PIcture of the Week #13: The Movieland Wax Museum

I’ve been too busy to complete some of the other blog posts I’ve been preparing, so all I have to offer you this Friday is another picture of the week, this time some stills from the legendary Movieland Wax museum in Buena Park, California. It was the largest wax museum in the USA, with over 300 figures in 150 sets, some of them using actual costumes and props from the movies on show. It was opened in 1962, and finally closed in 2006, when the waxworks were auctioned off. I wonder where they are now. I hope they’re being looked after. I’ve always found waxworks, dummies and statues a little bit creepy. I wouldn’t say I was an automatonophobe, because they’re fascinating enough to stop me running away. The eerie sense of liveness and presence, even when faced with inert matter in the shapes of people, is part of the appeal of these things, a shiver to be indulged rather than avoided.

The strange thing about waxworks is how they provide a different form of the usual engagements we have with film stars. When we watch a film, these people are both present and absent to us. We see them in gross detail, but we have no physical proximity or interaction with them. We are voyeurs, seeing but not seen. Waxworks let us do something similar, inspecting the celebrity body in frozen form. But of course, they’re not really there. It’s just a likeness imprinted in the pliant medium of candle-stuff. No wonder horror films about waxworks (House of Wax, The Mystery of the Wax Museum) play on the possibility of the figures coming to life, being made of corpses or burning down. Charged with celebrating famous lives, a wax museum is just as likely to remind us of death, decay and the impossible distance between ourselves and our idols. Take the kids.

Understandably, somebody took greater care over Bardot’s body than they did over Stan Laurel’s face…

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