Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Mummy Turns 75

Seventy-five years ago today, "The Mummy" premiered, adding a new monster to Universal's expanding horror franchise. Inspired by the the fascination with ancient Egypt brought on by the discovery of King Tut's tomb, the alleged curse that came with opening the tomb, and the script for the film adaption of the previous year's "Dracula," "The Mummy" is one of Universal's best entries. Boris Karloff does an excellent job portraying Ardath Bey, and his true identity of Imhotep. While taking hours to apply the make-up, Karloff's actual screen time in the bandages was only a few moments long, but it is perhaps the most memorable, and best known sequence in the entire film, punctuated by David Manners' maniacal laughter and "He went for a little walk." line.

Among the rest of the cast, which includes Edward Van Sloan (who also had key roles in both "Dracula" and "Frankenstein"), Bramwell Fletcher, and Arthur Byron, it's exotic beauty, Zita Johann who shines as Ardath Bey's romantic obsession. The film was beautifully directed by Karl Freund, the cinematographer on "Dracula" and numerous films directed by Fritz Lang, including "Metropolis" (1927).

Like most of the other Universal monsters, "The Mummy" did have sequels--of sorts. Excluding "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy" (1955) there were four. Not only did Karloff appear only in the original Mummy movie, but his character, Imhotep did not live on past the original film either. The mummy that menaces "The Mummy's Hand (1940), "The Mummy's Tomb" (1942), "The Mummy's Ghost" (1944), and "The Mummy's Curse" (1944) was named Kharis, and was portrayed initially by an effectively creepy Tom Tyler, followed by Lon Chaney, Jr. in the remaining three films. Not only was the mummy different in these four movies, but the tone was vastly different, and the quality was difinitely B-movie as opposed to the high quality of the original production.

"The Mummy" also had one of the most beautiful posters of all time, as seen here. Skip "Rudolph", and watch "The Mummy" tonight.

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