Waxworks (1924)


The movie Waxworks (1924) is a German silent anthology film directed by Paul Leni. The film encompasses several genres, including a fantasy adventure, a historical film, and a horror film through its various episodes. The film’s stories are linked by a plot thread about a writer (William Dieterle) who accepts a job from a waxworks proprietor to write a series of stories about the exhibits of Caliph of Baghdad (Emil Jannings), Ivan the Terrible (Conrad Veidt), and Jack the Ripper (Werner Krauss) in order to boost business⁴.

A young nameless poet (Dieterle) enters a wax museum where the proprietor works in the company of his daughter Eva (Olga Belajeff). The proprietor hires the poet to write a back-story for his wax models of Harun al-Rashid (Jannings), Ivan the Terrible (Veidt), and Jack the Ripper (Krauss) in order to draw an audience to the museum⁴. The poet sees himself in his story as a pie baker, Assad, where he lives with his wife Maimune (played by Olga Belajeff) directly by the walls of the palace where Harun Al-Rashid lives. Smoke from Assad’s bakery covers the front of the palace, where Al-Rashid loses a game of chess, leading him to want the head of the baker. He sends his Grand Vizier to find the man, Assad, but in doing so, he finds Assad’s wife with whom he is enchanted. After being captivated by her beauty and also captivating her with his status among the royals, he returns to tell Al-Rashid that he does not have the baker’s head but rather something better – news about the baker’s wife⁴.

The movie Waxworks (1924) continues with the second story about Tzar Ivan the Terrible who likes watching people die together with his court-chemist. When he orders the execution of the chemist, the chemist thinks of a nice revanche, but till the revanche works, a nobleman is murdered, his daughter kidnapped by Ivan and her groom tortured. While writing the third story about Jack the Ripper, he falls asleep and dreams he and the girl are pursued by that serial killer⁴.


  • Emil Jannings as Harun al Raschid
  • Conrad Veidt as Ivan the Terrible
  • Werner Krauss as Jack the Ripper
  • William Dieterle as The Poet
  • Olga Belajeff as Eva-Maimune-Eine Bojarin
  • Paul Biensfeldt as Grand Vizier
  • John Gottowt as Inhaber der Panoptikums
  • Georg John as Prisoner
  • Ernst Legal as Poison-Maker of the Czar


Originally there were four episodes planned, but for the fourth, “Rinaldo Rinaldini,” there wasn’t any money left¹.

The “Harun al Raschid” episode reportedly inspired Douglas Fairbanks to make The Thief of Bagdad (1924)¹.

The film received a restoration in 2019 funded by the German Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM) with new music commissioned by ZDF/ARTE¹.


“While not as well known in America as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or Nosferatu, Waxworks is one of the more brilliant entries in the canon of German silent film. Every bit as stylish as its more famous cousins, the film is a blend of artistry, fairy tale and good old-fashion thrills, plus set design to die for.” [3]

“Unfortunately it turns out WAXWORKS is also not really a horror movie. Instead, it’s a two-and-a-half part anthology film which begins as some kind of comic fantasy and segues into something like a gothic historical tale before finally, in its last six minutes, arriving at genuine horror.” [4]


[1] IMDb

[2] Wikipedia

[3] moviessilently.com

[4] wearecursedtoliveininterestingtimes.blogspot.com

Last updated byCody Meirick on November 27, 2023