Wax Mask - Wax Mask( Blu Ray & CD) [Severin - 2019]Appear in the late 1990s Wax Mask was very much a throwback to gory ‘n’ quirky Italian horror films of the late ’70s/ early ’80s. The film brought together two of the countries' key genre directors- Dario Argento & Lucio Fulci, and for the most part, it’s a fun euro gothic-tinged ride with some neat practical effects, and a few bizarre/ WTH twists. Here on Severin Films is a double-disc reissue of the film- bringing together a Blu Ray featuring a new print of the film, a new commentary, and a good selection of extras. The second disc is a CD taking the film's full soundtrack- all making this the definitive release of the film.
The version we got through for review finds the double-disc Blu Ray case coming in a moody slip, that takes in a picture of a shadowy male figure with a weird syringe filled with different colored liquids. The blu ray case its self features a reversible cover featuring two different cover artwork, and inside we find a double-sided glossy card taking in the soundtrack tracklisting. So a nicely done bit of packaging.
Wax Mask (aka Gaston Leroux's The Wax Mask) was an Italian/French production, and it appeared in 1997. Initially, the film had been helmed by Lucio Fulci, with him starting the story/ treatment- sadly due to ill health he had to drop out, so Dario Argento stepped into producer & co-write the film. It was directed by Sergio Stivaletti- a highly respected Italian effects artists whose work had appeared in genre pictures since the 80’s- it was his first directorial run, and while it certainly looks good- both in its effects & set design, it does have a few pacing issues.
The film is period based horror beginning the 1900’s-it opens with police attending the scene of a murder in Paris, where a couple have been gorily murdered with a metal clawed killer ripping their hearts out- the only surviving member of the family is a girl who watched the slayings from under a bed. Then we fast forward twelve years to Rome, where a new wax museum is just opened- people are flocking to the museum due to its realistic recreation of infamous murder scenes from fact & legend. One night a young gent is bet by his mates to spend a night in the museum- while in there he is seemingly shocked to death, and this starts off a series of disappearances & murders seemingly connected to the museum.
I guess you’d say the films a take on the House of Wax story, with elements of dark fantasy & Giallo mixed in with it. I found the film similar in mood/ production to Argento’s The Phantom of the Opera, which appeared a year later. As we’ve come to expect from Italian genre films we get a dubbed English track- which I’m afraid to say is one of the worse I’ve come across- with the English voice actors been very bland/unbelievable, and the lip sinking is terrible- so I can guess you see why the film never became as known/ popular as other Italian genre pictures, which is a pity as it’s not bad. We get the initial gory murders, then things calm down somewhat with only the great & elaborate wax museum displays & fleeting murders by the creepy killer. It’s not until the last half an hour of the film the gore & major Italian wackiness kicks-in…I won’t detail the plot anymore, as you need to see this fairly blind to get the most impact from what/who is really behind the whole thing. I’d say if you enjoy more period set euro horror fare- with some quirky edges, good enough production value & some creative sets I feel you’ll enjoy Wax Mask.
Moving onto this two-disc release of the film- and first, we’ll talk about the Blu Ray. The new scan of the film has wonderfully clarity/depth to it, which makes the more fantastical elements of the film really sing- though of course, it does unfortunately also make a few of the effects a little dated. Moving onto the extras, and boy do we get a bumper crop of stuff. First off we get a commentary track- this features Director Sergio Stivaletti and effects artists Michelangelo Stivaletti, with the whole thing moderated by Severin’s David Gregory – the track finds the three talking about its production difficulties, effect set-up & the then-new digital effects, and story development. Going onto talk about working with Dario Argento onset, and the few occasions he asked Sergio Stivaletti to alter things, before talking about the soundtrack, and a few other things. On the whole, it’s an enjoyable & informative track, which will certainly be of interest to any fan of Italian genre pictures.
Next, we get a host of recent on-camera videos- in all, there are seven of these features, with each lasting between ten and twenty minutes apiece- they move between multiple theme-related interviews and stand-alone ones- and pretty much everyone who was important(aside of course for Fulci who passed in 1996)- so we have interviews with Producer Dario Argento, Director Sergio Stivaletti, Producer Giuseppe Columbo, production Designer Massimo Geleng, Actress Gabriella Giorgelli, SFX Artist Sergio Stivaletti, Soundtrack Composer Maurizio Abeni and British Film Writer Alan Jones- who was on the films set for two weeks, and of course is very knowledgable on all things Argento. Lastly, on the disc, we get a selection of extras brought over from the original Italian DVD release of the film.
The second disc in the set takes in the film soundtrack by Maurizio Abeni- this features twenty-four tracks, and seventy-five minutes of music. The score is fairly traditional orchestrated affair- with of course a rather grand & gothic leanings to it. It moves from ornate blends of harmonic & swelling strings, onto dramatic horn sweeps & bombastic percussion, through to a few more pared-back eerie harpsichord & piano moments. It’s all well enough composed & arranged, though the main melodies aren’t that memorable- so it’s certainly not comparable to Morricone’s score for Argento’s Phantom Of The Oprea, which I’ve often returned to when in the mood for this type of grand-yet- dark type of soundtrack. Though of course, it's great to have it here as an extra.
So in conclusion, Severin has done a great, thorough & classy job with this double-disc release of Wax Mask- and I’d say if you’re a fan of ’80s/ 90’s euro horror, this is pretty much is a no-brainer release- that you most certainly need to pick-up.Roger Batty