A Movie A Day: THE MUMMY (1959)
Seems I’ve spent the better part of my life amongst the dead.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next installment of A Movie A Day: Halloween 2010 edition!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf or streamed via Netflix Instant and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
Today we look at Hammer’s reimagining of the classic Universal Monster movie THE MUMMY. Instead of Boris Karloff we get Christopher Lee. As per usual, Lee is the monster and Peter Cushing the hero.
This remake takes many plot elements of the original ‘30s film, but adds on a layer of… what’s the best way to phrase this? Classy exploitation. That’s what it is. It’s not cheesy, but it’s far more brutal, far more titillating.
Karloff in the original was a smart monster, only ever the classic “Mummy” upon his first appearance. He spends the rest of the movie as the wrinkled, but the majority of the film has him as the more human version of Imhotep.
Lee’s mummy is more like the classic version of a Zombie. He’s doing the bidding of an offended Egyptian after a sacred tomb is breached by British archeologists and all items of value removed, taken to London.
We see Lee in flashbacks as the high priest who fell in love with the woman promised to the God he worshipped. Having felt that his obligation to keeps his hands off the hot Princess was fulfilled in her living years, Lee invades the crypt soon after her burial and tries to bring her back to life so he can live happily ever after with her.
He’s caught and his punishment is to be buried alive in her tomb as protector.
All this is very much in keeping with the Karloff backstory, but the main difference is a big location change (to London, naturally), and how the Mummy is used.
While not quite brainless, the Mummy is essentially just a tool for revenge, wielded by George Pastell’s Mehemet Bey. You know he’s Egyptian because he wears a fez.
Christopher Lee brings so much to the role, deciding to go for a being of brute strength instead of the gentler version Karloff went for. This Mummy will mess you up. He’s not gonna look into a pretty pool of water and try to give you a heart attack, he’s going to break down your door, grab your head, bend you backwards and snap your fucking back.
Does that make much sense? Not really. The dude should be nothing but leathery flesh and powdered muscle, but when you bring in Egyptian curses and whatnot you can get away with a dude that looks like the lean and fit Christopher Lee wrapped in gauze.
The personality that Lee gives to the Mummy is quite impressive since he doesn’t have much chance to emote with his face mostly covered. It’s all in body language, a tortured walk that is, in some way, mirrored by the hero (Cushing) who has a bad leg thanks to a break that wasn’t set properly. Lee’s body language is theatrical without being too exaggerated.
The flick really sits well as a prime example of what a remake can be. They took the Universal story, embellished it, went a completely different way with the monster, gave us more skin (and what lovely skin it is, too… Yvonne Furneaux… grrrrrrowwwwlll), Technicolor blood and a different setting.
Kudos are due to the great Hammer writer/director duo of Jimmy Sangster and Terence Fisher for making a fresh addition to this sub-genre of horror. And, of course, to the great Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee who are two of the best co-stars to ever share the silver screen.
Watching that team play with this mythology was great fun.
Final Thoughts: If this review felt a little truncated rest assured that it’s only that way because I didn’t find much fault with this film. From the lighting, production design, photography, direction, acting, writing and score this picture is a success and didn’t feel at all like homework to sit through. Very happy with this one!
Currently in print on DVD: YES
Currently available on Netflix Instant: NO
Here are the next week’s worth of AMAD titles:
Friday, October 15th: THE GORGON (1964)
Saturday, October 16th: MAD LOVE (1935)
Sunday, October 17th: REPULSION (1965)
Monday, October 18th: THE VIDEO DEAD (1987)
Tuesday, October 19th: THE BLACK CAT (1981)
Wednesday, October 20th: THE BLACK CAT (1934)
Thursday, October 21st: THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963)
More Hammer tomorrow with THE GORGON!
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Previous AMAD 2010’s:
- Raw Meat (1972)
- Ghost Story (1981)
- Two on a Guillotine (1965)
- Tentacles (1977)
- Bad Ronald (1974)
- The Entity (1983)
- Doctor X (1932)
- The Return of Doctor X (1939)
- The Tenant (1976)
- Man in the Attick (1953)
- New Year’s Evil (1980)
- Prophecy (1979)
- The Other (1972)
Click here for the full 215 movie run of A Movie A Day!
