaufman tomorrow night at 7:00. Both showings seem timed perfectly with the popularity of current 3D astronaut movie Gravity. The rest of Halloween week at the Rafael is filled out by a Tuesday tribute to television horror hosts and two showings of F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu with a recording of Hans Erdmann's original 1922 score for the film on Wednesday and Thursday. In addition, seven screenings of the so-called "final cut" of director Robin Hardy's 1973 cult film The Wicker Man occur between tonight and Thursday. Some good comments about the latter item were made by my friend David Robson.

All of the above are digital screenings, but the Rafael plans to flex its capability to screen 35mm prints at least a couple more times before the year is out, according to the latest calendar (pdf). On November 10th local filmmaker Rob Nilsson brings a new 35mm print of his ultra-naturalistic 1979 Cannes-prize winning film Northern Lights to the Rafael November 10th (shortly after showing it at the Pacific Film Archive). And on December 12, Randy Haberkamp returns for an annual visit to Marin to screen Lois Weber's astonishing Suspense, D.W. Griffith's The Mothering Heart, and other films and excerpts from "The Films of 1913" with live music from pianist Michael Mortilla. At least some of the films will screen via a vintage 1909 hand-cranked 35mm film projector.

House of Wax was a remake of the 1933 film Mystery of the Wax Museum, itself influenced by the 1924 German film Waxworks, which screens tomorrow at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. If San Rafael or Niles are to far-afield for your Halloween screening excursions, the Roxie is hosting a Saturday night "Spooktacular Slumber Party" but has not revealed any details of what it will be showing. My curiosity is piqued.

HOW: House of Wax will screen using modern digital 3D technology; it would be nice to see it in its original dual-35mm-projector version but Frisco Bay theatres haven't screened prints this way in years (the Castro in 2006 and the Stanford back in 2000) and there's no sign they'll start again anytime soon.

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