Lionel Atwill stars as brilliant sculpture Ivan Igor. Igor has a wax museum in London that is sadly unprofitable. Igor’s partner, Joe Worth (Edwin Maxwell), decides to burn the place to the ground for the insurance and when Igor tries to stop him, Worth knocks him out and leaves him to die in the flames.
Twelve years later Igor shows up in New York with a new wax museum. He survived the fire but is now confined to a wheelchair and his hands were destroyed. As a result, he no longer sculpts but has “assistants”, including the shady professor Darcy (Arthur Edmund Carewe) and silent Hugo (Matthew Betz).
Igor also has young Ralph (Allen Vincent) working for him. Ralph’s fiance, Charlotte Duncan (Fay Wray), bears a striking resemblance to Igor’s old Marie Antoinette statue. Charlotte’s roommate is Florence Dempsey (Glenda Farrell), a reporter looking for a story. Florence is investigating the suicide of Joan Gale (Monica Bannister), whose body has been stolen from the morgue by a mysterious-looking figure.
Florence happens to notice that Igor’s Joan of Arc looks an awful lot like Joan Gale. She also sees a mysterious figure at one of Worth’s warehouses. Something sinister is clearly afoot, but just what IS the Wax Museum’s horrible secret?
Director Michael Curtiz would go on to direct the classic Casablanca but before that he made several great pre-code horror movies for Warner Bros. This was one of them — the other was Doctor X, which had most of the same cast. Lionel Atwill is awesome. The movie was remade in 1953 with Vincent Price in Atwill’s role. It’s not too bad as remakes go. My original post is here.