Given that Nightmare In Wax was made in 1969, when some of horror's most visionary auteurs were readily pushing the boundaries of what they could present on the screen, this toothless offering seems to have arrived about a decade too late. The macabre elements at play here are tame even by the genre's earliest standards, and since the story itself is far too time-worn and harebrained to generate any real suspense or thrills, it hard to find much to like about the dull pastiche that unfolds over the course of this 90 minute slog.
Cameron Mitchell is always a welcome presence, but this is assuredly one of the weakest entries in an extended filmography replete with C-grade gems. As the caper's central villain, disfigured in a fiery attack and driven to aimlessly dwell like a Phantom without an opera in the bowels of a workshop beneath the Movieland Wax Museum, most of Mitchell's screen time here is devoted to numerous lugubrious scenes of him spouting angry monologues at his waxen creations, all of which play out as more silly than sinister. The dollar-shop burn prosthetics that bring his character to life don't help matters either, especially since every good glimpse we get of his scarred countenance creates the impression that the makeup department merely glued a couple strips of sandpaper to his cheeks and called it a day.
Unfortunately, not much else in the film is any better. The happenings will be readily familiar to anyone who has ever seen a horror film set in a wax museum (hint: not all of the displays are made entirely of wax), and the awkward plot Mitchell utilizes his special creations to carry out is so convoluted that even he never seems quite sure whether his goal is to fiendishly imprison the people he has lured into his lair by turning them into living statues, or to use narcotic injections and hypnosis to make them act as his malevolent slaves. There are a couple of detectives roaming around throughout the movie investigating the strange fates of the disappeared people in Mitchell's orbit, but despite the cameras following them away from the main storyline enough times for half of the film to resemble one of the era's TV cop shows, the police angle ultimately has no bearing on the resolution and their attendance ends up being largely extraneous.
No one in Nightmare In Wax seems to find it strange that a deformed recluse took it upon himself to speedily sculpt perfect effigies of several prominent missing actors he was personally acquainted with and put them on display in his gallery--not even those brilliant detectives, who come face to face with the mad waxer's most recent victim just days after he vanishes without a trace and simply stand there marveling at the realism of Mitchell's craftsmanship. Even more obtuse is the museum's tour guide, who catches one of the exhibits blinking at him yet subsequently writes it off as a totally normal occurrence after Mitchell explains that his waxworks talk to him all the time so seeing one of them blink isn't really that big a deal.
The whole point of Mitchell's bonkers and long-winded plan seems to be orchestrating revenge on the movie mogul scoundrel who maimed him, but since their final showdown above a vat of boiling wax ends the exact same way every showdown above a vat of boiling wax in movie history has ended, we're left supposing that the dude should have probably thought up a better location to take a flying leap at his nemesis. The tepid climax is further hampered by a needless wrap-up montage that flashes back to several flashbacks we already saw earlier in the flick, which serves no purpose other than making this film even longer than it already feels like it is.
About the only item of interest here is that much of the picture was shot on location inside the original Movieland Wax Museum, a Southern California landmark that served as a delightful attraction for cinema fans until its doors were sadly closed in the early 2000's. A few of the gallery's most iconic dioramas are shown prominently throughout the film, and had the characters spent more time exploring additional exhibits, I might have been tempted to give this thing a couple more stars for nostalgia's sake alone.
Review by happyendingrocks from the Internet Movie Database.