"Oh! Amon-Ra-Oh! God of GodsDeath is but the doorway to new lifeWe live today-we shall live againIn many forms shall we return-Oh, mighty one!" This is the incantation that calls forth the ancient one from his miserable grave.
I sat down this weekend with an array of monster' movies and now being Sunday evening I wonder what mesmerizes me so about this type of movie. Surely there is some hidden agenda I am trying to work out because basically I am a romantic person. Certainly my movie choices should include more tear jerker types and two hanky movies, yet every time I head for the horror' or action' section at the video store.
Strangely enough I find a good deal of these movies are timeless love stories. This particular movie The Mummy isn't a horror movie at all but a story of undying love that has been passed down through time and the ages. Indeed, the actual Mummy never really makes his presence known in this release - a few parting shots of dragging mummy wrap, a hand, an eye, well - ok, sure he killed a couple of people, but they deserved it (not really, but it's a movie).
The story of The Mummy is really about Im-Ho-Tep/Ardeth Bey (Boris Karloff) and his love for Princess Arick-es-en-Amon/Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann). When Im-Ho-Tep was a young man, and a high Priest, he was in love with Princess Arick-es-en-Amon, who contracted a fatal disease. In his grief, Im-Ho-Tep stole the sacred scrolls in an attempt to bring his beautiful princess back alive. For his dastardly deeds, he was entombed alive, wrapped in his mummy garb, and left undisturbed for years, 3700 to be exact.
As we are known to do, we cannot leave well enough alone so we find the mummified remains of Im-Ho in his tomb. He is called back from the dead by a nosey student of Egyptology, Norton (Bramwell Fletcher), who in turns goes completely insane after seeing the mummy come alive. The mummy goes about his mummy ways and is not heard of again for a dozen years. At that time, a new group of Eygptologists, headed by the son of the original expedition, is having a particularly bad time finding decent artifacts at their dig. Approached by Ardeth Bay, they are led to the tomb of the lovely Princess.
Of course Ardeth Bay's goal is to reunite Mummy & Princess but low and behold he finds the nubile Helen Grosvenor and is quite taken with her, believing she is the reincarnated Princess. Using his hidden powers, he lures her to his side and almost persuades her to come over to the dark side and join him when he is stopped by the professor type/Eyptologist Frank Whemple (David Manners) who has developed a warm fuzzy for her as well. Of course, since this is an old movie, and rated for children's viewing, good triumphs over evil and the lovely Helen and Frank live happily ever after and the Mummy and Ardeth go poofy in space dust.
Sure, I gave away the entire movie, but that's OK. It's given from the beginning that love will win out. Now the really great thing about the movie is the quality of acting, scripting and scenery. This was released in 1932 and in black and white. With black and white productions, it is much harder to convey terror as we do not have the undulating lights in the background. However, Jack Pierce, the makeup artist, has been able to give us a truly frightening Karloff with just backlighting, wonderful makeup and some strange lighting effects around his eyes when he is trancing out. Pierce also devised a wonderful combination of linens, clay and fuller's earth to mold his delightful mummy around Karloff's form. Makeup prep took over eight hours to apply and only for two short scenes!
Cinematographer Charles Stumar did some remarkable shots for this era, using a good deal of mobility instead of a set' camera. By following his actors around the sets, he becomes more involved with the shooting and the scenes, and in turn, makes you more involved and makes the movements appear more fluid. While I cannot give much credit to the music used throughout the movie, for the most part it is very grating, the opening scenes of the production are set to "Swan Lake" and give it an eerie, surreal feeling.
Actually, for a movie from this time frame, the sets and scenery were really very good. The outside shots surrounding the dig' seem quite real and the interior shots are decent. At times they seem a little flouncy and overdone, but we are coming from the silent era where they are accustomed to having to over compensate for the lack of speaking parts with lavish sets. Naturally, since this wasn't that far removed from the silent era, the acting is very melodramatic. Everything seems soooo drawnnnn outtttt when they speak, with a good deal of hand motions, swoonings and failing arms in the air.
So, a horror story? Hardly, in fact not even scary at all. A wonderful love story? Partly, if you can overlook the campiness of the time. Now, what is a Nubian servant? And why was everyone afraid of him? That is a question that is never addressed!
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Susi Dawson (SusiDee34)
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Archaeologists digging in Egypt uncover the 3000-year-old mummy of Im-ho-tep, a prince who was buried alive, with a curse placed on anyone who opens his tomb. The disturbance brings restores life to the mummy, who escapes and assumes the persona of Ardeth Bey (Boris Karloff), a mysterious Egyptian whose one goal is to reincarnate his lover of 3000 years ago. When he believes he sees a shadow of his lost love in lovely young Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann), only her would-be suitor, Frank Whemple (David Manners), and resourceful Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan) can save her from body from being consumed by the soul of a long-dead woman. Thanks to director Karl Freund and an understated performance by horror legend Boris Karloff, THE MUMMY is a dreamlike masterpiece.