Search - Waxworks on DVD

Actors: Emil Jannings, Conrad Veidt, Werner Krauss, William Dieterle, Olga Belajeff
Directors: Leo Birinsky, Paul Leni
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
NR     2002     1hr 23min

An idealistic poet is hired to write stories about the chamber of horrors 3 most notorious figures: jack the ripper ivan the terrible & haroun al-raschid. But as the uncanny tales flow from the poets pen he finds himself e...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Emil Jannings, Conrad Veidt, Werner Krauss, William Dieterle, Olga Belajeff
Directors: Leo Birinsky, Paul Leni
Creators: Helmar Lerski, Leo Birinsky, Paul Leni, Alexander Kwartiroff, Hans Brennert, Henrik Galeen
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Silent Films, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Studio: Kino Video
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 09/24/2002
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 1hr 23min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 13
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: Japanese

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Movie Reviews

German Horror Classic Debuts On DVD.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 09/30/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Paul Leni's WAXWORKS has taken its own sweet time in coming before the public in presentable form. This of course is not the film's fault. Now that it is here as part of a quartet of restored German Horror Classics, there is cause for much rejoicing. As is often the case with most anthology films the parts are greater than the whole. There are three episodes involving figures in a wax museum which are linked by the framing story of a writer writing about them. Are they scary? No, but at least one of them (IVAN THE TERRIBLE with Conrad Veidt) is genuinely disturbing while another (SPRING HEELED JACK with Werner Krauss) boasts the most expressionistic sets since CABINET OF DR CALIGARI (also in this set of four new releases from Kino International).

The longest sequence features Emil Jannings in an Arabian Nights setting which is more comic in tone and surprisingly erotic thanks to Olga Belajeff who plays the romantic lead in all three stories. The male lead is William Dieterle who plays the writer. He would give up acting and become a major director in Hollywood during the 30's and 40's. This is the first time this film has ever looked this good. It was restored from two differnt prints and has been properly tinted. The accompanying piano score is effective especially in the IVAN sequence.

WAXWORKS is not a great film but it is an important one. It is one of the first horror anthology films and boasts spectacular set designs for the three stories. While it won't scare you, it will entertain you and that is ultimately what it is all about. As mentioned earlier this is part of a quartet of silent German horror films newly restored and released on DVD. It can be purchased seperately but if you enjoy these type of films then spring for the whole package. In addition to NOSFERATU and CABINET OF DR CALIGARI, there is a striking new restoration of THE GOLEM."
Paul Leni's Seldom-Seen Homage to Caligari
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 04/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"In the wake of World War I, German film was sharply influenced by expressionism, an arts movement which is less concerned with imitating reality than in using design to reflect psychology and emotion. THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI brought the style to the screen in 1919, and throughout the 1920s many directors would create projects under its influence.

German director Paul Leni (1885-1929) was one such--and although he is best recalled for his later Hollywood films, most notably the stylish THE CAT AND THE CANARY, the 1924 German WAXWORKS shows him very near the peak of gifts. It is also very clearly an homage of sorts to THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI; not only would Leni cast two of that film's actors in major roles, he drew from the film's style for both sets and cinematography.

WAXWORKS is an "anthology" film, a collection of stories bound together by a running thread. A young writer (William Dieterle) is employed by a carnival sideshow wax museum to write stories about several of their figures: a Baghdad Caliph, Ivan the Terrible, and Spring Heeled Jack. As he writes, the film segues into the story the writer invents.

The longest of the three stories concerns Harun al Raschid, a Caliph of Baghdad who falls in love with a baker's wife--and then seeks to take her for his own. Featuring the celebrated Emil Jannings as the Caliph, the episode is a mixture of light comedy and Arabian Nights fantasy, particularly noted for the greatly stylized sets that recall the earlier CALIGARI and THE GOLEM to somewhat softer effect. It also offers the very rare opportunity to see Jannings, famed for his dramatic roles, in comic mode, and he proves equally adept with this bit of fluff as with his more "serious" work.

The second episode is a fantasy suggested by Russian ruler Ivan the Terrible, who delights in poisoning prisoners but finds himself fearful of his highly gifted poison-mixer. Ivan is played by Conrad Veidt, who appeared as the murderous Cesare in CALIGARI; one of Germany's most popular actors of the silent screen, Veidt was also noted for his gift at playing insanity, and his Ivan is the very incarnation of madness. As in the earlier episode, the sets are also fantastic, although perhaps not so obviously so.

Fine though the first two sequences are, it is really the last that is most famous, and justly so. Here Leni sets the story against the carnival itself and presents it in grotesque, dreamlike images that very deliberately recall CALIGARI; moreover, he casts actor Werner Krauss, who played Caligari himself, as a menacing killer who slowly stalks his terrified victims. The killer is referred to as both Spring Heeled Jack and Jack the Ripper; clearly, however, he is more akin to the latter. The cinematography in this sequence is particularly fine, using multiple exposures in a way that foreshadows Leni's stylish THE CAT AND THE CANARY.

