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


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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