The Mummy (1932)

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

When Im-Ho-Tep saw his true love sacrificed, he knew only one thing to do, attempt to bring her back to life. So the high priest prepared the young woman, and began to read aloud from the scroll of Toth, on which the words were printed that could reunite him with this one time love. But before he can complete the ritual, he is captured and as punishment, is embalmed while he’s still alive. Three thousand seven hundred years later, a team of archaeologists uncovers the tomb of Im-Ho-Tep. Once they open the tomb, they discover the scroll, translate it, and recite the words on it, which brings Im-Ho-Tep back to the world of the living. Ten years after that expedition, the mummy encounters another band of diggers, and leads them to the tomb where his former love is housed, hoping he can bring her back once they’ve unearthed her. Among the crew of this second expedition is Frank Whemple, who is the son of the first expedition’s leader. They transport the artifacts and other finds from the excavation back to Cairo, where they can look them over and gather information on them. But when Whemple falls in love with the reincarnation of Im-Ho-Tep’s former love, the mummy is on a mission, to reclaim his lover and put an end to those in his way.

This is another entry in Universal’s Classic Monster Collection, and this is among the finest the series has to offer. As I am sure you know, this film was remade as an action/comedy, but this is not of that thread, this is an atmospheric horror spin, and is marvelous to watch unfold. While there is quite a bit of suspense horror involved, the basic premise of this movie is undying love, love that remains even when flesh and blood have been destroyed. And this premise is not lost in the film either, the suspense is present, but the love/romance angle is played well too. I think this film is among the best of the Classic Monster series, as it makes excellent use of production design and camera work to build atmosphere, more so than most in the series. The sets are elaborate and meticulous, especially the excavation sites and the flashback scenes. This gives the film a more complex visual impact, which creates a grander feel in total. The camera work is also excellent, and really places us right in the thick of things, with unique sweeps and angles. If you’re a follower of classic horror cinema, or this series in particular, this is a must see release.

The director of this masterpiece is Karl Freund, who is better known for his work as a cinematographer. You can view his work as a cinematographer in movies such as Key Largo, Metropolis, Dracula (1931), Tortilla Flat, and Camille. This skill proved useful when he took the task of directing this movie, as his incredible camera work comes into play here, as this stands as one of the most visually striking of the entire series. This is another Classic Monster movie that features the skills of Boris Karloff, master horror thespian. While Karloff performed in almost two hundred films or television shows, he is best known for his work in the horror genre. A few lesser known Karloff gems include Isle of the Snake People, Curse of the Crimson Altar, and The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini. The supporting cast in this film includes David Manners (The Moonstone, They Call It Sin), Noble Johnson (A Game Of Death, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon), Edward Van Sloan (The Mask of Dijon), Zita Johann (Raiders of the Living Dead), and Arthur Bryon (The Prisoner of Shark Island).

Video: How does it look?

The Mummy is presented in the original full frame aspect ratio. This is one impressive visual transfer, with few nicks and flecks on the print, and no compression errors to be found. This movie is in the black and white format, so contrast is vital to the overall image. The contrast is well balanced, with deep shadow levels and very high visible detail, as well as consistent brighter areas. For a movie made in 1932, this transfer looks amazing.

Audio: How does it sound?

The audio here is the original mono track, which provides an adequate audio presentation. While it lacks the atmosphere a surround track would allow, it sounds decent enough, as the music and dialogue are clear. Not the best mono track I’ve heard, but far from the worst.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed is a half hour long documentary on the film, and contains interviews, well worth the time for fans of the movie. A running audio commentary by Paul M. Jensen is also found here, which gives some insight into the production and influence of the film. This is a good track, but not among the finest I have heard. Production notes, the theatrical trailer, an archive of stills and promotional materials, and talent files round out the supplements.

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