Waxworks (1924)

Directed by Paul Leni in 1924, WAXWORKS is a silent film from the German Expressionist movement that predates MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM by nearly a decade. In it, a writer is commissioned to create a series of exciting tales about the exhibits in a local wax museum. Each story that the writer begins transports both he and his assistant into the world of the characters he has created. WAXWORKS is one of the most technically-accomplished films of its era, with all of the elaborate costuming, exotic sets, and dramatic physical performances that the great Expressionists were known for. Leni introduces a number of intricate new shots taken through prisms and mirrors, and uses overlays during the nightmarish finale to make the characters appear as if they are ghosts wandering through an ethereal dreamscape. The chase sequence that occurs after the Caliph is presumed dead displays and incredible design, which recalls the twisted staircases of M.C. Escher. WAXWORKS is a fun and imaginative fantasy adventure with thrilling elements of horror that stands beside the works of Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau in creativity and originality.

Rating: 9/10.

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  1. w00t!! I was afraid I was going to be the only person that had seen this one, but this is a great little film, perfect companion piece to Caligari!

  2. One of the great unsung masterpieces of German expressionism. Its descent into semi-obscurity is mystifying to me. This is one of the earliest examples of the anthology film, with a bridging narrative to rival that of 'Dead of Night'. This deserves greater prominence because the director made the move to Hollywood and films such as the original 1927 version of 'Cat and the Canary' and 1928's 'The Man Who Laughs' on the strength of this film.

  3. I am just glad to have found it through the Kino Expressionist box set it here in R1. It was lumped together with The Golem, Nosferatu, and Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and rightfully so. A masterwork of German Expressionism, loved it Shaun!