Tuesday, March 15, 2011

#221. The Mummy (1932)

DVD Synopsis: Boris Karloff’s legendary performance has become a landmark in the annals of screen history. As the mummy, Im-Ho-Tep, he is accidentally revived after 3,700 years by a team of British archaeologists. It is revealed in a flashback that he was a high priest, embalmed alive for trying to revive the vestal virgin whom he loved, after she had been sacrificed. Alive again, he sets out to find his lost love.











What was it about Boris Karloff that had directors thinking of the walking dead? Karloff rose to stardom in the early 1930’s by playing Frankenstein’s Monster, a creature constructed from the body parts of deceased criminals. In 1932’s The Mummy, the great actor returns to the realm of the dead as the mummy Imhotep, an Egyptian High Priest who, after 3700 years, rises from his grave. Just imagine what Karloff might have brought to Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.  It’s enough to stagger the imagination!

The year is 1921, and British Archaeologist Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) has just uncovered the mummy Imhotep, an ancient Egyptian high priest condemned to death 3700 years earlier for sacrilege against the Gods. When Sir Joseph’s assistant reads aloud from a forbidden scroll, the mummy (Boris Karloff) is brought back to life, and promptly disappears into the vast Egyptian desert. Ten years later, Sir Joseph returns to Egypt to assist his son, Frank (David Manners), who is also an archaeologist. Searching for a discovery to rival his father’s, Frank jumps at an opportunity presented by a mysterious stranger named Ardath Bay, who promises to lead the young man to the hidden tomb of an ancient princess. As it turns out, this princess is the lost love of the mummy Imhotep, and Ardeth Bay is none other than Imhotep himself! Once his princess is unearthed, Imhotep will stop at nothing to ensure that she is also resurrected, to join him once again in the world of the living.

Like many of Universal’s horror films of the 30’s and 40’s, the success of The Mummy comes down to the performance of its star. Boris Karloff was an actor who, even when playing a creature, generated a level of sympathy for his characters. In Frankenstein, he was a monster, but only because others saw him as one; in truth, his monstrous behavior was a direct result of the actions of those around him, who both feared his creature and hunted him like an animal. In The Mummy, Karloff's High Priest Imhotep murders several people, and tries to kill even more, yet we learn that he is doing so for love. A well-staged flashback shows us exactly what happened to poor Imhotep all those centuries ago; how he sacrificed not only his life, but also his very soul, for the love of a woman. Even when playing the villain, Karloff finds a trace of humanity in the role, making it impossible to condemn him entirely. 

As with many of these old horror movies (such as the original versions of Dracula and Frankenstein), The Mummy has obviously aged, and is no longer as frightening as it might have been to it's contemporary 1930's audience. And yet this film still have something to offer us. If you go in expecting chills and screams, you'll walk away disappointed, but, if you instead sit back and take in the atmosphere, the style, and the performance of its stars, you’ll find The Mummy to be a genuinely entertaining experience.






9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hear you Doctor Shock Karloff I can tell is an idol of yours and mine also. I haven't seen this in probably 40 years it will definitely be worth adding to my DVD archives. This is without a doubt a "true" horror film. While I am at it I am adding the House on haunted Hill also. Great pick on the last show. Drew D.

Dave Becker said...

Drew: Karloff is definitely an idol, and he consistently impresses me each time I watch one of his films. As much as I like Lugosi, there's little doubt that Karloff was the superior actor.

You certainly can't go wrong with THE MUMMY, or HOUSE ON HAUNTER HILL.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

This post is not showing up off the "Horror" category Dr. Just so happens I thought it was weird that a post wasn't live yet today as I know you always have them out at the stroke of midnight, so I checked the Home Page and voila.

Anxious to see the 14 horror movies you choose on this Horror Marathon you proposed on the Podcast.

More Boris is always a good thing Dr., I am hoping for a few obscure titles though over these weeks.

Chaz
Orlando, FL
Home of Walt Disney World

Dave Becker said...

Chaz: Thanks so much for pointing this out to me! I got so caught up in our last episode, that I inexplicably listed this film under "HAMMER HORROR" in the tags instead of just HORROR! I'm in your debt.

Actually, I'm kinda anxious myself to see what I come up with! I've still not planned out the 2 weeks (which is how I want it to be).

And don't worry, there will be more obscure titles than classics over these next 2 weeks (but hey, you just KNEW I had to throw some 30's horror in here, didn't you?)

Thanks again for pointing the error out to me. I appreciate it. Thanks also for your great comments, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

Glad I could help Dr., it is the least I could do for all of the hosts providing such an amazing podcast for free to horror fans.

Chaz
Orlando, FL
Home of Walt Disney World

Dave Becker said...

Chaz: The pleasure is all ours! Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

nuther guud oldie * wraped up show 8 was grate * ordring sum dvd frum the hosts selecions * tanks fur a grate podcast

Dave Becker said...

Thanks for stopping by.

I'm glad you enjoyed the episode (and I'll also be picking up some of the other host's recommendations...I haven't seen most of them myself).

Thanks for listening, and enjoy the movies!

Klaus said...

As an archaeologist, I love watching these kinds of films and the way archaeology was depicted - If only it was that interesting! :)

Great film and an awesome atmosphere as you aptly pointed out. If I recall correctly, the ending is a bit abrupt. In any case, I definitely need to re-watch.