After going through most of the Frankenstein films, I decided to make my rounds in the series of films I didn’t know much about until now: Mommy! Mommy! Of course I know The Mummy (1999) and its sequel very well (I don’t recognize the existence of the tomb of the dragon emperor), but until this month I had never seen a film that would have launched all this, the 1932 film starring Boris Carloff.
First of all, I have to say that all my assumptions about this movie were wrong. This is NOT one of those films in which Mom destroys the landscape, destroying (all the sequels), and in fact the film bears little resemblance to a 1999 remake. By the way, I was surprised to see how identical the main theatres of the different films are. In this film, as in the remake, Imhotep is a cursed high priest who is mummified alive because he tried to revive his love from the dead. The cogwheel gives the mummy its power over the Book of the Dead (the Book of Amon Ra is also not visible), but otherwise the same basic principle.
My initial disappointment about not seeing Karlov in the context of the mummy soon disappeared when I saw him play Ardet Bey in the lead role of the film (I bet the name is familiar to you when you’ve seen the 1999 film). Even if you didn’t pay attention at first, the film leaves no doubt that Ardet Bay is a rejuvenated mother. His gait is abnormally stiff and he speaks very slowly and cautiously, as if he is accustomed to speaking a language that has a very different form to that of the modern world. I’m beginning to understand why Carloff was so famous. I never thought Carloff would do something like this a year before he played the Frankenstein monster. He fully embodies the mummy without referring to another role, and that’s not all the actors can do.
Now let’s move on to what I thought was really cool. It’s inevitable that the movie flashed when Mommy came in. It only took me a few minutes to realize that all these memories of ancient Egypt are in fact a silent film, an exaggerated acting and everything woven in the middle of a sound film. This worried me until I think the mummy was made in 1932, the silent movies were made quite regularly, just a few years ago. It wouldn’t have been that difficult to put them together, and it was a pretty brilliant way to show that we are in the past (with an outdated shooting style). And this memory is very compatible with the new 1999 edition: Imhotep steals Thoth’s Scroll to resurrect Anck-su-namum, but is captured before he reaches the target. It’s almost a bit for the way the prologue of the remake is played (minus the murder of the pharaoh, which does not take place in this case).
I love Zita Johann as Helen/Ank Su-Namum. I was very interested in the fact that Zita strongly believed in reincarnation, which I think really helped her, because here the consequences of reincarnation are highlighted. You see, at one point I suggested that Helen and Ank-su-namun live in the same body and feel very confused. You really feel Helen’s pain because she clearly doesn’t understand what’s happening to her. We also feel, believe it or not, something for Ank-su-namun as soon as she wakes up in Helen’s body. Here’s an old priestess who didn’t live long in the 20th century. He lived in the 16th century and frankly did well (although he was surrounded by relics from ancient Egypt, he probably helped the museum). I loved the way the old magic appeared at the climax of the film. The idea that these old spells can still work if you just say the right words fascinates me.
By the way, I need to talk about Mommy’s amazing makeup. I’m talking about the mother he saw in a coffin at the beginning of the film. In black and white she looks like a dried mummy, perfectly preserved. But then… the magic words are spoken….. and my mother’s eyes blink! That’s the moment I remember most of that movie, when I see those living eyes open in the middle of another dead face. Now it’s horror, something that makes you shiver, no matter how old the movie is. The moment of the end, when Imhotep turns to dust, is also very well worked out. I’m a little sad that Imhotep didn’t have the last words, but I understand why they didn’t go that way. Since the writing of the teeth is all that kept him alive, I see that his destruction will bring about his immediate death.
One last thought: I’m glad The Mummy is pre-coded, because otherwise these scenes with Anck-su-namun in his very special Egyptian outfit would never have happened (and I shudder to think what might have appeared in his place). It’s still wild for me that such things were considered inappropriate, why Helen looks almost modern in that outfit (yes, I know it was a different time, I can’t help but comment).
The Mummy (1932) quickly became one of my favourite horror films, and I warmly recommend it to anyone who wants to discover the horror classics. Watch this 1999 remake movie for fun (it’s a fun experience, I promise!).
Let me know what you think of the mummy (1932) in the following remarks and I wish you a good day!
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