“The Mummy” (1959)
Hammer Film’s 1959 revival of “The Mummy” (which inevitably means Terence Fisher’s 1959 revival of “The Mummy”) forgoes the eponymous character of the 1932 Karl Freund original as the sole antagonist and instead reduces the bandaged one to a reduced importance, adhering more to the conventions of the later 1940’s Universal Mummy films in which the wrapped menace is used primarily as a vehicle of destruction under the guidance of an external character with a grudge.
Thus, in this ostensible Hammer Films reinvention rather than direct remake, the mantel of villainy once assumed by Boris Karloff’s resurrected Kharis has now been undertaken by the underrated George Patel which is fortunate as from authorial conception to finished performance it’s a dynamically rewarding meeting of role and actor; a fortuitous occasion which finds itself in a film in which the formulaic roles of both villainy and heroism are granted the benefit of the somewhat surprising approach of granting the nominal villain of the piece (or more correctly stated, the one who inhabits the traditional genre role of “bad guy”) as a not unmotivated defender of both faith and cultural sovereignty.
Jimmy Sangster’s screenplay is characteristically light on logic but surprisingly adept at wielding a sharpened stick of provocative editorial points which merit scrutiny for some unexpectedly rewarding, thematically antagonistic pleasures. His scenario wisely jettisons the reincarnation angle so tiresomely prevalent in spook shows, replacing this additional supernatural baggage with a more acceptable (if suspiciously convenient) cosmetically coincidental resemblance which abandons the original’s eleventh hour spiritual collusion of the ingenue with the more tragic implications of eternal missed opportunities (which surface in the film’s most striking staged moment) that may lessen the “horror” angle but magnifies, ever so briefly, whatever scraps of human drama that emerge from an otherwise lackadaisical adherence to the rather pedestrian monster movie narrative formula which were the calling card and eventual creatively exhausted death knell of the Universal horror productions.
To read the complete review, click the following link to: https://chandlerswainreviews.wordpress.com/matinees-at-the-franklin-cinema/