"Death - eternal punishment - for anyone who opens this casket."
Many years before Brendan Fraser starred in the modern story of The Mummy, there was the classic Karl Freund film which saw the light of day way back in 1932. The Mummy is the third movie in what is considered the classic Universal Monsters film series, and was the second monster movie to feature the infamous Boris Karloff as the Mummy himself: Imhotep! What separates this film from a lot of the other Monster movies is that it truly is a romantic horror, in that its story is pretty much entirely based around the resurrection of Imhotep's lost love, Princess Ankh-es-en-Amon. While the romance factor may not be everyone's cup of tea, don't mistake that genre for weakness: The Mummy has some truly great, intimidating shots that deliver some pretty intense feelings of dread - all delivered by Karloff's iconic facial expressions - much like he did in his previous film Frankenstein. The Mummy - while a household name and easily recognizable character - doesn't always get the recognition it deserves as not only a great horror, but a great movie in general. While it may not be the most "true horror" in the Universal lineup, it certainly deserves its place among the classic greats.
To quickly recap the plot, an archaeological team in Egypt unearth the mummy of Imhotep along with a casket with curse on it. Of course, some doofus reads the scroll aloud - the Scroll of Thoth - which gives life to Imhotep once again, as he arises from the dead and back into the realm of the living - in 1921! Imhotep uses makeup to hide his slightly hideous, mummified face as he blends in with the rest of the people of Egypt - to whom he shows where to find the tomb of Princess Ankh-es-en-Amon. But when Imhotep - who now goes by the name Ardath Bey - meets the beautiful Helen, he instantly sees the resemblance to his lost love. He wants to kill her so that he can mummify and resurrect her, so that she may be his immortal bride for the rest of eternity (which is really pretty sweet). Does Helen meet her doom and become Imhotep's bride, or does he fall short of ending her life?!
Even if you've never seen The Mummy before, just by a quick summary of the plot you could probably pick up the blend of romance and horror that makes up this classic movie. Imhotep's rising from the dead and seeking death upon Helen are definitely two very dark themes, but they are easily overlooked by the fact that he's basically swooning over her and just wants to reign eternally with his long lost love. Normally - and in modern times - it would sound pretty cheesy, but for 1932 I feel like this was probably so revolutionary for the people of the time. To see a monster come back to life and seek to make a seemingly normal woman his eternal bride was probably horrifying to audiences back then! The film has inspired countless other films, and while they may not be as romantically involved as this original film was, they certainly are a nod to one of Universal Pictures greats. I think what shocked me the most when I first saw this film as a teenager was just how little you see the Mummy walking around in bandages and wraps, arms raised and chasing people. The clothed mummy appears for just moments on screen, and Imhotep speaks perfectly and almost acts as if he totally belongs - which is funny. Every Halloween decoration you see of the Mummy has him portrayed the exact same way - and yet, it couldn't be further from the films depiction of him!
Like many of the other Universal Monster movies we're about to spend the next few weeks watching, by today's standards, they may not seem like much in terms of special effects, costumes or even storylines - but placing ourselves in the audience during the years these movies we released are an awesome way to bring us back to the roots of true terror. The Mummy doesn't rely on a spooky guy in bandages - the true terror is in the details you can only find watching the movie. And that's why this is yet another great Universal Pictures classic!