The Mummy (1932)
The original Universal horror films are a bit of a blind spot for me. They weren’t on TV in our house, so I have no childhood affinity to them, and once my parents let me watch horror, I was straight into Jaws, The Car, Duel, Piranha — pacy, garish, seventies films. I didn’t go back beyond my father’s earliest favourites, which were films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Night of the Hunter, and Psycho.
Two years ago, I made an effort to watch Tod Browning’s Dracula and James Whale’s Frankenstein, but they were more like homework than a pleasure. However, that did mean that as soon as I heard Edward Van Sloan’s voice I saw in his Dr Muller both Van Helsing and Dr Waldman. In The Mummy, it is his belief in Egyptian magic and knowledge of ancient Egypt that keeps the colonial English heroes in the game.
Imhotep has many magical powers, including mind control. Boris Karloff’s stare is a thing to behold. Imhotep tricks the British archaeologists into digging up the tomb of his great love, the princess Anck-su-namun, and ensuring that her remains are displayed in Cairo, not London. The air of arrogant British colonialism is thick, but in this, Imhotep outsmarts the archaeologists, who it seems will do anything in the name of science. Then he goes after Helen Grosvenor, a half-Egyptian British woman in Cairo, who he believes is his love reincarnated.
I suspect with practice, or guidance, I could get more out of films from this period. I’m glad I watched it, but it’s still more like homework.