Mar 15, 2021

The Wax Mask (1997)


(Original Title: M.D.C. - Maschera di cera) The film was supposed to be directed by Lucio Fulci, but he died, so Argento handed the directing job to Sergio Stivaletti, who had worked with the greats but never directed before. 

It's Paris 1900 and a brutal murder has taken place.  Sonia, a child, survives.  A detective holds Sonia and places her in the care of her aunt.

A narrator tells us it's now twelve years later.  In a mirror, we see a man and woman having sex.

Giorgina (Valery Valmond), a prostitute, and her patron, Luca (Daniel Auber).

They go back downstairs to the brothel.

Giorgina joins Luca (Daniel Auber at a gambling table.

Elena (Sabrina Pellegrino), another prostitute, sits buy a dude who makes a wager with Luca...

He wagers that Luca won't last the night alone in the wax museum.  Luca goes to the wax museum, saying goodbye to his favorite whore, Giorgina.

Luca snoops around the place.

Luca dies of fright when a Medusa seems to come to life.

Inspector Palazzi (Gianni Franco) speaks with the eccentric owner of the wax museum, Boris Volkoff (Robert Hossein)

 Sonia Lafont (Romina Mondello) applies for a job at the wax museum.  She first meets Volkoff's weirdo assistant, Alex (Umberto Balli).

Volkoff recognizes Sonia as the little girl we met at the start. Let's just say they have a history together.

Leaving the museum, Sonia meets Andrea Conversi (Riccardo Serventi Longhi) a reporter investigating the death of Luca.

Andrea visits Giorgina - but not to have sex.  He wants information on Luca.

Information will cost money, of course.

Sonia and Volkoff work together at the wax museum.  She designs the clothing for the (air quote) wax figures (air quote).  

Weird Alex makes a drawing of the next victim.

Anna (Stefania Fidotti) is attacked by a mysterious figure...

A metallic skeletal hand kills the child.

This scene was a bit problematic. A couple of coroners examine the girl's body - and she's nude. Stefania Fidotti doesn't have a date of birth listed on her IMDb, but she seems to be very underage.

Aunt Francesca (Gabriella Giorgelli) comforts Sonia who has night terrors  - flashbacks to that fateful night of her childhood.

Volkoff goes to the brothel to pick out his next victim.

It's Giorgina.

Giorgina gets a mysterious note and rose from a secret admirer.  The note requests that she meet him at a certain address.

Giorgina goes to the address and finds it's a run down apartment building.

Entering the room, she finds real human hearts in a box.

She runs away, but it is too late...

A needle is inserted into her neck.

Giorgina wakes up to find this looking down at her.

She's in a mad scientist's lab...

That mad scientist is Volkoff.  By pulling levers, he is able to make Giorgina's body move robotically.

Now to convert her to a wax figure...

First, all her fluids are suked out, making her look like a dried up cadaver; then Volkoff pumps his fluid back into her veins, puffing her back to "normal".

Volkoff catches Sonia making love to Andrea.

Sonia is taught a lesson; she wakes up being gnawed on by animals 

She's given medical care while Andrea goes to investigate the wax museum.

Andrea snoops around.

Volkoff now has Sonia strapped to his device.

Andrea turns on a steam vent, burning Volkoff's face.  We see that he's really a wax creature himself, with an animated skeletal interior.

They turn to watch Volkoff die - as Alex chops off the Terminator-like monster's head off, before himself dying in the burning building.

The spectators watch as the wax museum goes up in CGI flames. THE END

The film has a lot going for it: a fun story, nudity, and a really cool look with lots lurid colors like they're taken from a Famous Monsters of Filmland cover.  The problem is the telling of the story - it absolutely drags in parts, with many stretches of boring shit. But just have a look at that mad scientist's lab - it's glorious to behold.


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