The Mummy (1932)
Directed by: Karl Freund. Written by: John L. Balderston.
Plot: Back in Ancient Egypt, a priest (Boris Karloff) is punished by the Gods I think because he steals their secrets in order to revive his dead girlfriend (Zita Johann)… or something. Anyway, he gets mummified or whatever. Cut to the present day. The priest, Imhotep, is accidentally brought back to life by some jerk and finds the reincarnation of his lost love. It’s up to her fiancé (David Manners) and Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) to stop him from doing whatever it is he’s going to do.
Review: This movie is sort of the same as Dracula really - ancient undead guy (who is sort of sexy but really old fashioned) falls for young beautiful girl and ends up fucking up the lives of everyone around her - only it’s got Boris Karloff. Alright. Admittedly not as hot as Bela Lugosi, but he’s really cool and a better actor. Also, he aged way better. Compare, if you will, Targets (one of Karloff's last films) to Plan 9 (Lugosi's last movie, although it is, IMHO, one of his better performances).
This movie is sort of slow and boring in bits but when it gets going it’s just so frigging awesome. And totally romantic! Any guy that would go through all of that for his lady is obviously a keeper. Yeah, there was that whole thing where he was going to stab her, but up until then he was doing pretty well. It’s one of those movies that makes me feel all squishy inside and a rad chick flick because you can usually talk guys into watching it with you. I love movies like that. They sure as hell don’t make em like they used to.
I know, all that sexy stuff was probably just thrown in there to keep the female viewers in their seats, just like the romantic subplots in today’s suck ass slasher movies (actually, those are almost exclusively excuses for nudity...), but it was just so much sweeter back in the day. New stuff just comes off as sleazy and annoying. All that old stuff is cute and sort of annoying.
It’s also one of those movies where the monster isn’t exactly a monster. He’s as much a victim as anybody - all he wanted was his dead girlfriend back - and he’s just such a charming guy. I feel very sympathetic towards the mummy. Not so much in the sequels, but in this movie definitely.
And it’s really atmospheric and spooky. This was the first major film for Karl Freund as a director, however, he was the cinematographer on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, Dracula and lots of other stuff. In other words, he really knew what he was doing when it came to moody lighting and stuff.
So yeah, not one of the best movies in the Universal cycle, but definitely a very good one.
Favourite Part: The bit at the end when Imhotep is about to do whatever to the girl, and then she kicks his ass, proving that she, unlike Mina, is capable of taking care of herself and doesn’t need a bunch of men to take care of her. Although I think she faints after that but I’m betting it was just a ruse.
Other versions: Sort of remade as The Mummy’s Hand - it featured footage from this movie but changed the mummy from an eccentric gentleman to a shambling zombie controlled by George Zucco. Also sort of remade in 1959 (that one was more a remake of Mummy’s Hand when it came right down to it and sucked despite the fact that it was Hammer and had Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in it), and then the one with Brendan Fraser which is way closer to this version.
Sequels: Yeah but not really
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