In an overall sense, WAXWORKS is quite fine, and were it not for the fact the final sequence is so short I would easily give it a full five stars. The Kino DVD also offers a very good transfer, complete with original tinting; unfortunately, however, it offers no bonus material except a Leni short--an unexpected but mildly interesting "filmed crossword puzzle." Although some may find the anthology nature of the film a bit off-putting, silent fans will likely love WAXWORKS from start to finish.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
In Memory of Bob Zeidler, Amazon Reviewer
Greatly Missed and Not Forgotten"
A worthy excursion into German Expressionism
KNO2skull | United States | 05/06/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Kino does a beautiful presentation of this entry into German Expressionism on film. The plot essentially includes a writer telling stories about figures in a carnival waxworks display. The writer is smitten with the daughter of the waxworks owner, as a sideline. These are fairly incidental to the trilogy of stories that intertwine.
First, Haroun Al-Raschid is played by Emil Jannings. This story is fairly humorous and very fun to watch, with a chase scene through an Escher-esque set as a baker tries to escape after a failed attempt at thievery.
This is followed by Ivan the Terrible, played by Conrad Veidt. Conrad plays an eerie, insane, and meglomaniacal potrayal of the famous tyrant. Ivan, as promised, is indeed, terrible and Conrad's acting adds volumes with this peek into murderous insanity.
Werner Krauss portrays Jack the Ripper in the third story (dreamed by the sleeping writer). His performance is grand and uncanny, though the association of Jack the Ripper with Spring Heeled Jack is highly erronious, and distracting. While Jack the Ripper never displayed any uncanny abilities to speak of (in the film as well), Spring Heeled Jack was known to leap great distances and heights and breath fire. These two characters have little in common, even down to the fact that there were numerous descriptions of Spring Heeled Jack by eye witnesses, and very few of Jack the Ripper. Additionally, Spring Heeled Jack is only credited with one murder, seemingly accidental. By combining them in such a poor manner, Leni does an injustice to two classic legends.
This film is classic of German Expressionism, and aside from bad scholarship, lives up to its reputation. The DVD includes the necessary original color-wash familiar to German silent films of its time, and is a very nice print to watch. Included as extras in this volume are REBUS FILM I, a fun 1926 short by Leni combining live footage and animation to perform a crossword puzzle on film. Also, an excerpt from Douglas Fairbanks's THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, as a comparision to Emil Jennings's role in WAXWORKS. The film WAXWORKS has 12 different scene selections."
Steven Hellerstedt | 04/17/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)


A man answers an ad asking for an `imaginative writer.' The waxwork displays in a fair sideshow need some interesting words thrown their way. Dashing young Poet (William Dieterle) answers the ads, and in the course of a night tells the tale of Harun-al-Raschid (Emil Jannings), the caliph of Baghdad, Ivan the Terrible (Conrad Veidt), and later dreams a nasty dream about Spring Heeled Jack (Werner Krauss, as Jack the Ripper), all the while throwing an evening's worth of sighs at pretty young Zarah (Olga Belajeff).
WAXWORKS (Das Wachsfigurenkabinett) is a 1924 German silent movie directed by Paul Leni. The movie is divided into three episodes. Sources say a fourth was planned but the production ran out of money. The first episode asks the question When a Grand Vizier flirts with a baker's wife, what does the baker do? Dieterle and Belajeff play the young and much in love married couple, and Dieterle answers the question by resolving to steal the Caliph's `wishing ring.' Episode two again has Dieterle and Belajeff playing a young couple much in love, we join them on their wedding day, along with the mad Ivan the Terrible, a cruel sadist who derives particular pleasure out of poisoning someone and watching them squirm while the sand in over sized hour glasses time out the last moments of their lives. The third episode finds Spring Heeled Jack chasing the Poet through the fair.
WAXWORKS is an impressive looking movie. Leni also handled the Art Direction and the sets are a fantastical melange of weird rounded shapes and cantered angles. The first episode, which comprises nearly half the movie's running time, is imaginative and tight. The Ivan episode drags on more than a bit, slowed down considerably by Veidt's crawling approach to screen acting. He takes forever to complete a gesture. The short Spring Heeled Jack episode seems tacked on, an expedient for a bankrupt production. It's filled with double and triple exposures and works better than it has any right to. After the long Caliph story I thought WAXWORKS lost drive and focus, and found myself steadily losing interest as the movie played itself out.
The dvd's extras features a clip from Douglas Fairbanks' Thief of Baghdad, which WAXWORKS inspired. Also included is the playful REBUS 1, a fifteen-minute or so short by Paul Leni. REBUS 1 is simply a seven-word crossword puzzle that uses filmed images, traditional and stop-action animation to solve the puzzle. It's light-hearted and frothy and, most important, translated into English.