Spoiler Alert! I don’t really give much away this time, but it’s become a habit to include an alert.
I admit I DVR’d The Mummy on TCM thinking it was the black and white version. You know how I love old horror movies. When I found out it was the Hammer Films production from 1959, I figured it would still be worth a watch.
I already knew that Hammer had revitalized the horror genre in the late ’50s and early ’60s. What I learned from Ben Mankiewicz’s pre-movie commentary was that for the first few movies they made — Dracula and Frankenstein flicks — they had to be careful not to infringe on the copyrighted portions of movies previously released by Universal. After the success of the earlier films, Hammer was able to negotiate with Universal for re-make rights. The Mummy is the first of those re-makes.
That was very interesting to me. Now I want to see the older version more than ever, to see what they changed. And I may like to write a blog post contrasting the earlier, non-infringing movies with the re-makes.
The movie stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, veterans of previous Hammer films. Lee gets to be the monster this time, and he was not nuts about the extensive make-up, according to Mankiewicz. I can see where an actor might find it limiting, although Lon Chaney reportedly found it liberating. I wonder if George Clooney would like to try it. But I digress.
Cushing plays one of the archaeologists responsible for desecrating the tomb of… oh dear, I don’t recall the lady’s name. I may have written it in the TV Journal as I watched, but even if I did I am not at all confident in my spelling. It was some high priestess or other. There is a rather elaborate backstory about how the Mummy became her guardian. Someday I’ll have to look up some actual Egyptian legends to see how much Hollywood was really pulling our leg.
Speaking of leg, Cushing’s is broken, and his uncle has this nutty idea Cushing should return to civilization and get it properly set by a doctor. Of course he does no such thing. For one reason, he would avoid the Mummy’s curse and how would that have helped the movie? Later on he gets to walk around with a romantic limp that, quite frankly, I thought was going to figure into the plot more prominently.
Speaking of romantic, Cushing has a beautiful wife who, in one of those typical movie coincidences, happens to look JUST LIKE the lady in the tomb. Oh well, I suppose you could make up some rationalization about how Cushing is such a dedicated Egyptologist that he subconsciously fell in love with a girl who looked just like an Egyptian. Or something of that nature. I guess I don’t really have a problem with this sort of thing. It figures into the plot and makes the flashbacks easier to cast.
All the usual elements are here: warned against desecrating the tomb, desecrating the tomb anyways, leaving the Mummy’s first victim alone so that nobody quite knows what happened. At one point I said, “Oh, that would be a good plot: the guy that warned them does the killing himself and makes it look like the Mummy’s doing it.” Then I remembered that is the plot of almost every Scooby Doo mystery (although they didn’t usually deal in murder). I only steal from the best.
Cushing indulges in some typical stupid movie male activity. I know I usually rail against stupid movie females. In fact when movie males do it, it is brash or daring or refusing to play by the rules. As usual I must admit, if people in movies had any brains they would sit quietly at home and we would have boring movies (although I bet these days there is some yahoo with a webcam showing exactly that on YouTube). Cushing’s wife doesn’t do anything too stupid. Alas, she does not do much of anything else, either, the sad fate of many a movie female.
The movie does have what was for me a major “Waaaait a minute” moment, but to tell you that would entail quite a long plot summary and a major spoiler (alert notwithstanding). I enjoyed the movie. I think I am becoming a Peter Cushing fan.