Film Reviews:

The Mummy

(Karl Freund, US, 1932)

Riding high again on the success of Frankenstein, Universal studios were keen to have that film's star, Boris Karloff, doing the monster mash again as soon as possible. Inspiration came from Egypt and the so-called curse of Tutankhamun. The British archeological expedition that unearthed the mysterious crypts and their stunning treasures was headline news the decade before and had fired the public's interest in the subject ever since. It didn't take much of an imaginative leap to see Karloff repeating his earlier success, this time as the reanimated mummified Egyptian Pharaoh Imhotep. The film begins in 1921 and gets straight into the action an archeological team from British Museum are the first victims of the freshly disinterned Imotep. Unfortunately, what follows is drab by comparison as the inevitable love interest sub-plot is examined so much that it domanates the film.

Karloff's understated and menacing performance (again mute) is given precious few minutes on screen that he can do little to inject any sense of urgency into the plot. Freund's directing seems ill-suited to the 'talking picture'. Characters are left to ramble on at length, and some of the actor direction leads to some stilted exchanges. One flashback sequence relies upon an under-cranked camera to produce a speeded-up effect - a typical silent movie technique, looking very out of place with the rest of the film. In its favour, and at least some of the credit for this must go to Freund, is an oppressive, 'serious' atmosphere and a couple of moody scenes such as when Imhotep resorts to scrying to stop one of the professors burning a sacred scroll. There's also a remarkably risque costume worn by Imhotep's priestess that must have raised more than just a few eyebrows when it first opened in 1932. Considered alongside the rest of Universal's 30s and 40s horror movie canon, The Mummy is sadly lacking, and is certainly not the 'classic' that many critics would have you believe.

Rob Dyer

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