the Mummy (12/22/32) Merry Christmas 1932, Mummy’s home. Paramount brought you beastiality for the holidays, Universal tops it with necrophilia. If you doubt that, just look at the poster. Mummified mummy gets very little screentime but is on all the merchandizing. To his credit, Ardeth Bey didn’t know he was looking for a soul buried in a human, he was just going to conjure up a crumbly girlfriend. Burying magicians alive, never ends well for anyone. I do prefer a creepy mage mummy to a shambling zombie burn victim.
Balderston borrows a lot from his Dracula screenplay including pushing women around, ‘go to bed’, ‘get some rest’, ‘go back to the hotel’ – what the hell? At least Helen tries to push back ‘I’m not a child,’ two seconds before she agrees to go back to the hotel with a fella who has been creeping on her all night. The core of the tale of lovers separated by time and death, is lifted from a short story by the recently deceased and beyond complaining Conan Doyle.
Freund didn’t do much directing, but here it shows that he could have if he had wanted to. The musical motifs push the creep factor in this film, it adds a level of tension to the silent sequences which wouldn’t have been there if they were sound. It is chilling when they play the musical chord that represents him reaching out and touching someone. Universal’s globalization is always a bit of a mishmash, though characters switch fluidly from English to French, the Egyptian is mostly effective gibberish. Though silenced again, Noble Johnson was apparently quite busy in 1932.
This is probably one of the best films that exploits Eastern mythology to scare the pants off a Western audience. Feeding into the myth of the curse of the Pharaohs, it also implies that plunderers for science are still looters, and all must be punished, even Ardeth Bey. For its few faults, it is quite effective and no other Mummy film seems to ‘get’ it, as this one did. BTW the naming of Professors Whemple, knowing of Karloff’s lisp, is just childis