Mystery of the Wax Museum appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Due to the photographic processes, this became a challenging image, but the disc rendered it well.
The two-strip Technicolor process tended to impact sharpness the most heavily, as it left us with a movie that leaned toward the soft side of the street. Within the constraints of the photography, the film looked fine, but it still lacked particularly great delineation.
No issues with jagged edges or moiré effect materialized, and I saw no signs of edge haloes. Given a layer of grain, noise reduction didn’t become a problem, and the image cleaned up potential print flaws.
The two-strip Technicolor process meant a restricted palette, one that favored greens and pinks. That meant a less than realistic sense of hues, but the Blu-ray reproduced them within the limits of the format – even if that technology meant Mystery tended to look more like a colorized movie shot in black and white than a native color project.
Blacks appeared fairly dense, while low-light shots offered pretty good delineation. No one will use Mystery as a visual showcase, but for an 87-year-old movie shot with a problematic film process, I thought the results worked well.
As expected, the movie’s DTS-HD MA monaural mix seemed dated but acceptable. Though speech displayed a thin quality typical of the era, dialogue usually sounded reasonably accurate and distinct.
As with dialogue, effects and music seemed flat and lackluster and they failed to demonstrate much dynamic range. However, those issues often appeared during older movies, so I had no great worries about them. All in all, I thought that the soundtrack of Mystery appeared to be typical for its era.
How did this Blu-ray’s transfer of Mystery compare to the version on the 2013 House of Wax disc? Audio felt a bit clearer, though this area didn’t turn into a major upgrade, as the restrictions of the source limited improvements.
As for visuals, the 2020 Mystery felt a bit better defined and cleaner. The 2013 version could shows lines and marks, and it also tended to look somewhat blocky at times.
Colors also improved with the 2020 transfer, as the 2013 edition veered toward even more extreme pink and green. All in all, the 2013 Mystery looked acceptable, but the 2020 image became an obvious step up in quality.
We get a few extras here, highlighted by two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from film historian Alan K. Rode, who delivers a running, screen-specific look at cast and crew, sets and locations, censorship issues, the movie's release and connected areas.
Rode delivers a pretty standard "film historian commentary", with a broad look at the participants and various specifics about the production. He turns this into an informative and effective chat.
For the second commentary, we hear from film historian Scott MacQueen. He provides his own running, screen-specific discussion of the source story, its adaptation, cast/crew and different parts of the production, with some emphasis on technical areas like cinematography and effects. This track also includes quotes from cinematographer Ray Rennahan as well as archival recordings from interviews with actors Fay Wray and Glenda Farrell.
A veteran of the format, MacQueen brings us a useful commentary. Happily, he avoids much repetition with Rode's piece, so we get a good array of fresh details in this engaging track.
Remembering Fay Wray offers an 18-minute, 49-second featurette that brings notes from actor’s daughter Victoria Riskin. She chats about her mother’s life and career, with some emphasis on Mystery. This becomes a pleasant and moderately informative piece.
A Beforeand After Restoration Comparison runs seven minutes, 11 seconds and includes notes from MacQueen. As we view shots in their unrestored and restored versions, MacQueen tells us about the changes and processes. Some of this feels informative, but like most shows of this sort, it can seem a bit self-congratulatory.
A quality horror tale, Mystery of the Wax Museum holds up after almost 90 years. Creepy and effective, the movie gives us an efficient take on its subject matter. The Blu-ray comes with generally positive picture and audio along with some useful bonus materials. Fans will enjoy this quality release.