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Oct. 14, 2010, 9:57 p.m. CST
Oct. 14, 2010, 10:08 p.m. CST
is showing the Mummy this Friday or Saturday... I know!!!!!
Oct. 14, 2010, 10:11 p.m. CST
by James Westfall
You keep watching stuff I own! I love this one. Long Live HAMMER!
Oct. 14, 2010, 10:12 p.m. CST
...why Hammer thought Peter Cushing looked noble and heroic and Christopher Lee looked like pure evil. If I saw them trying to kill each other I'd be running from Tarkin, not...shit, I can't name a good character Lee's played.
Oct. 14, 2010, 10:31 p.m. CST
by Ronald Raygun
Joe Dante was supposed to direct the 1999 Mummy, that eventually became the Brenden Fraser/Steve Sommers version. Apparently his was going to be the same story as the Karloff version, but modernized. The script was pretty good, according to those who saw it.
Oct. 14, 2010, 10:36 p.m. CST
by The Reluctant Austinite
Christopher Lee plays a good guy in "The Gorgon", oddly enough. His best heroic role, however, in a Hammer film is in "The Devil Rides Out" where he plays an occult scholar who must do battle with the forces of darkness and a devil cult.
Oct. 14, 2010, 10:40 p.m. CST
Sherlock Holmes. Although, so did Cushing, so your analogy might become confusing.
Oct. 14, 2010, 11:08 p.m. CST
Each brings something new to the table - especially Curse of Frankenstein - which completely repaints Victor Frankenstein and gives Cushing such a great role (though his Sherlock Holmes will always been my favorite). Have you seen the Hammer Hound of the Baskervilles, Quint?
Oct. 14, 2010, 11:12 p.m. CST
They just played that last Friday on TCM... pretty good stuff. Blofeld from DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER was the master devil worshiper and Chris Lee was either Ras Al Ghul or Dr. Strange (at least that is how he looked). Good movie overall. <p> THE GORGON on the other hand... again, okay stuff... not quite as good as THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, but like THE REPTILE that played before it, it's a passable viewing experience. <p> And when are you going to bring over that copy of THE LAST DINOSAUR?
Oct. 14, 2010, 11:18 p.m. CST
if I'm not mistaken. Also, is there anything better than Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing?
Oct. 14, 2010, 11:24 p.m. CST
Christopher Lee is the epitome of cool in that one. Looks great, sounds great, knows all, cool calm and collected, and when someone asks to borrow his car, Lee's character says "Yes, take any of them", which always makes me laugh.
Oct. 14, 2010, 11:26 p.m. CST
Michael Rennie was ill the day the earth stood still But he told us where we stand And Flash Gordon was there in silver underwear Claude Raines was the invisible man Then something went wrong for Fay Wray and King Kong They got caught in a celluloid jam Then at a deadly pace it came from outer space And this is how the message ran: Science Fiction - Double Feature Dr. X will build a creature See androids fighting Brad and Janet Ann Francis stars in Forbidden Planet Oh-oh at the late night, double feature, picture show. I knew Leo G. Carroll was over a barrel When Tarantula took to the hills And I really got hot when I saw Janet Scott Fight a Triffid that spits poison and kills Dana Andrews said prunes gave him the runes And passing them used lots of skills But when worlds collide, said George Pal to his bride I'm gonna give you some terrible thrills, like a: Science Fiction - Double Feature Dr. X will build a creature See androids fighting Brad and Janet Ann Francis stars in Forbidden Planet Oh-oh at the late night, double feature, picture show. I wanna go, oh-oh, to the late night double feature picture show. By RKO, oh-oh, at the late night double feature picture show. In the back row at the late night double feature picture show.
Oct. 15, 2010, 12:09 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
If you get killed by The Mummy then you deserved to die. He walks slower than a tortoise, c'mon.
Oct. 15, 2010, 12:59 a.m. CST
Mycroft Holmes in "Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes"
Oct. 15, 2010, 1:03 a.m. CST
Fezzes are cool.
Oct. 15, 2010, 1:05 a.m. CST
Well, it's painfully obvious you've never seen Hammer's '59 MUMMY... 'cause Lee sure as hell ain't slow. He's relentless -- a Terminator Mummy!
