The Mummy (1932)
Director: Karl Freund
Writer: Nina Wilcox Putnam, Richard Schayer
Starring: Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners
How I Watched It: Netflix Streaming
Review By: Griff
Fresh from scaring the bejebus out of everyone with Frankenstein, Boris Karloff decided to give everyone the creepy crawlies all over again when he starred in the Mummy.
The story begins in 1921. An archeologist and his young impetuous assistant have discovered the tomb of Imhotep in Egypt.
Along with Imhotep’s mummified remains they found locked chest that contains a mysterious scroll. The young assistant, despite being instructed to wait, begins decipher the scroll and unknowingly releases a curse that gives life to the Imhotep mummy. The mummy takes the scroll and shambles off into the night leaving the young man in an insane stupor.
From here we jump ahead 10 years. Imhotep has taken a somewhat human form and is now calling himself Ardath Bey. He show two archeologist where to find the tomb of Princess Ankh-es-en-amon. Ardath Bey has alterior motives however, he wants to bring the princess back to life.
Through a series of flashbacks we learn that 3700 years ago Imhotep was deeply in love with this princess and she died at a young age. In a fit of despair Imhotep tried to use the scroll to bring her back to life but he was caught before he could complete the ritual. As punishment he was mummified while he was still alive.
Apparently, throughout the years the princess has been reincarnated in different forms. Ardath Bey has discovered her in the form of Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann) a woman that bears a striking resemblance to his past love. (and also looks a lot like Drew Barrymore…) His plan is to kill Helen, mummify her, and then bring her back to life again so she can be by his side.
Standing in the way of his evil plan is Frank Whemple, the son of the original Archeologist who discovered Imhotep and Dr. Muller who there when the scroll brought Imhotep back to life.
Together the two men try to stop Imhotep from carrying out his hideous scheme before it’s too late.
One of the things that made all of the original Universal horror films work so well is that there was a sense of compassion for the monsters. Despite the fact that these creatures were killing people they were all tragic characters that were driven by something other than the need to kill. The Mummy continues this trend as we find Imhotep trying to reconnect with his lost love from thousands of years ago. In some ways we almost want him to succeed. The confusion that this creates when you watch these films as the lines between good guy and bad guy get blurred is what makes these movies work.
Boris Karloff is absolutely wonderful as the Mummy and the shots of him looking at the screen with his fixed stare are still frightening to this day. What is interesting about his role is that he really only spend a very small portion of the movie as a “mummy.” The bulk of the movie happens 10 years after he is found and Karloff is now in human form and is a creepy sort of sorcerer.
Some things to note:
This is the first film directed by Karl Freund who was the cinematographer for Dracula.
The plot of this film and the plot of Dracula are very similar
It took make up artist Jack P. Pierce 8 hours a day to put the mummy make up on Karloff.
The Mummy is a classic horror movie that is a must see for fans of Universal Horror and worth a re-watch if you haven’t seen it in a long time. The Mummy gets 2 1/2 guys from me.