What It’s About: A team of archaeologists find the tomb of Im-Ho-Tep, an Egyptian prince. A team member reads the Scroll of Thoth, found with the prince, aloud, and Im-Ho-Tep returns to life, wandering into the desert. When Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) returns ten years later to excavate the tomb of Im-Ho-Tep’s love, a mysterious man named Ardeth Bey (Boris Karloff) helps the expedition for reasons of his own. Bey uses his powers to mesmerize Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann), the reincarnation of Im-Ho-Tep’s lost love, and it’s up to Whemple’s son Frank (David Manners) and Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan) to stop him.
Why Watch it Today?: British archaeologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered King Tut’s tomb today in 1922, the first people to do so in over 3,000 years. This set off a craze for all things Egyptian, as well as talk of the tomb’s curse after several people, most notably Lord Carnarvon himself, died after the tomb was opened. With so many people involved in some way, these deaths were coincidences (Carnarvon, for example, was already ill when he went to Egypt), but the enduring popularity of the story attracted Universal producer Carl Laemmle Jr. Laemmle, looking for a follow-up to the studio’s mega-hit Dracula, assigned writers Richard Schayer and Nina Wilcox Putnam to find a mummy themed novel to adapt. When they found none, they returned with a script featuring Cagliostro, the Italian charlatan who claimed to have lived for thousands of years. In this script Cagliostro takes his fury out on women who resembled the woman who rejected him, stalking and killing them over the centuries. Laemmle brought in John L. Balderston (who also worked on Dracula) to rewrite the screenplay. Balderston kept the idea of the withered old magician but toned him (and his motivations) down to become the Egyptian Ardeth Bey.*
The 1932 version of The Mummy is a bit too close to its ancestor Dracula, perhaps, but it is a better paced film, with a great performance by Karloff and some wonderful mummy make-up by Universal make-up guru Jack P. Pierce. Unlike its largely unrelated sequels or the later Hammer Studios mummy films, we are not expected to suspend our disbelief while characters fail to realize they can easily outrun slow-moving mummies, setting this film apart from most of its descendants.
Mo Rating for Movember: Professor Pearson sports an unimpressive Mo. 1 out of 5 Mos