Starring Oscar Homolka, Martin Kosleck, Antoinette Bower.
Written by Robert Bloch, based on his short story.
Directed by Herschel Daugherty.
When a young lady is murdered under peculiar circumstances, the police are drawn to the wax museum of Pierre Jacquelin (Homolka). Could the killer be a wax figure brought to life by sorcery or just a jealous suitor?
JS: I'm a sucker for wax museum movies, so I was anticipating a slam-dunk Thriller classic in "Waxworks." I wish I could say my disappointment was merely from having set my expectations too high, but aside from a few excellent visual bits, this episode was more lifeless than most of Jacquelin's figures.
PE: Nice opening, slow middle, great final shot. I think that sums it up.
JS: Well said. On the bright side, or I guess I should say on the moody, shadowy side, the shots in the waxworks are beautifully lit, creepy, and effective. Unfortunately we then cut to brightly lit, boring morgue and police station stages, where it feels like we spend the bulk of the episode.
PE: So let me get this straight (SPOILER ALERT): Homolka dresses up like his wax dummies when he needs to kill. Why does he bother disguising himself? To fool the victim? Illogical. And if he can bring his wax wife to life, why not the rest of the dummies? Let them do his killing for him.
JS: Funny how in "The Weird Tailor" the manikin looked too fake, and here, certain wax figures looked too real. When the Sergeant is interrogating Annette (which was a pretty amusing banter leading up to their 'date'), don't you think he'd investigate the figure that looked a little too real more closely? It's been awhile since they've made an appearance in an episode, so I had forgotten about the investigatory techniques of Thriller Police Squad.
PE: On the plus side, Kosleck, Homolka, and Bower are all solid. Bower's a beauty to contend with in the final voting of Miss Thriller.
JS: Sorry Pete, Bower won't even make the preliminary ballot (unless we take into consideration the final shot - and note that in the menu screen they flip the image, so as not to ruin any surprises in the episode). The girl who gets the hatchet (June Kenney) stands a better chance of making the Thriller babe list.
PE: Not one of the better Bloch adaptations. Surprising too, as it's got all the elements: the creepy waxworks, some gen-u-wine genre stars (Homolka, Kosleck, and Ron Ely), and the requisite Thriller shadows. But then there's a deadly snail's pace, the constant return to police headquarters, and that "I know it wasn't you, Jaquelin, for there is the bench with all your disguises" reveal, complete with... the bench with all the disguises shot. Jaquelin can dress up like a wax dummy, murder a cop, and change back into a mild-mannered curator in the time it takes to forge a Robertson Moffat masterpiece.
JS: On top of all that, what should have been a straight-up crime show filled with horrific imagery has a supernatural twist shoehorned in that frankly makes no sense whatsoever.
PE: The police in this episode have a high tolerance for their colleagues' murders. Lt. Bailey (Booth Colman, who has a certain way with the beautiful women) is cold on a slab and his partners, Sgt. Dane (Alan Baxter) and Lt. Hudson (a wooden Ely), don't seem to notice. There was a full house in the morgue so maybe they hadn't gotten the memo yet. Hudson is more intent on chatting up Annette (Bower) than finding the killer. Then, at the climax, when Hudson buys the farm, Dane shows very little interest.
JS: I did laugh when Detective Tarzan (Ely) busts down the door, saying, "It's been ten years since I played football, but let's see what I remember." And I still remember Booth Colman from the Planet of the Apes TV show. Hey, how about it - are you up for An Ape A Day blog when we're done here? (I'm selling the TV when we're done here. -PE)
PE: "Waxworks" originally appeared in the January 1939 issue of Weird Tales. When Bloch wrote his teleplay for Thriller, he jettisoned most of the elements of the original story, save the waxworks itself and the fiery climax. In the WT version, a Frenchman named Bertrand becomes obsessed with the wax figure of Salome in a Chamber of Horrors. He notices that the head of John the Baptist on Salome's silver tray is constantly changing. When he confronts the proprietor, he learns that Salome is actually the man's wife, an executed murderess, and the crazed waxman is offing his lovestruck customers (not much future for his business, I'm afraid). The two men have a tussle and Salome is burned to a bubbling puddle, revealing the skeleton underneath. When Bloch incorporated "Waxworks" into his screenplay for The House That Dripped Blood in 1971, he returned to the original storyline. Just as in "The Weird Tailor," his main protagonist is played by Peter Cushing.