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4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In this rarely seen masterwork of the German Expressionist movement, a trilogy of terror is woven around the wax figures of a carnival show. An idealistic young poet (Wilhelm Dieterle, later to become a Hollywood director) is hired to write stories about the Chamber of Horrors' three most notorious figures: Jack the Ripper (Werner Krauss), Ivan the terrible (Conrad Veidt) and Haroun Al-Raschid (Emil Jannings). But as the uncanny tales flow from the poet's pen, he finds himself enveloped in the nightmare worlds of his own creation. One of the most innovative stylists of the German silent cinema, director Paul Leni (The Cat and the Canary, The Man Who Laughs) applied a variety of visual techniques to this ambitious anthology film, drawing from his years as a set designer under the great Max Reinhardt. From the fairy-tale Arabia of the Al-Raschid story (said to have inspired Douglas Fairbanks to make The Thief of Bagdad), to the dark and oppressive kingdom of Ivan the Terrible, to the whirling lights and swordlike shadows of the carnival through which Jack the Ripper stalks the protagonist, Leni managed to raise the techniques of German Expressionism to new conceptual heights.

Lesser-known among silent German classics, Waxworks is a carnival of a movie inviting you to visit three distinct freak shows and sample the thrills and peculiarities each has to offer. A young poet (Wilhelm Dieterle, who became Hollywood director William Dieterle) is hired to pen "startling tales" about three figures on display in the Wachsfigurenkabinett. Somehow he and his boss's daughter (Olga Belajeff) win plum roles in each fantasia he concocts. The Arabian Nights episode, featuring Emil Jannings hamming it up as Caliph Haroun al-Raschid, boasts demented architecture and a blend of comedy and surrealism that inspired Douglas Fairbanks's Thief of Bagdad. Conrad Veidt, making a memorably mad Russian icon of Ivan the Terrible, towers amid episode 2's fiercely angular compositions. Then, still-unnerving double-exposure cinematography is used to bring "Spring Heel Jack" (Werner Krauss's version of Jack the Ripper) out of the realm of fantasy and menacingly into the real-world framing story. Get your ticket right here. --Richard T. Jameson

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Emil Jannings, Conrad Veidt, Werner Krauss, William Dieterle, Olga Belajeff
  • Directors: Leo Birinsky, Paul Leni
  • Writers: Paul Leni, Hans Brennert, Henrik Galeen
  • Producers: Leo Birinsky, Alexander Kwartiroff
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Silent
  • Language: English
  • Dubbed: Japanese
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Kino Lorber films
  • DVD Release Date: October 5, 2004
  • Run Time: 83 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006JMQI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,985 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Waxworks" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Paul Leni's WAXWORKS has taken its own sweet time in coming before the public in presentable form. This of course is not the film's fault. Now that it is here as part of a quartet of restored German Horror Classics, there is cause for much rejoicing. As is often the case with most anthology films the parts are greater than the whole. There are three episodes involving figures in a wax museum which are linked by the framing story of a writer writing about them. Are they scary? No, but at least one of them (IVAN THE TERRIBLE with Conrad Veidt) is genuinely disturbing while another (SPRING HEELED JACK with Werner Krauss) boasts the most expressionistic sets since CABINET OF DR CALIGARI (also in this set of four new releases from Kino International).

The longest sequence features Emil Jannings in an Arabian Nights setting which is more comic in tone and surprisingly erotic thanks to Olga Belajeff who plays the romantic lead in all three stories. The male lead is William Dieterle who plays the writer. He would give up acting and become a major director in Hollywood during the 30's and 40's. This is the first time this film has ever looked this good. It was restored from two differnt prints and has been properly tinted. The accompanying piano score is effective especially in the IVAN sequence.

WAXWORKS is not a great film but it is an important one. It is one of the first horror anthology films and boasts spectacular set designs for the three stories. While it won't scare you, it will entertain you and that is ultimately what it is all about. As mentioned earlier this is part of a quartet of silent German horror films newly restored and released on DVD. It can be purchased seperately but if you enjoy these type of films then spring for the whole package. In addition to NOSFERATU and CABINET OF DR CALIGARI, there is a striking new restoration of THE GOLEM.
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Kino does a beautiful presentation of this entry into German Expressionism on film. The plot essentially includes a writer telling stories about figures in a carnival waxworks display. The writer is smitten with the daughter of the waxworks owner, as a sideline. These are fairly incidental to the trilogy of stories that intertwine.
First, Haroun Al-Raschid is played by Emil Jannings. This story is fairly humorous and very fun to watch, with a chase scene through an Escher-esque set as a baker tries to escape after a failed attempt at thievery.
This is followed by Ivan the Terrible, played by Conrad Veidt. Conrad plays an eerie, insane, and meglomaniacal potrayal of the famous tyrant. Ivan, as promised, is indeed, terrible and Conrad's acting adds volumes with this peek into murderous insanity.
Werner Krauss portrays Jack the Ripper in the third story (dreamed by the sleeping writer). His performance is grand and uncanny, though the association of Jack the Ripper with Spring Heeled Jack is highly erronious, and distracting. While Jack the Ripper never displayed any uncanny abilities to speak of (in the film as well), Spring Heeled Jack was known to leap great distances and heights and breath fire. These two characters have little in common, even down to the fact that there were numerous descriptions of Spring Heeled Jack by eye witnesses, and very few of Jack the Ripper. Additionally, Spring Heeled Jack is only credited with one murder, seemingly accidental. By combining them in such a poor manner, Leni does an injustice to two classic legends.
This film is classic of German Expressionism, and aside from bad scholarship, lives up to its reputation.
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Format: DVD
In the wake of World War I, German film was sharply influenced by expressionism, an arts movement which is less concerned with imitating reality than in using design to reflect psychology and emotion. THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI brought the style to the screen in 1919, and throughout the 1920s many directors would create projects under its influence.

German director Paul Leni (1885-1929) was one such--and although he is best recalled for his later Hollywood films, most notably the stylish THE CAT AND THE CANARY, the 1924 German WAXWORKS shows him very near the peak of gifts. It is also very clearly an homage of sorts to THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI; not only would Leni cast two of that film's actors in major roles, he drew from the film's style for both sets and cinematography.

WAXWORKS is an "anthology" film, a collection of stories bound together by a running thread. A young writer (William Dieterle) is employed by a carnival sideshow wax museum to write stories about several of their figures: a Baghdad Caliph, Ivan the Terrible, and Spring Heeled Jack. As he writes, the film segues into the story the writer invents.

The longest of the three stories concerns Harun al Raschid, a Caliph of Baghdad who falls in love with a baker's wife--and then seeks to take her for his own. Featuring the celebrated Emil Jannings as the Caliph, the episode is a mixture of light comedy and Arabian Nights fantasy, particularly noted for the greatly stylized sets that recall the earlier CALIGARI and THE GOLEM to somewhat softer effect. It also offers the very rare opportunity to see Jannings, famed for his dramatic roles, in comic mode, and he proves equally adept with this bit of fluff as with his more "serious" work.
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