"Do you have to open graves to find girls to fall in love with?"
An expedition in Egypt discovers the mummy of ancient Egyptian prince Im-Ho-Tep (Boris Karloff). The priest was condemned and buried alive for sacrilege. Also in the tomb is the Scroll of Thoth. It is said that the scroll can bring the dead back to life. One night a young member of the expedition reads the Scroll out loud. He accidentally brings Im-Ho-Tep back to life. Ten years later, disguised as a modern Egyptian, and calling himself Ardath Bey, he meets Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann). Believing that she is the reincarnation of an ancient princess he plans to use her body to restore the woman he loves. To do that he will have to kill Helen and mummify her. Then he can resurrect her as his princess.
Believe it or not the original Mummy movie produced by Universal Pictures 1n 1932 is different than most of the remakes that came later. Not just in the name of the mummy changing from Imhotep to Kharis but in other aspects too. Usually the mummy stays the mummy, wrappings and all. He shuffles around killing people who either dared to disturb him or his princess. And he doesn’t speak. In the original, however, you never see the mummy, or Imhotep (Boris Karloff), shuffle anywhere. Once he is awakened you see his eyes open, his arms move, a hand comes into view and that’s all. Later you will see just a piece of wrapping moving along the floor when the mummy leaves. It’s actually a great scene. It adds mystery to the film. At the end of the film you feel like you saw the mummy walking, but no, you haven’t.
The next time the mummy appears its 10 years later and he is unwrapped and going by the name of Ardath Bey. Of course he still looks like 10 miles of bad road but the wrappings are gone. He is stiff and somber. Very mummy like but he is dressed in traditional Egyptian clothing. Since he can not dig up his princess Ankh-es-en-Amon he cons the white people into doing it for him. They do and then they bring it to the Cairo museum. That is when he meets Helen.
There are also similarities with future mummy movies as well. The mummy’s love for a dead princess. His attempt to bring her back to life only to be caught and turned into a mummy himself. Being buried alive. And later his attempt to resurrect his princess by using the body of another woman.
Much note has been made of the underlying similarities between “Dracula” and “The Mummy”. Perhaps some of the plot devises may be similar but I found “The Mummy” was more of a love story where as “Dracula’s” theme bordered more on revenge. “The Mummy” is both horror movie and love story. Producer Carl Laemmle’s fondness for Swan Lake shows. He used it as the beginning score for the credits on The Mummy as well as for the beginning credits on “Dracula”.
Karloff, brilliant as usual, takes your breath away. He is both menacing and sad at the same time. Of course Jack Pierce’s make-up talent adds to Karloff’s character. Pierce is part make-up man, part artist. The first “Mummy” is an original that has never been duplicated although many have tried.