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THE MUMMY, 1932
Starring: Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners, Edward Van Sloan, and Arthur Byron
When ancient evil is awake after centuries of slumber, three men must find a way to stop him before he is able to steal the soul of his reincarnated lover.
In 1922, while digging in the Egyptian sands for artifacts from the lost civilization, two well respected archeologist, Sir John Whemple (Arthur Byron) and Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan), stumble across the remains of a mummy, who along with him a small crate. They bring all of their artifacts back to their office and begin categorizing them. While in the office, Sir John’s assistant can barely keep his hands off the mummy’s coffin. He finally convinces Dr. Muller and Sir John to open it and along the inner lining of the coffin, there are a series of engravings, first that the mummy was the hiImhotep (Boris Karloff) and that he is a cursed man. It also informs the reader that whoever opens this coffin and reads the spell to awaken him that they will be cursed too.
Sir John and his assistant pay little attention to the warning open the crate, revealing a scroll which turns out to be the Scroll of Thoth, the same scroll which allowed the goddess Isis to raise the dead. By this time, Dr. Muller, who believes in the powereyes begin to open and slowly start moving towards the scroll. The assistant goes to another artifact, not knowing what was going on behind him, until he sees the scroll start sliding away. He looks over his shoulder and sees the mummy. He starts screaming like a mad man and when Dr. Muller and Sir John get back to the office the assistant is in the corner of the room laughing. Asking what had happened, the man points to the went for a little walk.” On the desk where the scroll, there is only a sand print made of dust and sand that remains.
The story picks up ten years later, where Sir John’s son Frank (David Manners) is leading his own team on more digs. Unlike his father, Frank has been unsuccessful in his attempts to find anything that is until a mystery man, calling him Ardath Bey (Karloff), approaches and tells the team about a spot that has the greatest find since King Tut.
It is of the Egyptian princess Ankh-es-en-amon, the daughter of one of the most powerful pharaohs of the early empire. She was also a virgin priestess of Isis, who died at a very young age. Bey takes them to the spot and shortly after, the treasures from the princess’ burial spot are on display in the Egyptian museum.
It is also around this time that Dr. Muller returns to Egypt for the winter, this year however is different. Along with him, he brings the daughter of a powerful British Governor, Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann), whose mother is Egyptian; she has the reincarnated soul of the Princess Ankh-es-en-amon. We discover this when she is at a party having a good time, while at the same time, Imhotep/Bey, begins a chant kneeing next to the mummy of the princess. This puts Helen into a trance and summons her towards the museum where Imhotep is. When she gets there however, she is unable to enter the locked room. She is also spotted by the Whemples who stop her from banging on the doors, she faints and they bring her back to their home.
Helen, is still in the trance when they arrive back at the Whemples home, they put her on a sofa where she starts repeating the name Imhotep. This means very little to Frank, who is caught up in Helen’s beauty, but means a great deal to Sir John who phones for Dr. Muller, who actually arrives rather quickly. Suddenly the trance is broken, when Imhotep’s chant was interrupted by a museum guard. Sir John tells Dr. Muller the name that Helen had been saying; both get worried because the mummy was never found. So, they decide to burn the scroll, unfortunately before they are able to, Bey arrives at the home, where he meets Helen. Their eyes lock and Dr. Muller figures out who Bey really is. Frank pulls Helen out of the room and Dr. Muller and Sir John threaten Bey telling him that they are going to burn the scroll, who in turns puts a curse on both of them.
Later that night, after everyone else had gone in for the night, Sir John retrieves the scroll, little does he know, he is being watched by Imhotep from a magic pool he has at his residents. As soon as Sir John is about to set fire to the scroll, Imhotep’s takes hold and Sir John suffers heart attack. A servant of Imhotep enters the room, gets the scroll back and sets some newspapers on fire in the fireplace to make it look like Sir John was successful, which fools Dr. Muller at first.
The next day, while Helen was on a walk with her dog, she visits Bey’s home.
Upon entering, Bey shows her his magic pool, puts her in a trance, and in the pool the images of their past lives show up. Bey explains to Helen who they really are and what happened to him due to their love affair.
Helen, while in the trance remembers all of this, but is suddenly brought back when the pleading yelps of her dog interrupt the silences. When she gets home later that evening, she is noticeably upset informing everyone that her dog had been killed but lies
It is during this evening when, Imhotep’s curse takes a hold of Frank, unable to kill him thankfully due to a charm of Isis that he is wearing, but it does render him unconscious. Helen, once again in a trance goes to the museum, where Imhotep has set up for a ritual to bring out the sleeping princess inside Helen’s soul. Upon her arrival, Imhotep burns the mummy and they begin the ritual. At this time, Helen believes that she is the princess and starts to become worried. She tries to fight Imhotep and is unable to break free from his grip, so she begins to pray to the goddess Isis for help, it is at this time that Frank and Dr. Muller arrive at the museum , although they are unable to approach Imhotep, they can only watch as the statue of Isis shoots a burst of lighting out of her staff, burning the scroll and killing Imhotep in the process. Helen awakens from her trance and the movie ends.
In 1932, the world was in love with everything Egyptian, this is only a few short years after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb and the mystery of a curse was still a huge fear for most of the population at this time, so it was only logical for Universal to have a mummy to its growing roster of monsters.
Following the huge success of Frankenstein and Dracula the year before and the moderate success of The Old Dark House earlier that same year, The Mummy was released in December. Universal was very confident about that the movie was going to be very successful due to the fact that they had Karloff signed on to be the mummy and that they had the cinematographer, Karl Freund of Dracula, as director.
Karloff, who one year earlier had played the monster in Frankenstein, had to once again go through hours of painstaking makeup to give the mummy its gruesome look, which only appears in the movie from about ten seconds. Unlike the monster though, Karloff has several lines in this film, so when he was in Imhotep’s more human state, he made the choice to make his movement very slow and to talk in a low voice, an excellent decision by Karloff, giving it the feeling that he was more dead than alive.
In the grand scheme of things, I hardly consider this a monster movie though, it is very much like a Romeo and Juliet about two lovers separated by the sands of time, but most historians consider The Mummy as probably the fourth greatest of all the classic moWolfman. I personally am not a huge fan of this movie when compared to the other three, but I think it serves its purpose and highly suggest it to anyone who loves classic monster movies. Enjoy.