15 – 74mins – 1932 – B&W
LOVE NEVER DIES
“Death! Eternal punishment for anyone who opens this casket, in the name of Amon-Ra, King of the Gods”
Directed by Karl Freund, Dracula’s cinematographer (and, if rumours are to be believed, the unofficial director of that picture, too, following Tod Browning’s disorganisation), Boris “Karloff the Uncanny” once more underwent hours in the make-up chair for his second iconic Universal Monster role, this time as mummified Egyptian High Priest Imhotep, who was buried alive 3,700 years ago for attempting to resurrect his forbidden lover.
Returned to life by ignorant archaeologist’s assistant Bramwell Fletcher’s reading of the ancient Scroll of Thoth, Imhotep escapes his tomb to trawl 1930s Cairo under the guise of the deep-eyed and hypnotic “Ardeth Bey”, searching the streets for the reincarnation of Ankh-es-en-amon (Zita Johann).
It’s a classic ‘love conquers all’ story that has been well-mined in the decades since, not only by Stephen Sommer’s popular CGI-laden 1999-2008 remake trilogy, but also in Francis Ford Coppolla’s extravagant Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), which used the same romantic trope to add emotional ballast to the vampire’s immortal bloodlust.
With some truly impressive Egyptian sets and transformation effects, the inclusion of a(n admittedly sparse) musical score, a more dynamic narrative structure incorporating a prologue set 10 years earlier and a fog-shrouded pool to bring in flashbacks to Ancient Egypt, The Mummy feels like a distinct progression beyond its kindred studio predecessors and towards a more modern form of moviemaking, despite coming just a year after both Dracula and Frankenstein.
It does, however, once more fall foul of an all-too-sudden climax, but the appearance of some brief end credits headed by the words “A good cast is worth repeating…” ensured I finished my first time viewing of this iconic genre classic with a broad smile across my chops.