Revisiting The Mummy (1932): Universal Horror Monsters Retrospective Part 2/7

Alice Oscura, Featured Writer

Plot: Egyptian High Priest Imhotep is reawakened as a Mummy after ancient life-giving scroll “The Scroll of Thoth” is read aloud. He begins to fulfill an ancient curse whilst trying to reunite with his long-lost love, Princess Anck-su-namun.

Review: The Mummy was directed by Karl Freund, a German cinematographer and director best known for his photography on Metropolis (1927) and the beloved I Love Lucy (1951-1957) television series. He was also known as an innovator in the field of cinematography and has been credited with the invention of the “Unchained Camera Technique”. This technique allowed filmmakers to get shots from cameras in motion, enabling them to use pan shots, tracking shots, tilts and crane shots. The technique was first introduced by Freund in the 1924 silent film The Last Laugh.

After you hit the snooze button

The opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 and the Curse of the Pharaohs inspired producer Carl Laemmle Jr. to make the film. After he was able to get a written screenplay into his hands Freund was chosen to direct.

Now, unlike other monster movies, this one doesn’t really have a literary source like Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. The character is based on pure mythology and the idea of reanimated mummies has become something of a modern invention in order to explain away the curious events that took place after opening Tutankhamun’s tomb aka The Curse of The Mummy.

I summon Manos, the Hands of Fate!

In this story the disgraced High Priest Imhotep is buried alive for trying to perform a sacrilegious ceremony in order to bring back the love of life, Princess Anck-su-namun. Pretty much the same story line is re-used in the popular action-oriented The Mummy (1999) starring Brendan Fraser (when he was still hot) and Rachel Weisz. But there are a couple key elements in the black and white version that make Imhotep seem more sinister and calculating in his methods. I say this because in a way the 90s version of Imhotep played by Arnold Vosloo is a bit more glamourised for the modern audience. His physical appearance after he is fully regenerated of course is (at least for us ladies) extremely attractive and appealing even though he is the BAD guy!

Boris Karloff’s version is definitely creepier and more menacing because he does not have much to say and is disguised in plain sight. Also, one must not forget the extremely disturbing close up of Karloff’s face where you can see that the skin is just not sitting too right. It almost looks like ancient parchment stretched across it, along with the hollowed darkness achieved around his eyes. He looked like a man hell bent on destruction.

Yes, I am also confused about your extremely pale skin

Yet despite the fact that Karloff is neither handsome nor devilishly attractive, there is an iconic scene during the movie where Zita Johann, who plays the role of Helen Grosvenor aka the reincarnation of the long dead Princess Anck-su-namun, finally meets Karloff as Imhotep, but he is cleverly disguised as a modern, wealthy Egyptian called Ardeth Bay. The front of the dress that Johann wears in that scene is extremely provocative for the era, but I suppose it was to hint at her Egyptian heritage. Whilst she is standing face to face with Karloff there is an extreme and surprising amount of sexual tension between the two, and the atmosphere is almost palpable. I was shocked how well this was achieved in a movie from that era of cinema. The actress herself had a particularly exotic look about her, which made her fit right into the role of playing someone with Egyptian blood.

Fun fact: Did you know that Boris Karloff was just a stage name? His real name was William Henry Pratt, and he was born in Surrey, England. He also has Indian Ancestry from both his father and mother which explains his relatively dark complexion and features. And guess what the man who acted as some of Hollywood’s scariest monsters lent his voice to? The recordings of several acclaimed children’s stories. And beginning in 1940 Karloff dressed as Santa Claus every Christmas to hand out presents to physically disabled children in a Baltimore hospital. That’s why you should never judge a book by its cover folks!

All in all, The Mummy was way scarier to me than Dracula and I would give anything to see this redone in a much less action-orientated version of modern times, and with a return to its true Horror heart.

Alice’s Score: 7.5 out of 10

For Part 1 of this series and my review of Dracula 1931 you can click here

39AFB96D-4DEF-4DED-8DFE-3400E758CE9B Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump.

I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. You can find me as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook, my Instagram is alice_oscura and my Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. For more on me you can click here.