THE WAX MASK (1997) Reviews and overview

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The Wax Mask aka Wax Mask is a 1997 Italian-French gothic horror feature film directed by Sergio Stivaletti about a disfigured madman who populates his museum with the corpses of his victims.

Film directors Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento met in 1995 and agreed to collaborate on a horror film titled M.D.C. Maschera di cera (a loose remake of the 1953 Vincent Price hit House of Wax, based on a story by Gaston Leroux). Argento has said he had heard about Fulci’s miserable circumstances at the time (he said he was shocked at how thin and sickly Fulci appeared at their meeting) and wanted to offer him a chance for a comeback.

Fulci wrote a plot synopsis and a screenplay for Argento and thought that he was slated to direct the film as well, but he died before filming could begin (due to a series of delays caused by Argento’s involvement with his own film, The Stendhal Syndrome, at the time).

The film was eventually directed by former special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti. Reportedly the screenplay was entirely reworked by screenwriter Daniele Stroppa after Fulci’s death, so the finished film bears little resemblance to Fulci’s original screenplay. (Stroppa had co-written two of Fulci’s earlier films, The House of Clocks and Voices from Beyond.)

Severin Films has announced that they are releasing Wax Mask on Blu-ray on August 27, 2019. It will be available in a Standard Edition and a Limited Edition (4,000 units) with different cover art and an exclusive slipcase and bonus soundtrack CD.

  • Audio commentary by director/special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti and Michelangelo Stivaletti
  • “Beyond Fulci”: Interviews with producer Dario Argento, director Sergio Stivaletti, producer Giuseppe Columbo, production designer Massimo Geleng, actress Gabriella Giorgelli and filmmaker Claudio Fragasso
  • “The Chamber of Horrors”: Interviews with producer Dario Argento, director Sergio Stivaletti, producer Giuseppe Columbo, production designer Massimo Geleng and actress Gabriella Giorgelli
  • “Living Dolls”: Interviews with producer Dario Argento, director Sergio Stivaletti, producer Giuseppe Columbo and actress Gabriella Giorgelli
  • “The Mysteries of the Wax Museum”: Interview with effects artist Sergio Stivaletti
  • “The Waxworks Symphony”: Interview with soundtrack composer Maurizio Abeni
  • “The Grand Opening”: Interviews with producer Dario Argento, director Sergio Stivaletti and producer Giuseppe Columbo
  • “Wax Unmasked”: Interview with film writer Alan Jones
  • Vintage featurettes: “Behind the Scenes” (22 mins.), “Special Effects” (12 mins.), “On Set with Dario Argento” (4 mins.)


Paris, 1900: a couple is horribly murdered by a masked man with a metal claw who rips their hearts out. The sole survivor and witness to the massacre is a young girl.

Twelve years later in Rome, a new wax museum is opened, whose main attractions are lifelike recreations of gruesome murder scenes. A young man bets that he will spend the night in the museum but is found dead the morning after. Soon, people start disappearing from the streets of Rome and the wax museum halls begin filling with new figures…


“Displaying competent handling of the material, as well as the stylistic excesses that have become synonymous with Italian horror, Stivaletti drenches the dark corridors of the wax museum with rich primary hues and keeps the story moving at a satisfying pace.” All Movie

“The film’s moody, gothic ambience and style do shine through as a superficial attraction, and yet the dynamic story and its continuity do succeed rather well (at least I thought so), barring some pacing problems.” At the Mansion of Madness

” …the film manages to capture that wacky doodle Italian horror feeling we all love quite nicely. We have the laughable voice dubbing, the beautiful set pieces and they do a damn fine job of making the film look like the early 1900s. With a measly budget of a little under $1.25 million, I applaud them for doing the job they did…” Cultsploitation

” …an enjoyable period horror romp, with its excesses of production design and gore special effects far outweighing missteps in storyline and performance.” DVD Drive-In

“The influence of classic and gothic horror writing and films is evident throughout and the movie does not lack in visual style, but the ending is pretty terrible and almost completely succeeds in undoing all of the good that Stivaletti does with the visuals. To be fair, the movie really is quite a nice-looking picture.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

“The wax sets look great, featuring scenes from mythological stories like Medusa and from real crime scenes such as the murders of Jack the Ripper. The camera work is also solidly done by regular Fulci collaborator, Sergio Salvati […] The movie also features some really imaginative kills including one where a character must face his self. The Wax Mask sports everything you would enjoy in Italian horror.” Screaming Toilet

“Blending the conventions that defined Italian horror in the past decades with the modern, digital special-effects mentality that Stivaletti has been refining in recent years, M.D.C. isn’t a breakthrough in any sense of the term, and though its final 30 seconds nearly destroy the redeeming qualities of the preceding 97 minutes, it ultimately serves its eerily entertaining purpose.” Star Pulse

” …Wax Mask has all of the ingredients one would want and expect from an Italian horror film. Most notably a Grand Guignol infused carnage and operatic visuals. The narrative is well constructed and pacing is never an issue. When it comes to the film’s murder set-pieces this film delivers in spades.” 10K Bullets

“Gothic horror is alive and kicking in Wax Mask, a luridly entertaining return to the style of Britain’s Hammer productions of the ’60s, replete with the requisite ingredients of death, dismemberment, cardboard characters, unsubtle acting, suspense and a soupcon of sex.” Variety

Wax Mask 5

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Cast and characters:

  • Robert Hossein … Boris Volkoff
  • Romina Mondello … Sonia Lafont
  • Riccardo Serventi Longhi … Andrea Conversi
  • Gabriella Giorgelli … Aunt Francesca
  • Umberto Balli … Alex
  • Valery Valmond … Giorgina
  • Gianni Franco … Inspector Palazzi
  • Antonello Murru … Museum Caretaker
  • Daniel Auber … Luca (as Daniele Auber)
  • Romano Iannelli … Pathologist
  • Rosa Pianeta … Anna’s Mother
  • Sonia Topazio … Nurse
  • Massimo Vanni … Victor
  • Aldo Massasso … Inspector Lanvin
  • Sabrina Pellegrino … Elena

Technical details:

98 minutes
Audio: Dolby
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1

Watch trailer on YouTube

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