Egypt, Unwrapped: “The Mummy” (1932)

 mummy82    “The Mummy”    (1932)

    The first of the major Universal sound horror films which relied upon the invention of screenwriters rather than a direct literary predecessor, Karl Freund’s “The Mummy” enjoys the luxury in the depiction of the title creature’s origin backstory and continued tale of menace without the critical distraction of source comparisons. That being said, itmummyOS is remarkable as to how many elements of the film seem vaguely familiar, as if directly lifted, by way of clever transposition, from previous successes, most prominently Tod Browning’s “Dracula”. That Freund, the earlier film’s cinematographer, is promoted to the director’s chair and actors David MannersEdward Van Sloane are prominently featured in both films,  certainly contributes to a certain air of déjà vu; but it is the presence of John Balderston which accounts for the prematurely formulaic sense of reincarnated genre tropes to which the film is attributable (he managed to make a  stuffy drawing room drama out of Stoker’s seminal novel, from which every incarnation  since has immeasurably suffered). 

    In 1921, a group of archeologists, including Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) and an expert in occultism Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan) under the sponsorship of the British Museum, make some remarkable finds in an Egyptian dig (despite early exchanges in which characters  complain, with contradictory fervor, that their labors have yielded little of value!); a perfectly preserved mummy of the high priest Imhotep (Boris Karloff), and a mysterious chest whose contents are protected by a dire caution ofmummy6 death. As though he were unfamiliar with lesson to be learned from the tale of Pandora’s Box, Sir Joseph’s assistant, the foolhardy Ralph Norton (Bramwell Fletcher), reveals the contents of the casket (Just how would horror films thrive without the cooperation of rational people who recklessly run headfirst to their doom?), the Scroll of Thoth, imprinted with forbidden holy words of resurrection, the substance of which the film foolishly opens, making the text sound like a Pep Squad chant for ancient deities. The revived mummy, shocks the startled Norton into a paroxysm of insane laughter. from which he never recovers; though just how the shuffling Imhotep manages to elude both Sir Joseph and Dr. Muller, who are standing just outside the entrance to the chamber, is a mystery.

 To read the complete review, click the following link to:  https://chandlerswainreviews.wordpress.com/evenings-at-the-afi/

About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in Boris Karloff, horror, horror films, Movies, Pre-Code Movies, religion, Romance, women, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Egypt, Unwrapped: “The Mummy” (1932)

  1. Lilyn G says:

    (Just how would horror films thrive without the cooperation of rational people who recklessly run headfirst to their doom?) <– this had me snorting as I've oft thought the same thing.

  2. beetleypete says:

    I saw this when I was about nine years old. I thought it was quite scary, and full of atmosphere. My later passion for film criticism had not kicked in by then. I have never seen it since, and I think I will just leave it as a pleasant film memory, instead of spoiling it for myself.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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