Mummy, The (1932)

“No man has ever suffered as I did for you.”

Synopsis:
A team of archaeologists unearth the mummy (Boris Karloff) of an ancient Egyptian prince, who returns to life and seeks to turn the reincarnation of his former love (Zita Johann) into his eternal mate.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this classic Universal horror flick — which is “loved by many horror fans” — has “visual beauty” (D.P. Karl Freund directed), but “moves along at a snail’s pace” after its “unforgettable”, truly terrifying opening sequences. Part of the problem, as Peary notes, is that “Karloff never again appears in mummy’s get-up” (though his make-up as modern-day ‘Ardath Bey’ is impressively gruesome in itself); and that “when he uses mind-control over Johann and the men who challenge him, the scenes seem [like] watered-down versions of similar scenes from Dracula” (I actually find them reasonably compelling). Peary labels the film “overrated”, but acknowledges that “there’s little doubt it’s the best of the crummy mummy subgenre”; astonishingly (or perhaps not), he lists no other titles from the franchise in his book. While I’m a tad more enthusiastic about this quietly creepy horror outing than Peary, I’ll concede it’s ultimately less memorable than its more famous counterparts; but it’s atmospherically shot, and Jack Pierce’s make-up really is impressive. Film fanatics won’t want to miss checking it out at least once.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Boris Karloff as Im-ho-tep and Ardath Bey
  • Zita Johann as Helen
  • Jack Pierce’s truly impressive mummy make-up
  • Atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a classic title from Universal’s Golden Age of Horror.

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One Response to “Mummy, The (1932)”

  1. Must-see, mostly for its place in cinema history.

    ~but I had forgotten how effective and atmospheric this quick flick is. At roughly an hour and a 1/4, ‘The Mummy’ doesn’t waste any of its time and its story is laid out rather well. DP Freund didn’t make that many films as director and certainly most of his directorial efforts are not that well known. But he does deliver the goods here. (Though it ultimately does border on the ridiculous – how could it not? – it’s not as outlandish as Freund’s other popular title, ‘Mad Love’.) ‘The Mummy’ is slick and carefully made in all aspects.

    In terms of serving up fright, it’s doubtful Universal would have been able to top its two horror tales of the previous year – ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Dracula’ – and, with ‘The Mummy’, they didn’t try. There’s less horror here and more mystery. There’s even a central love story (for the monster) embedded (as there eventually would be with the studio’s ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’). Certainly there are sinister doings afoot but they’re perhaps not quite as unnerving as what’s found in ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Dracula’. (I would imagine that was especially true for audiences of its time.) Still, it’s all creepy enough anyway, as it reaches its goal of creating a thick sense of dread.

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