With all of the hoopla surrounding the newly released Tom Cruise version of The Mummy, I figured it was time to revisit the original. The 1932 version of The Mummy was based on an original screenplay, based on an actual historical event, with just a bit of Dracula thrown in for good measure. The basic idea for the film sprung from the curse of King Tut’s tomb. In 1922 real life archaeologists discovered the tomb of the Egyptian king. There was a warning on the doorway that any who desecrate the tomb would die. Within a few years members of the expedition began dropping like flies. The situation screamed for a film to be made and producer Carl Laemmle Jr was listening.
The Mummy starred the legendary Boris Karloff. Boris had an amazing career, appearing in over 50 movies as a bit player before becoming a star with Frankenstein. That wasn’t a speaking part and he worked hard to develop his speaking chops over the next 8 or 9 movies he made. By the time The Mummy rolled out, Karloff was comfortably delivering lines in the incredible voice he would use for the rest of his career. Although the bandaged mummy has become a horror and advertising icon, Karloff only appears in bandages for the first few minutes of film. His portrayal and Jack Pierce’s makeup were that powerful. For most of the film Karloff appears as a living corpse with hypnotic and telepathic powers.
The Mummy is the source for all of the standard cliches associated with mummy movies. A tomb is discovered and the contents sent to a museum. A bandaged guy has been charged with protecting the tomb and comes back to life. He discovers a girl who looks exactly like the chick who got him in trouble in the first place. He plots to win her eternal love by killing her. Of course there’s a young hipster who’s also interest in the distressed damsel. On top of all that, there’s a flashback sequence to ancient Egypt that addresses the who and why questions. In fact the only mummy cliche missing is the bandaged guy moving slower than a sack of manure tried to a tree, but still able to catch and strangle his victims.
This is a must see picture for all true horror fans. Let’s face it, you’re not an expert on horror films if you don’t learn about the early classics. The Mummy is a tightly written masterpiece with memorable characters. In today’s world, it’s almost shocking to see a horror film with no sex or on screen violence but The Mummy demonstrates that a great story and great actors are what matter. It would have been a really cool tribute if the 2017 movie had used scenes from the 1932 version for its’ flashback sequence. OK the switch to a female monster might have ruined any attempt to use Karloff in the new picture, but maybe one of the future Dark Universe entries could do something similar.