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The Mummy (1932) [Boris Karloff]

Synopsis of The Mummy

The legendary Boris Karloff stars as The Mummy Im-Ho-Tep, a high priest who is revived by British archaeologists 3,700 years after being embalmed alive for trying to save the woman he loved.

The Mummy (1932) starring Boris Karloff, Arthur Byron, Edward Van Sloan, David Manners, Zita Johann, directed by Karl Freund

Reviewed by: The Masked Reviewer

The Mummy - When the professor says, don't read the scroll of life out loud -- you really should listen
The Mummy – When the professor says, don’t read the scroll of life out loud — you really should listen

In 1921 during a archeological expedition Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) discovers the body of a man mummified alive. Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan) deduces that the man was buried alive for sacrilege, and warns the rest of the expedition to not tamper with any of the artifacts. A rather foolish young man refuses to listen to reason, and reads aloud from the scroll of life waking the mummy named Imhotep (Boris Karloff) from his undead slumber. Men are soon dying, or going completely insane. Meanwhile Imhotep is looking for his lost scroll of life to revive his long dead sweetheart.

Cast of characters

  • Boris Karloff as The Mummy
    The Mummy / Imhotep / Ardath Bey (Boris Karloff, The Raven). Would you risk death to say the life of your beloved? He would. When he wakes up in another century, alone, and no longer what he was his first thought is to find his lover. Imhotep is driven by loneliness, and desperate need to find anything from his home. Imhotep is the most developed character of this whole film.
  • Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron). A cautious man of science, that doesn’t believe in curses.

“much more is learned from studying bits of broken pottery than from all the sensational finds. Our job is to increase the sum of human knowledge of the past.”

Studio meddling

There was a key scene by the magic mirror pool that explained why Imhotep believes that Helen is a reincarnated version of his lost love. It showed Helen through the centuries as notable women in history that died young, implying that she was cursed along with Imhotep. Making a later scene much more poignant. The studio saw fit to the scene and cut it to ribbons, because it talked about reincarnation. The entire film was building up to that scene, the whole film is about Imhotep reclaiming his reincarnated lover. How did The Mummy get made if they didn’t like the theme of reincarnation?

Review and thoughts

The Mummy (1932) starring Boris Karloff, Arthur Byron, Edward Van Sloan, David Manners, Zita Johann, directed by Karl Freund

The Mummy is a respectful treatment of the Pharaoh’s curse legend, and of Egypt’s history in general. Most of their facts about ancient Egyptian gods were correct except for one small annoying moment where they say Bast is the goddess of demons. Bast is actually the goddess of protection from demons, and other such evils. Other than that though they had excellent research.

The lighting is amazing, the sets are well made, and the film is shot beautifully. Imhotep has the best mummy makeup I have ever seen. Boris Karloff actually looks like a dried up corpse. His skin is dry, and patchy, his eyes are bloodshot, and have a deep sunken in look. The film lets you see the hard work put into it.

The acting is good, but pales in comparison to Boris Karloff’s magnificent performance. Every move he makes expresses his character’s desperate loneliness. His restricted movements make the mummy walking across the screen feel real, which is impressive even if you aren’t playing the undead.

This is a beautiful movie, that was damaged by the studio before even being shown to the people. A wonderful film, with the best mummy character put to screen.

I rate this film 5/5 stars