Oct. 15, 2010, 1:21 a.m. CST
best work, but for me - it's Hound of the Baskervilles and Brides of Dracula.
Oct. 15, 2010, 4:57 a.m. CST
No, it doesn't. It takes most of its plot elements from the Universal sequels 'The Mummy's Tomb' and 'The Mummy's Ghost'. Also, Lee’s Mummy isn't "more like the classic version of a Zombie", he's a classic version of Kharis, the Mummy from those sequels.
Oct. 15, 2010, 4:59 a.m. CST
Try telling that to the guys who get trapped in small rooms with him in the Hammer film.
Oct. 15, 2010, 5:07 a.m. CST
is so good. I remember watching when I was a wee one, and being scared out of my skin. I watched it recently, and it really is a creepy movie. The flashback scene where Karloff is buried alive is chilling, and there are some great special effects going on with his close up shots on his eyes. I've not seen this Hammer remake, but would be intersted to do so for the comparison. I agree that the Hammer remakes are great in that they always bring something new to the table. The Universal films are expressionistic and creepy, whilst the Hammer films are gothic and sensual
Oct. 15, 2010, 5:36 a.m. CST
... Quint really liked the movie, but he really doesn't know why so he throws some rationalizations, with half of them clashing and contrasting the other half.
Oct. 15, 2010, 6:14 a.m. CST
We had 2 channels on TV (Well, actually 4, but one of them you couldn't see because our roof antenna and rabbit ears were crap...the other was PBS and who wants to watch that when your a kid) A Hammer film and Dagwood and Blondie and Flash Gordon serials used to air on Sunday afternoon after local church services. Also, I used to have to walk to school in the snow, 10 miles, both ways, and oh yeah I have one leg. Also, I was in an iron lung cuz ya know...polio. TV thing and what aired is true tho.
Oct. 15, 2010, 6:15 a.m. CST
Senile at 41. Sigh. Mummy was my fave Hammer film I think.
Oct. 15, 2010, 7:29 a.m. CST
As my username probably suggests I am also a huge fan of Peter Cushing, I met him when I was a boy while on a family holiday that took us to Whitstable on the Kent Coast (where he lived) – he was sitting at the front looking at the sea with his wife I think and I just stared at him. He smiled and said hello and I must have spoken with him for thirty minutes, asking him about Star Wars and Doctor Who and Daleks and Dracula and…well the list went on. I remember none of his answers as such but I do remember that he seemed to be the kindest gentlest man in the world. I shed a tear when he died.<P>For me Horror is encapsulated in three distinct boxes, the Universal Films (which also includes RKO and Warners output), the Hammer films (including Tigon, Amicus and AIP) and then everything I watched on Video when we got a VHS in 1980. I love both Universal and Hammer with equal passion – they played a huge part of my childhood as BBC2 used to have great Horror Double Bills on Saturday evenings during the summer – typically a Black and White movie, followed by a Colour movie – double bills like House of Dracula followed by Kiss of the Vampire. The Mummy is one of the few that transcends nostalgia for me now and remains a good movie, not a patch on The Devil Rides Out or Quatermass and the Pit but still a solidly good film. <P>The Hammer Mummy sequels are interesting but not that great, Cushing was slated to star in Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb but left after a day because his wife was diagnosed with Emphysema and Andrew Keir took over the role. Ironically I met him in 1984 when I worked as a shelf stacker in a local Supermarket and I asked him about Quatermass and he replied by asking if we had any Frosties in stock because the shelves were empty.
Oct. 15, 2010, 7:33 a.m. CST
holy moly! Yum-y-yum!
Oct. 15, 2010, 7:54 a.m. CST
One of the all-time greats
Oct. 15, 2010, 8:25 a.m. CST
look, I have defended yer reviews of these films since the beginning of AMAD! But that was a lazy review... Hate it, love it, loath it, kill it.... but have a bloody opinion man!!!! IMO, this is one of the finest offerings in the Hammer catalog if you want great cushing V Lee drama (with Terence Fisher in the backdrop) C'mon, name exploitatiohn cinema better
Oct. 15, 2010, 10:16 a.m. CST
FYI, Classic Horror Geeks... All of the Hammer mummy films will be be broadcast tonight (Friday, Oct. 14) on the Turner Classic Movies channel, beginning with 1959's THE MUMMY at 7:00 PM Central. Followed by CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB, THE MUMMY'S SHROUD, and BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB.
