April 10, 1953: Movie Goers Rejoice! 3D Craze Begins!

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A Brief History

On April 10, 1953, moviegoers in the US were treated to the first 3D movie in color released by a major studio: The House of Wax, starring Vincent Price, a remake of the 1933 film, Mystery of the Wax Museum.

Digging Deeper

Although the industry had started to dabble in 3D technology and just 2 days before the premier of The House of Wax a black and white 3D film, Man in the Dark, had been released, The House of Wax was the first major color 3D movie.  (The 2005 movie House of Wax has no relation to the movie discussed here, although it is a reasonably good horror movie.)

The plot of The House of Wax centers around Vincent Price as a mad professor that runs a wax museum and sculpts the figures himself, remarkably lifelike figures at that!  As you may have already guessed, the evil Professor Jarrod (Price) is actually taking real people, murdering them, and creating wax “sculptures” of them by pouring molten wax over their bodies.

In an appropriate surprise, Professor Jarrod is found to have a wax mask over his face concealing a grossly disfigured countenance!  Of course, his fate is to be knocked into the great vat of molten wax by a policeman during the final fight scene.

With a budget of $1 million, The House of Wax was for its time an expensive movie to make, although with a box office of over $23 million it was worth it!  Its success paved the way for numerous other 3D movies, and today’s “RealD” 3D is stunning.  Televisions and computer monitors are even being made 3D capable, and soon we will have 3D television in widespread use that require no special glasses.

In 2009, the movie Avatar continued the 3D tradition by becoming the biggest money earning movie of all time, with a box office of over $2.7 billion! Costing a whopping $237 million to make, it certainly was worth the effort for the investors.  Avatar was released as a regular 2D film, in RealD 3D, Dolby 3D, and IMAX 3D!  The icing on the cake is that the film was also released (in South Korea only) in 4D!

The ground breaking movie, The House of Wax, may be mild by today’s horror standards, but it was well received in its day and legitimized the marketing of 3D movies.  The female lead was played by Carolyn Jones, later known to 1960’s television audiences as Morticia Addams, and a then unknown actor, Charles Buchinsky made an appearance. Buchinsky was later well known as the craggy faced Charles Bronson!

Question for students (and subscribers): Do you like 3D movies or would you prefer the 2D variety? What is your favorite 3D movie?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evdience

For more information, please see…

Zone, Ray. 3-D Filmmakers: Conversations with Creators of Stereoscopic Motion Pictures (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Scarecrow Press, 2005.


About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.