The Mummy from 1932 is another timeless, iconic horror character bought to life by Universal Studios. Boris Karloff turns in another legendary performance after “Frankenstein” the year before.
Starring: Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners, Edward Van Sloan and Arthur Byron.
Directed By: Karl Freund
Ratings: Internet Movie Data Base; 7.2/10 …Rotten Tomatoes; 93%
Our Rating; 7.8/10
The Mummy (1932). During a field expedition to Egypt in 1921, three archeologists discover and unearth an ancient mummy. After reading the hieroglyphs on his tomb, they discover his name to be “Im-Ho-Tep”, a high priest, who’s apparently been buried alive for sacrilege! Also discovered with the body is the Scroll of Thoth which contains the ancient spell to bring the dead back to life.
That night, unbelieving in the potency of the ancient curse placed on the scroll’s casket, one of the researchers opens, and unwittingly reads aloud the mystical words of the parchment.
It Comes to Life!
It’s here we see Karloff as the ancient corpse come to life! It’s a brilliant yet very short sequence of early horror cinema as he faintly opens his eyes and begins to move his arms. We see his hand reach out to take back the scroll from the one who revived him, then his bandages trailing out the door as he roams out into the night. The young researcher goes hysterically insane after witnessing the mummy come to life!
Ten years pass and a new expedition led by the son of one of the original archaeologists, Sir Joseph Wimple, is about to finish up it’s unsuccessful dig when approached by a mysterious, enigmatic fellow named Ardath Bey…
This is again Karloff, the awakened mummy who’s now masquerading as someone who wants to help the team. He tells them of an incredible opportunity they have to discover the most sensational find since that of Tutankhamen.
His motives are not merely to offer the team guidance though, but to have them excavate the burial place of his past love, the princess Ankh-es-en-amon. They find the tomb and as requested by Ardath Bey, give the mummy and it’s treasures to the Cairo museum.
Being the one who showed them where to dig, Ardath Bey is allowed to stay after hours within the Museum. He begins at once to attempt to use the Scroll of Thoth to resurrect the mummy of his beloved princess.
A Case of Reincarnation?
Meanwhile, in another part of Cairo, the reincarnated likeness of the princess is drawn to the museum by the incantation of Ardath Bey. Once there, she’s found outside by Joseph Wimple and his son who have just locked up for the night. She’s taken back to their home and placed under the watchful eye of her doctor.
Ardath Bey comes calling in search of the scroll which was left at the museum after he was busted trying to perform his unholy rites. He see’s that Miss Grosvenor bears an incredible likeness to his ancient love and believes her to be her reincarnation. He begins to draw her to him through his hypnotic stare and spells.
His intention? …To kill her in order to mummify and resurrect her as his bride!
This is a brilliant atmospheric slow-burner. A strong example of a less-is-more approach by legendary Cinematographer-turned Director, Karl Freund. The performance by Karloff being the highlight.
He plays his role very ominous, sinister and broodingly. His character’s inherent power is genuinely believable as he dominates his adversaries solely with his timeless, threatening stare.
During the most effective scenes of the film, he reaches out to his victims through a mysterious pool of water within his lair, to suffocate them with his ancient incantations.
Coming at a time when the public’s fascination with ancient Egypt had been stirred after the sensational discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. The Mummy was another horror hit for Universal.
Haven’t seen The Mummy from 1932? It’s certainly one to appreciate if your a fan of original classic horror. Please tell me your thoughts, or if you have any questions, please post them in the comment section below. Thanks very much for reading.