With recent renovation efforts, this stretch of Hollywood Boulevard is now a less seedy part of town, and with the new Hollywood & Highland center right across the street (and the Chinese Theatre just a block to the west), it's hard for the swarms of tourists to fail to notice the Hollywood Wax Museum.
As a result, there is often a large crowd of spectators milling out front of this museum, watching the antics of a costumed employee, dressed like Frankenstein, putting on a show to lure customers in from the Walk of Fame.
The question, of course, is whether what is inside the museum merits the $8.95 admission charge. Alas, I have to report that (in my humble opinion) it does not.
Don't get me wrong, the Hollywood Wax Museum isn't a complete disappointment. It offers almost as many wax figures as Movieland (220, compared to Movieland's 290), and some of them (such as Clint Eastwood, Sly Stallone and Elizabeth Taylor) are actually very good. The figures of David Hasselhoff and Henry Winkler are suitable likenesses. And there are even a few large set pieces, such as the one offering the entire cast of the "M*A*S*H*" TV show and the "Wizard of Oz" set.
But generally, this Hollywood museum is a fairly low-budget affair. The owner readily admits that when he first opened the museum in 1965, the quality of the wax figures was awful. And although they've improved things a lot since then, in my opinion the quality and realism of their wax figures still can't compare with those at the now-closed Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park.
Unless you read the name boards placed near each wax figure here, many of these characters are difficult to identify, and some of the likenesses are downright embarrassing:
Among the worst likenesses are Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy (who looks like he's wearing a bad Beatle wig), two Robert Redfords (equally poor), a lame Lucille Ball, an atrocious Jerry Lewis (with an equally poor Dean Martin) a frighteningly bad Joe Pesci (from "Home Alone") and a simply awful Sammy Davis Jr.
Also, the eyes of some of these wax figures don't seem to have the same lifelike sparkle as those at Movieland. (Indeed, on my last visit, one figure had a realistic right eye and an opaque left eye.)
In addition to general movie stars, the Hollywood Wax Museum also offers sections devoted to Western heroes (John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, the "Bonanza" cast, etc.), pop music idols (such as The Beatles, Elton John and an atrocious Elvis), U.S. Presidents (a poor likeness of John Kennedy stands nearby a decent rendering of Ronald Reagan), religious scenes ("The Last Supper," "The Crucifixion," a colorized version of The Pieta, and an appearance by Our Lady of Guadeloupe), and a short but gruesome Chamber of Horrors (housing the expected movie monsters such as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman).
A "We Are the World" recreation reunites figures of Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and an awful Bruce Springsteen with the musical anthem playing in the background.
And of course there are old favorites such as Laurel & Hardy, Red Skelton, Jean Harlow and Gary Cooper.
A sign outside the theatre warns that the building is haunted. It says that it was once the site of a business that burned down, killing an employee who was sleeping on the job, and whose ghost now haunts the museum. As such, I expected to run into this "ghost" inside the Chamber of Horrors, but he never showed up (although I understand that employees used to occasionally dress up in masks to spook unsuspecting visitors).
In fact, for all the shrieks you hear coming from the Chamber of Horrors, it turns out to be a relatively tame hallway of wax movie monsters, enlivened only by an occasional unexpected gust of air and a single disembodied head that pops up howling (when you break an invisible beam of light). So don't be afraid to go inside. But be warned that some of the torture scenes and dismembered bodies depicted here get pretty gory, and might be considered unsuitable for young children. (Entry to the Chamber of Horrors is optional, and it can be bypassed altogether if you prefer to skip it.)
I suppose that there are certain drawbacks inherent in any wax museum. Personal tastes differ, and it's normal for people to disagree about whether a wax figure does or does not resemble a particular celebrity. And there is always a certain "deadness" to all such museums; no matter how much music or animation is used to enliven them; these are still, after all, only wax dummies. Few such museums are worth seeing more than once.
Also, bear in mind that the displays at the Hollywood Wax Museum change frequently - wax figures are constantly being added and removed, to keep up with popular tastes - and limited space. Recently, for instance, likenesses such as Patrick Swayze and James Garner were removed to make way for others.
Recent additions include figures of "Harry Potter" (a decent likeness of young Daniel Radcliffe), "Spider-Man," Mark Wahlberg (in a hairy scene from "Planet of the Apes"), "Xena: Warrior Princess" (Lucy Lawless) and "Hercules" (Kevin Sorbo), the cast of "Baywatch" (featuring David Hasselhoff, Alexandra Paul and Pamela Anderson), Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones in "The Mask of Zorro," Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (from "Men in Black"), John Travolta and Uma Thurman from "Pulp Fiction," George Clooney and Nicole Kidman (from "The Peacemaker"), the "Lethal Weapon" trio of Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and Rene Russo; Brad Pitt & Anthony Hopkins (from "Legends of the Fall"), Tom Hanks (in "Forrest Gump"), Jim Carrey (as "Ace Ventura"), Robin Williams as Peter Pan to Dustin Hoffman's as "Hook," Kim Basinger and (a masked) Michael Keaton in "Batman." plus Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sharon Stone, Bruce Willis & Demi Moore.
Others figures include Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis (in "Top Gun"), Barbra Streisand, Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter), Christopher Reeves as "Superman," the Teenage Ninja Turtles.
But the fact remains that this is a less-than-inspiring museum, feeding off the captive audience of tourists wandering the famous Boulevard, and I can't really recommend it.
Update: In Summer of
2009, a new Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum
opened right down the street (just west of Grauman's Chinese Theatre).
Since Tussaud's is generally considered to be the standard by which wax
museums are judged, it will be interesting to see if the Hollywood Wax
Museum can survive the new competition.
the artificial lighting inside the museum played havoc with the film
Parking: Paid parking lot behind the museum. Limited street parking on the streets off Hollywood Boulevard (most of these spaces have parking meters, but are free on Sunday.)
Adults (13-64) : $15.95
(Tickets are available online for $3.00 less than the above prices.)
A combination ticket to both the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Guinness World Records Museum (across the street) is available at a discounted price.
Open every day of the year, from 10 AM to midnight weekdays,
10 AM to 1 AM on weekends).
Getting there: The Hollywood Wax Museum is located a block and a half east of Grauman's Chinese Theatre on the north side of Hollywood Boulevard, just east of Highland Avenue, and across the street from the Guinness World Records museum. / From Hollywood & Vine, go west on Hollywood Boulevard (about three quarters of a mile), and the museum will be on your right (north) side.
more information on this subject, you can access the Wax Museum's official
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