“Anck-es-en-Amon, my love has lasted longer than the temples of our gods. No man ever suffered as I did for you.”
That quote’s a pretty good summary of this movie. After the full-on horror of “Frankenstein”, we’ve now switched things up with what is first and foremost a love story. Rest assured there are still a few dead corpses along the way, though.
This is our first movie that’s not an adaptation of an existing story, instead one inspired by events of the time. The discovery of King Tutankhamen a decade earlier, along with later rumours of a curse on those who had opened the tomb, had started a public interest in Ancient Egypt. Universal turned an existing treatment about a 3000-year-old magician, “Cagliostro”, into a script about an Egyptian priest, “Imhotep” and their next horror picture was set. Boris Karloff, now billed as “Karloff the Uncanny”, plays Imhotep.
I’d only previously seen Stephen Sommers’ “Mummy” movies, so it was fascinating to see the basics of the story stripped of the Indiana Jones-like elements in the modern version. The story of the doomed affair between the high priest Imhotep and the princess Anck-es-en-Amon is front and centre, Imhotep’s desire to resurrect his lost love much more sympathetic. If it wasn’t for the fact that at least one innocent person would have to die for this happen you’d be rooting for him to succeed!
Watching the making-of on the DVD, some time was spent on the parallels between this movie and “Dracula”, even comparing specific scenes and lines of dialogue (the two movies share a writer). I can’t say I’d noticed it in that way, but more in the low-key yet creepy mood. I’d put a lot of this down to the director, Karl Fruend. He was the director of photography on “Dracula”, and the close-ups of Inhotep’s hypnotic stare are certainly reminiscent of The Count.
There’s another great performance by Boris Karloff, a very different one from”Frankenstein”. Imhotep has a lot of dialogue which he delivers in a low-key way with little body movement, while still giving an air of authority and menace. With much less makeup than before, he struck me as a 95-year-old version of Jeremy Irons for some reason! He’s helped greatly by Zita Johann as Helen Grovesnor, the re-incarnation of Anck-es-en-Amon. Her scene towards the end, torn between choosing two different lives, is superb. I’d had loved to have seen the sequence showing her previous lives through the ages, which were shot and cut from the film and now which now only exist in stills.
Despite the title, Karloff only appears as a bandaged-up mummy in his short introductory scene. Maybe this apparent lack of a monster is why his Frankenstein movies overshadow this one. It’s certainly not to due to this being a lesser film.
Seeing is believing next time: Claude Rains (dis)appears as “The
PS: Apologies for the lack of a post last week, I was on my honeymoon. Rest assured I'm not planning another one anytime soon...