Oct. 15, 2010, 10:17 a.m. CST
Because not having an Edit button is pure bullshit.
Oct. 15, 2010, 10:37 a.m. CST
Were like the Ruth & Gherig of Horror back in the day.
Oct. 15, 2010, 10:44 a.m. CST
by Vlad the Inhaler
Karloff, Lugosi, Cushing, and Lee.
Oct. 15, 2010, 10:57 a.m. CST
by The Reluctant Austinite
You might be the coolest Talkbacker lurking these boards. I feel like we're brothers from other mothers.
Oct. 15, 2010, 11:08 a.m. CST
Now you are talking. Despite low budgets the Hammer films always looked good. Thanx to talented directors like Fisher. Its hard to beat a good Hammer film.
Oct. 15, 2010, 11:18 a.m. CST
lacks Vincent Price
Oct. 15, 2010, 2:07 p.m. CST
Cosby did a routine in his stand-up act about watching The Mummy films and being terrified by them as a child. "He may be slow, but The Mummy will never stop."<p>Next week AMC is starting their Horror films, and HD-Movies ran "Poltergeist" last night. Have to crack open my DVD of Carpenter's "The Thing."------later-----m
Oct. 15, 2010, 2:51 p.m. CST
by The Reluctant Austinite
than as individual films. Yes, the Hammer "Mummy" is a pastiche of the Universal Mummy sequels, not a re-make of the original film. I might be tempted to agree with Kanefofan about the best one being "The Mummy's Hand", using the left over sets from "Green Hell" (I believe), but I love the Mummy as played by Lon Chaney Jr. in the following three films, none of which are particularly good on their own. However, they're only about 60 minutes each, and when watched as a serialized unit, they're really fun.
Oct. 15, 2010, 3:17 p.m. CST
Karloff, Price, Cushing, Lee - yes, I like that.
Oct. 15, 2010, 5:30 p.m. CST
As a kid watching The Mummy on TV, the bit I found scary was the part with the guy who's been put in a padded cell because they think he's gone insane... leaving him trapped in the room as the mummy breaks through the window to get him. Oh yeah - cushing1967 - thanks for reminding me about the double bills: an early B&W movie (usually Universal) followed by a colour horror film - jeez! Those were the days!
Oct. 15, 2010, 6:40 p.m. CST
Thanks - I don't think I have ever been called cool before.<P>That's why I like AMAD and articles like it because they're relatively free from random hating and we can talk about what brings us here in the first place.
Oct. 15, 2010, 6:44 p.m. CST
The Horror Double Bills were magnificent - in fact summers were magnificent. I remember the BBC voice over man, every year, stating 'And now on BBC 1 a short season of...' and it would be Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Science Fiction films. Of course looking back it was cheap television during the summer but God I loved those films - a season of science fiction films that included 'The Incredible Shrinking Man', 'Forbidden Planet', 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' and 'Abbott and Costello Go To Mars'. Watching the Weismuller Tarzan films on a weekly basis or the Rathbone Holmes films. These were as formative to me as Star Wars was.
Oct. 17, 2010, 2:38 p.m. CST
...I remember the Weismuller Tarzans getting shown every morning during the summer holidays - in order - and the old Flash Gordon serials too.
Oct. 17, 2010, 9:53 p.m. CST
You mentioned you talked with Peter Cushing who was sitting watching the sea with his wife - about such things as Star Wars. However, Cushing's wife Helen died in 1971 a full 5 years *before* Cushing played Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. As you mentioned, he did leave one day into production of "Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb," but it was due to his wife's passing - she had been quite ill for years before she died.
Oct. 19, 2010, 6:55 a.m. CST
No worries - he was sitting with a lady, as I said in the story I thought it was his wife, may just have been a family friend or a sister in law or whatever. I was 10 years old or something and had just seen Star Wars not so long before hand.
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