The Mummy was golden at the box office, attracting not only genre fans, spiritualists and believers in reincarnation, but any number of viewers who were drawn both by the grandeur of the love tale and by the novelty of a "horror picture" without explicit violence. -- John T. Soister, Of Gods and Monsters: A Critical Guide to Universal Studios' Science Fiction, Horror and Mystery Films, 1929-1939
With scenes of confrontation between good and evil similar to Dracula, and the romance of undying love and reincarnation gleaned from H. Rider Haggard's She, Balderston crystallized his story of The Mummy. The unsensational and restrained visual tone was added by director Karl Freund, who's moody cinematography captured the supernatural demeanor and timelessness of Bela Lugosi's centuries-old vampire count in Dracula. Although using more camera movement here than in Dracula, Freund deliberately lingers on somber scenes to evoke a mystical aura, tinted with sadness, over the proceedings and Egyptian antiquities. His use of stimmung--a mood-building pause seen in German Expressionist Cinema of the 1920s--especially during Im-ho-tep's resurrection, shows carefully measured glimpses of Jack Pierce's elaborate makeup, leaving us in horror for what is not shown.
After unearthing the ornate casket containing the Scroll of Thoth, Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan) objects to opening it after Whemple (Arthur Byron) reads the "terrible curse" warning death and eternal punishment to anyone who dares to do so. As Dr. Muller hastily exits, Whemple chases after him, unwisely leaving the impetuous archaeologist Norton (Bramwell Fletcher) alone with the incredible find. We know what he will eventually do, but Freund holds and heightens our anticipation by alternating between the fidgety Norton, Muller and Whemple arguing curses and science under the "stars of Egypt," and the mummy reposing in its sarcophagus. The light from a large oil lamp casts shadows about the room but highlights Norton in his futile efforts to keep his eyes off the casket and his eagerness in check.
Finally succumbing to his curiosity, Norton pulls the lamp closer, adjusting the lampshade to get a better view. Reciting his translation of the now unrolled scroll under his breadth --the room is deathly quiet--we wait for Im-ho-tep to awaken. And wait. Then wait some more. Shooting from the chest up, showing only a small portion of Pierce's complete body mummification for Karloff, Im-ho-tep's eyes, at first imperceptive, but then with certainty, open slightly, reflecting the light from the lamp. Slowly, very slowly--he has not moved for over three thousand years--one arm begins to move, shaking a bit of dust loose. That is it. This is the most we see of Karloff's fresh-from-the-sarcophagus Im-ho-tep. Except for a mummified hand with a gleaming ring on one finger, and bits of the grave dangling from another, shown reaching slowly, awkwardly, for the scroll, the full figure of the now ambulatory mummy is off screen. Norton registers terror when he sees it, looks up, then utters one short scream on seeing Im-ho-tep, still out of our view. Backing up against the wall, Norton watches Im-ho-tep quietly walk out the room while we watch the mummy's ancient wrappings trail across the floor and out the door. Whemple rushes in to find Norton driven mad from fright and the sarcophagus empty.
Pierce's skin-as-tight-as-parchment makeup for Ardath Bey is just as impressive. It's furrowed lines showing great age and withering dryness, along with Karloff's stiff posture and slow but deliberate movement and speech, reinforces the fragility of Im-ho-tep who, returning ten years later to find the soul of his lost love, is an Egyptian averse to physical contact. Calling himself Ardath Bey, he seeks out Whemple's son Frank (David Manners), who is about to give up finding anything of significance and leave Egypt. The stoic Bey guides Frank and his crew to the tomb of Princess Anck-es-en-Amon.
With her mummified body and her "clothes, jewels, and toilet things" now on display at the Cairo Museum, Ardath Bey conducts a ritual when the museum is closed. Kneeling by her sarcophagus in the dark he uses the scroll's magic to summon her soul, intoning her name over and over again. Responding to his summons, Helen Grosvenor, possessing the latest incarnation of the princess's soul, is compelled to head to the museum.
I love this article, You are like the history Channel for the macabre.
Posted by: christopher Zenga | January 15, 2009 at 09:18 PM