THE MUMMY. 1932. DIRECTED BY KARL FREUND. STARRING BORIS KARLOFF, ZITA JOHANN AND EDWARD VAN SLOAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This film is so old. The whole time I’m watching it I’m thinking about how many years ago it was made (eighty-three) and how the actors and crew would all be, for the most part, long dead now. That kind of knowledge inspires me with awe before I’ve even watched past the opening credits.
It’s a classic horror movie along the same lines as Bela Lugosi’s DRACULA and the equally old FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN films. Its main star, Boris Karloff, is a brilliant actor and horror maestro in the same vein- no pun intended- as Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price.
Edward Van Sloan, playing Dr. Muller, also stars in Bela Lugosi’s DRACULA as the Van Helsing character and is a terrific actor in his own right. Zita Johann as Helen Grosvenor, the eye-candy, is a real cutie-pie with the gorgeous face and figure we associate with film beauties from the ‘Twenties and ‘Thirties.
Boris Karloff plays Imhotep, an ancient Egyptian priest whose mummy is discovered and accidentally revived during one of those archaeological expeditions so beloved of the English in the 1920s.
What’s that you say? How do you ‘accidentally revive’ a mummy…? Elementary, my dear reader. One simply reads from the ancient life-giving Scroll Of Thoth and hey presto! Your mummy is up and running.
The mummy does a runner, however, and vanishes for a good decade or so, after which time he pops up again, this time in the persona of Ardath Bay. He informs the son of the original archaeologist where to find the tomb of the beautiful Egyptian princess Ankh-es-en-Amon, the woman whom Imhotep has loved for over 3,000 years.
In fact, for attempting to revive her after her death, poor old Imhotep suffered one of the worst punishments it was possible to have inflicted upon you in ancient Egypt, that of being mummified alive .
The tomb is duly found and the princess’s mummy and all her effects are handed over to the Cairo Museum. Here’s where I always get a little confused. Imhotep meets Helen Grosvenor, a woman who is the spitting image of his old love.
Instead of using his powers in trying to revive the princess’s mummy, however, he tosses the old bag of bandages on the fire and decides instead to kill Helen, mummify her and then revive her so that they can live happily ever after together.
This always seems needlessly convoluted to me- I mean, he already had an old ready-made mummy to revive!- but whatever, it’s none of my business. Having never been an ancient Egyptian priest, I suppose it’s not my place to cast aspersions on their little quirks and foibles.
Do Imhotep and Helen/Ankh-es-en-Amon ever manage to successfully get it together, then, or is Imhotep doomed to spend all eternity without the love of his life…? That’s something you’ll have to watch the film to find out.
If I have one tiny complaint, it’s that there’s not much actual ‘mummying’ in the film. That is to say, we don’t get to see Imhotep stumbling around in his bandages with his arms extended in traditional mummy-fashion, scaring the living daylights out of the folks who’ve opened his tomb and desecrated his resting-place. There’s a bit more of that in the later mummy films, but almost none at all in this one.
Ah well, it’s only a small quibble. It’s a brilliant classic horror film and Boris Karloff as Ardath Bay really, really ‘gives good face,’ as they say. The image of his deep-set eyes glowering at the camera is the main one which I take away from the film every time I watch it, even over and above the gorgeous shots of ancient Egypt. Every fan of classic horror should have this film in their collection. My copy takes pride of place in mine.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: