Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Monday, May 19, 2008


THE MUMMY (1932). Director: Karl Freund.

Boris Karloff plays "Ardath Bey," actually a mummy (High Priest Im-ho-tep) who awakened after 3700 years and wants to be reunited with the reincarnation of his beloved, Princess Anck-es-en-Amon or Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann). Aside from the first scene, Karloff is never seen in mummy wrappings, and doesn't stalk around -- he uses psychic powers to draw people to him or give them heart attacks. None of the modern-day characters ever ask this ancient figure a single question about his fascinating life centuries before; they only think of him as "evil" even before he kills anyone. [Im-ho-tep had committed sacrilege by trying to bring his beloved back to life and was buried alive.] Karloff gives an intense performance, and Zita Johann, while rather unusual-looking, is quite good as well. Edward Van Sloan and David Manners are about the same as ever. Universal gets credit for an interesting idea and a new "monster," but The Mummy is slow and unexciting. Atmospheric photography and music by Charles Stumar and James Dietrich respectively. Karl Freund was a famous German cinematographer before emigrating to America -- this was his first directorial assignment (after photographing the Bela Lugosi Dracula) and he wasn't up to the challenge.

Verdict: Classic, perhaps, but not that great. **.

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