Classic Horror Movie Week, Day 4: The Mummy

Okay, this review is predicated on a surprise, but it’s a surprise that happens ten minutes into the movie. So I feel justified in explaining it, since it’s the core of what I liked about the movie.

The classic The Mummy begins with a group of standard British archaeologists, enthusing over a new find: a mummy (Boris Karloff) and a sealed box, of which the former was buried alive, and the latter should contain the Scroll of Thoth, which was supposed to bring the dead back to life.

The older archeologists argue over what to do, the younger archaeologist opens the box, and the mummy comes to life and grabs the scroll. Of course.

We then cut to ten years later, to the son of the head archaeologist in that scene, who is now digging in Egypt like his father did, where he is approached by…Boris Karloff. Not wrapped in mummy bandages; just standing there, physically frail but psychically overwhelming.

So the entire movie is about the revived mummy, now walking about Egypt like any man, using his powers in a desperate attempt to revive his long-dead lover. Of course, there are complications, and a surprisingly effective love story in the center of it, as is common in any 1930’s movie.

Which is what makes it so effective. It’s not about a shambling, dusty corpse; it’s about a driven man, blessed with ancient powers, and the normal humans who try to oppose him. It’s a contest of wills, and Karloff plays a man of such intense will that he steals every scene he’s in. He has immense gravitas; he practically glows with it. My eyes were drawn to him in every scene.

Even the ending contains a bit of a surprise; the mummy may have succeeded in something rather horrifying.

Overall, it’s a surprisingly effective movie, mostly because of Karloff’s performance. A great little film.

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