THE MUMMY was another awful make-up job. For the sequence where the dead mummy comes to life, it was between eight and nine hours to get ready for it. You really had to get to the studio the day before. Thank God that sequence only took about a week to shoot! --Cinefantastique: quoting from a Canadian radio interview with Boris Karloff
Zombos Says: Classic
Can you smell it? Fresh pumpkin innards, candy corn, Ben Cooper Mummy costume rustling as you free it from its cardboard box. October air gliding furtively above pavement and walkway, baring boughs, making wooden porch steps creak, kicking empty porch swings back and forth to rattle their chains, suddenly jumping deeply into russet leaves piled high, scattering them like sands swirling around the charnel tombs of Egypt. Its time has come.
Of all the classic Universal Monsters immortalized in Halloween's polyester and plastic, the least colorful one, the Mummy, remains a top favorite of fright. Perhaps it is the way he walks--certainly not how he talks--or perhaps it is the range, from easy to hard, through which you can become the Mummy, wrapping yourself in either toilet tissue or ACE bandages. Whichever it may be, it all started with Karl Freund's The Mummy, brought to vivid life by Boris Karloff, the only actor who could portray the buried-alive-for-love Im-ho-tep, painstakingly mummified by monster maker Jack Pierce in a long process few would care to endure.
Sitting for hours in Pierce's makeup chair, I wonder what Karloff thought about as Pierce applied layers of glue and cotton to achieve the centuries-old, dessicated look of the mummy. I wonder what Pierce thought about when director Karl Freund showed Pierce's elaborate makeup ever so briefly onscreen after all the research, the testing, and the final process work he put into it.
Pierce first brushed Karloff's face with a special gum, a secret formula, that retained its moisture so long as the makeup remained on the actor. Over the gum he plastered a thin layer of cotton, specially prepared for this type of work. After the cotton had "set" in the glue, with a pair of tweezers, Pierce pulled out the excess, leaving little valleys where he planned to create the lines of antiquity. Thirdly, another layer of gum was brushed on the cotton, this to hold the outside in exactly the same position as created by the tweezers. While the face was drying under the hot blast of an electric heater and fan, Pierce turned to the hands. The same process served here. --Modern Mechanix, Makeup Secrets of Movie Horror Pictures, Feb. 1933
In the first draft of this vehicle for Karloff the Uncanny, the stylish artistic and production elements, especially the singular makeup effects, which make this supernatural tale of antiquity, macabre love, and eternal torment a memorable horror film, were not yet realized. Cagliostro, the screenplay by Nina Wilcox Putnam, later expanded by Richard Schayer, did not capitalize on the Egyptian mystique, or Karloff's incomparable ability to portray a sympathetic, yet powerful, creature of the night under heavy makeup.
Their story concerned Cagliostro, a magician in Ancient Egypt, who lived for over 3,000 years by injecting himself with nitrates. Most of his time was spent hunting and killing women who resembled the one who discarded him centuries before. Settling in San Francisco with his Nubian slave, the grudge-holding magician sets his sights on one Helen Dorrington, a dead ringer for his lost love. After creating a crime wave by using radio waves, the villain is waylaid by Professor Whemple and Helen's lover. --The Mummy in Fact, Fiction, and Film by Susan D. Cowie, Tom Johnson and contributor George Hart
It took John L. Balderston (Dracula) to move the story from poverty row-styled potboiler to deeper atmospheric tones built firmly on the Egyptian craze peaking after Howard Carter opened King Tut's tomb ten years earlier. Drawing on his knowledge of Egyptology (as a journalist he covered the discovery of Tut's tomb), and staging the action similar to Dracula, Balderston turned Cagliostro's driving hatred into desire. He then added pity to lighten the dark shade over Im-ho-tep's futile longing for his lost love. Like Dracula, Im-ho-tep has survived death, wields great occult power, and seeks to possess a particular woman. Unlike Dracula, Im-ho-tep is at heart a romantic and harms others only when they stand between him and his lover, Princess Anck-es-en-Amon (Zita Johann). Johann captures the allure of the sultry golden sands in her portrayal of Helen Grosvenor, the reincarnated princess, with her kolh-darkened eyes and plunging neckline, struggling against Im-ho-tep's hypnotic influence as he forces her to remember her past life with him.
Besides Dracula, another script written by Balderston would influence events for these star-crossed lovers. Paul M. Jensen, in his chapter on The Mummy in Midnight Marquee Actors Series: Boris Karloff (edited by Gary J. and Susan Svehla), mentions Balderston's early draft for She (1935), written around the same time he was refashioning Cagliostro's storyline, as another key influence.
This warms my heart, I absolutely love this film. And it's nice to see the old picture of Jack Pierce putting the make up on Boris. My cousin Amanda does horror make up and her teqniques have come along was from the old Tom Savini days(and even that was painstaking) the process to get this old make up put together must have been a nightmare. I think the allure to the mummy is the undead/Zombie undertones (and we all know my affinity to Zombies)I think I am going to have to book some time to re-watch this on the weekend.
Posted by: chris zenga | January 06, 2009 at 04:07 PM