The Mummy

  • 1932
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Horror

Absolutely marvelous. Following his triumph as the monster in FRANKENSTEIN, Boris Karloff created yet another unforgettable horror character with the help of makeup man Jack Pierce. THE MUMMY opens at an Egyptian archeological dig in 1921 as a group of scientists examine their most recent finding--a sarcophagus in an unmarked grave. The coffin in which...read more

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Absolutely marvelous. Following his triumph as the monster in FRANKENSTEIN, Boris Karloff created yet another unforgettable horror character with the help of makeup man Jack Pierce. THE MUMMY opens at an Egyptian archeological dig in 1921 as a group of scientists examine their most recent

finding--a sarcophagus in an unmarked grave. The coffin in which the mummy rests has been stripped of all religious markings that would have ensured an afterlife for the deceased, proof that the 3700-year-old corpse was buried in disgrace. Interred with the mummy is a large box upon which is

written a warning to those who would dare open it--this, however, is a horror movie, and were no one to open the box we would never be treated to Karloff's magnificent wrappings. THE MUMMY was the directorial debut of the brilliant German cinematographer, Freund, who had photographed such classic

German silents as THE LAST LAUGH; VARIETY; and METROPOLIS, as well as DRACULA in the US. Though THE MUMMY is not an overtly terrifying film (with the exception of the mummy's revival at the beginning), Freund creates an uneasy atmosphere of dread and foreboding. His camera is remarkably mobile,

with impressive tracking and crane shots that float through the action, creating an eerie mood. Although made during a time when many films suffered from a lack of music, THE MUMMY has a full score, an effectively muted collection of themes perfectly suited to the carefully paced, mystical feel of

the film. Though the technical credits are excellent, it is Karloff who carries the day. Makeup genius Pierce once again molded his magic to the actor, and the combination of linen, fuller's earth, and clay used to create the recently discovered mummy took over eight hours a day to apply. The

effect is startling, though Karloff only appears as the mummy briefly. Perhaps more impressive is the more subtle makeup Pierce created for Karloff in his reincarnated state. The mass of delicate wrinkles on Karloff's face and hands, combined with the actor's deliberately gentle, flowing

movements, creates a being who looks as if he may fall apart at any moment. It is a tribute to Karloff's immense skill that he can lend dignity and conviction to such a role. The supporting roles are also well-handled, with Johann making an appealingly offbeat heroine and Van Sloan crusading

against yet another movie monster. The relationship between Karloff's mummy and Johann, whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his lost love, lends the film conviction and a certain pathos amidst the horror. The re-creation of the days of the pharaohs is also quite effective, and the scene

wherein Karloff is wrapped alive, eyes going wider as his mouth is covered, is unforgettable. One of the rare horror films to somehow include a touch of the poetic, this stately yet brilliantly absorbing work still works beautifully today. Four inferior, shlocky sequels followed: THE MUMMY'S HAND;

THE MUMMY'S TOMB; THE MUMMY'S GHOST; and THE MUMMY'S CURSE. Hammer Films of England revived the series beginning with THE MUMMY in 1959.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Absolutely marvelous. Following his triumph as the monster in FRANKENSTEIN, Boris Karloff created yet another unforgettable horror character with the help of makeup man Jack Pierce. THE MUMMY opens at an Egyptian archeological dig in 1921 as a group of sci… (more)

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