The Mummy (1932) is the original slow moving terror. Universal monster movies had a perfect winning streak that started with Dracula followed by Frankenstein. Mummies were never my all time favorite monster, but it’s hard to deny their impact on horror. Universal chose to center their next film around Ancient Egypt even though there wasn’t a book to work with. The movie was inspired by Cagliostro, Egyptian gods, and myths. Like the monster itself, The Mummy (1932) isn’t the fast paced adventure my generation grew up with. Although I was still young at the time, I saw The Mummy (1932) many years after the 1999 remake from my childhood. It’s difficult to compare a classic to something you have a personal attachment to.
The Mummy (1932) has more black & white horror atmosphere thanks to cinematographer turned director Karl Freund. Although taking place in Egypt, more time is spent in the confined Cairo Museum. Boris Karloff became the first actor to play multiple monsters. Imhotep is very different from Frankenstein’s Monster. The Mummy’s trademark bandages and decomposed skin are only seen once in the entire movie. Archeologists Sir Joseph Whemple and Dr. Muller played by Arthur Byron and Edward Van Sloan respectively, unearth the cursed body of Imhotep. They make the mistake of reading the “Scroll of Thoth” and a third member of their party dies laughing when the Mummy walks off.
10 years later, Imhotep has become the sophisticated, yet mysterious Ardeth Bay. Although it’s the bandages that are iconic, Imhotep’s sunken face is creepy enough on its own. Imhotep is a less hands on monster who uses ancient spells to control or kill those who cross him. The Mummy (1932) is a love story between Imhotep and his forbidden lover Anck-su-namun. Imhotep seeks to find his mummy bride in order to make her immortal. Exotic beauty Zita Johann plays the half Egyptian object of Imhotep and Frank Whemple’s affection (this would be the second concerned lover that David Manners plays). Helen Grosvenor is the reincarnated Princess Anck-su-namun whom Imhotep manipulates in order to sacrifice her. Only the outlandish power of Isis is enough to stop him. The Mummy (1932) may have put me to sleep the first time, but it’s that same restraint that made it impactful.
Followed by: The Mummy’s Hand