This past weekend, Joe and I decided to watch The Mummy – the original 1932 classic. While we celebrate “March of Mummies”, we’ve made an effort to keep a focus on the running theme of The Mummy. We covered Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy in as in depth a way as we could. If you have an interest in the Jerry Goldsmith score, the Universal theme park ride, or toys – Universal Monsters Universe has it covered for you. But now onto the film that started it all – the Karl Freund directed picture. Following our personal screening of The Mummy, Joe and I decided to have a conversation on the influential and iconic film by Universal Studios.
Steven: Joe, I actually watched The Mummy, the 1932 original, this past week. It was a lot of fun revisiting it again with you. If I’m not mistaken, this was actually your first time seeing it?
Joe: Yes it was and it was my first original UNIVERSAL MONSTERS overall.
Steven: Of the original Universal Monsters films? That’s impressive. It’s also really great that it was The Mummy that you started with. It’s interesting how we chose to watch The Mummy – starting with Stephen Sommers film first and then by revisiting the original by Karl Freund. Considering this was your first time for both movies, especially with it being so close to one another, what are your thoughts?
Joe: Both movies were great in their own way. 1999’s The Mummy had the adventure aspect while 1932’s The Mummy had that suspense aspect. Boris Karloff was an amazing actor and brought the horror genre to the forefront. Even though he wasn’t in the mummy costume the entire movie, he gave you chills with that stare. Zita Johann played a great role as Helen Grosvenor and personified the classic actress of that era with her beauty and grace.
Steven: Boris Karloff and Zita Johann were great. The whole cast for The Mummy was (even the 1999 movie). The Mummy worked so well; I believe so many of the classic Universal Monsters movies worked so well because they were very actor/actress oriented. Unlike today where so many movies rely on huge names and less on story and actual talent, the Universal Monsters films went the opposite way. They’re classics for a reason and The Mummy is one of the best. It’s also a very compact film with a runtime under 2 hours.
In regards to Karloff’s portrayal of The Mummy, back many years ago when I first saw it, I don’t believe I got it. But now, being a little older, I do. And I love his performance as Imhotep/Ardeth Bay. It’s so subtle and understated. His delivery of every line is fantastic and I really enjoyed how the makeup really became second to the actual performance. What were your thoughts about Karloff? By the way, excellent piece on him in your “Meet the Monsters” series.
Joe: Thank you. What impressed me the most about Karloff is that he didn’t have to speak or even be on screen the entire film to be effective. He just had this way about him that his presence was felt no matter if he was on screen or not. He gave you chills just by seeing his hand grab the scroll in the early scene at the camp. Even when he spoke he had this eloquence and his voice was so proper and distinct.
Steven: Yes. I did enjoy it all, but if I do have to say one thing, I would have liked to see a little more of the bandages kind of mummy. As cliche as it might be, those always make for a fun (maybe comical) visual on screen.
Zita Johann I liked. I know at the time of filming she was a very well known theater actress and that she didn’t get along with the director Karl Freund. I liked her, but maybe not as much as the variation of her character that we got with Evy in The Mummy 1999. I do like Rachel Weisz.
Steven: I personally liked Rachel Weisz more. I felt as if she was more active within the actual film. But we do have to understand that her Mummy film was nearly 70 years after Zita Johann’s.
Steven: In terms of Imhotep and him coming back to life, the 1932 film’s stakes weren’t that high. It seemed as if other than sacrificing a girl so he could be with his love, there wasn’t that much of a threat posed to the world. It actually felt like the issue was more domestic based as opposed to the much larger threat he posed in the 1999 remake. Imhotep in Stephen Sommers’ movie was largely motivated by the same reasons, but this time he was more power hungry, his abilities were far more dangerous, and he brought the ten plagues of Egypt with him.