Waxworks (Das Wachsfigurenkabinett) was the final film Paul Leni directed in Germany before striking out for Hollywood, where he made such classic genre films as The Cat and the Canary, The Man Who Laughs, and The Last Warning. Its sophisticated medley of genres was in fact what inspired Universal’s Carl Laemmle to invite Leni to come to Hollywood, as Laemmle was hoping to capitalize on the emerging comedy-horror craze of the 1920s. Stylistically, Waxworks was celebrated as a late example of German Expressionism. Its stylized sets (designed by Leni), fantastical costumes, chiaroscuro lighting, and startlingly bold performances are characteristic of that cinematic movement and contribute to the film’s lasting appeal.
The three episodes of Waxworks are united by the character of a young poet (William Dieterle), who is hired by the owner of a wax museum to create backstories for a trio of the museum’s figures: Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid (Emil Jannings), Ivan the Terrible (Conrad Veidt), and Jack the Ripper (Werner Krauss). The stories with leading actors of Weimar cinema are depicted successively, the poet casting himself together with the daughter of the wax museum’s owner at the center of each tale. Though the poet and the daughter play different characters every time, they are always lovers threatened by an animated wax figure tyrant.
As the original German version of Waxworks has not survived, this newly restored English edition—a joint effort by the Deutsche Kinemathek and Cineteca di Bologna, L’Immagine Ritrovata (with funding from the German Commission for Culture and the Media)—is composed of vintage export prints and additional film materials from archives around the world. The elements, including English intertitles, were scanned in 4K resolution and then restored in 2K. Presented by Flicker Alley and Eureka Entertainment in a Blu-ray/DVD dual-format edition, there is an option of two scores to accompany the film: a new piano score by Richard Siedhoff and a new instrumental score by Bernd Schultheis, Olav Lervik and Jan Kohl, commissioned by ZDF/ARTE and performed by Ensemble Musikfabrik.
BONUS MATERIALS INCLUDE:
• Audio Commentary Track – Featuring Australian film and arts critic Adrian Martin.
• Paul Leni’s Rebus-Films Nr. 1-8 – Courtesy of Kino/Lorber, these Leni-helmed cinematic crossword puzzles were originally screened in 1920s German cinemas as featurettes accompanying the main film. Each of these animated shorts was split into two parts – a clue and an answer – and presented before and after the feature presentation.
• In search of the original version of Paul Leni’s Das Wachsfigurenkabinett – An interview with Julia Wallmüller (Deutsche Kinemathek) based on her presentation after the premiere of the restored film at Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna 2020.
• Collector’s Edition Souvenir Booklet – Limited edition booklet featuring new essays by Phillip Kemp and Richard Combs on the film’s history and significance; notes on the restoration process by Julia Wallmüller (Deutsche Kinemathek); and rarely seen production photographs and promotional material.
*Featuring reversible cover artwork