Note: Since May is the month of Mother’s Day in the US and also the month of my mom’s birthday, I had to go for a corny pun with this month’s Favorite Things: The Mummy. Forgive my cheese!
The favorite film:
The Mummy, a Universal monster movie directed by Karl Freund
Boris Karloff as Imhotep
Arthur Byron as Sir Joseph Whemple
David Manners as Frank Whemple
Zita Johann as Helen Grosvenor
Edward Van Sloan as Doctor Muller
Sir Joseph Whemple and his team are on a field expedition in Egypt when they discover an unusual mummy. The mummy appears to have been buried alive, with some of the markings and jewels scraped off of its sarcophagus. A cursed scroll, the Scroll of Thoth, is found with the body. Ignoring the warnings on the box holding the scroll, the men open the scroll and read it, in the interest of science… bringing the mummy back from the dead.
- The screenplay was written by John L. Balderston from a story by Nina Wilcox Putnam and Richard Schayer.
- Boris Karloff was billed as “Karloff the Uncanny” for the release of this film.
- TCM notes that Boris Karloff’s mummy make-up took eight hours to apply, and had to be melted off at the end of each day.
- The studio’s interest in making this film was in part due to the public interest in the real-world discovery of Tutankahmen’s tomb, as well as the supposed curse afflicting archaeologists who took part in that expedition.
- “Ardath Bey,” the name Imhotep uses after being revived from his mummified form, is an anagram of “Death by Ra.”
- The New York Times review of the film noted Karloff’s growing popularity from playing spooky characters, stating: “That there is a place for a national bogey man in the scheme of things was demonstrated by the crowds that clicked past the box office yesterday.”
- Working titles for the film included The King of the Dead and Im-Ho-Tep.
- TCM notes that Henry Victor appears in the film’s credits as “Saxon Warrior,” but he never appears in the movie, as his scenes were part of a flashback to Helen’s past lives, which was cut from the film.
- Though certainly Henry must have felt some disappointment at being cut from the film, even more upset of the loss of the “past lives” sequence was leading lady Zita Johann, who reportedly believed strongly in reincarnation.
- “THIS IS THE SCROLL OF THOTH. Herein are set down the magic words by which Isis raised Osiris from the dead. Oh! Amon-Ra — Oh! God of Gods — Death is but a doorway to new life — We live today – we shall live again — In many forms shall we return – Oh, mighty one.”
- Ralph: “Looks as though he died in some sensationally unpleasant manner.”
- Joseph: “‘Death – eternal punishment – for anyone who opens this casket, in the name of Amon-Ra, the King of the Gods.’ Good heavens, what a terrible curse!”
Ralph, the over-eager treasure hunter: “Well, let’s see what’s inside!”
- Dr. Muller: “Put it back. Bury it where you found it. You have read the curse. You dare defy it?”
Joseph: “In the interest of science. Even if I believed in the curse, I’d go on with my work for the museum!”
- That scene when the mummy starts breathing and moving his arms, before emerging from his sarcophagus and taking the scroll. Brilliantly staged!
- Ralph: “He went for a little walk! You should have seen his face! HAHAHAHAHA”
- Yes, Karloff! That outfit, those odd mannerisms, that monotone voice.
- Imhotep: “We Egyptians are not permitted to dig up our ancient dead, only… foreign museums.”
- Joseph: “The British Museum works for the cause of science, not for loot.”
- Helen’s zombified walk when summoned by Imhotep
- Helen: “I must get in!” (And then she faints.)
- Helen’s confusion after she wakes up
- Helen: “Do you have to open graves to find girls to fall in love with?”
- Imhotep showing up and meeting Helen
- Imhotep: “Have we not met before, Miss Grosvenor?” (Such an eerie tone in this scene!)
- Imhotep: “You have studied our ancient arts and you know that you cannot harm me. You also know that you must return that scroll to me, or die.”
- Dr. Muller: “If I could get my hands on you, I’d break your dried flesh to pieces… but your power is too strong.”
- And strong power, he certainly does have! With his mystical spying pool, he can not only keep tabs on the scroll, but bring harm to those to try to keep him from it.
- That flashback scene Imhotep shows Helen in the pool, with its silent film style and elaborate costumes
- Imhotep: “I murmured the spell that raises the dead! They broke in upon me, and found me doing an unholy thing.”
- That scene of Imhotep being mummified alive, and his torch-lit burial in the middle of the night
- Imhotep: “My love has lasted longer than the temples of our Gods. No man ever suffered as I did for you, but the rest you may not know. Not until you are about to pass through the great night of terror and triumph, until you are ready to face moments of horror for an eternity of love.”
- No matter how many times I watch the film, I’m always engrossed by the Imhotep’s talk about the “great change,” souls taking on different forms, and other mythologies. I’m not sure how accurate it is to actual ancient Egyptian tradition, but it sure is fascinating to watch.
- Helen: “I no longer fear you. Do with me what you will.”
- Imhotep’s transition back to mummy mode as the scroll burns