In 1921 a field expedition in Egypt discovers the mummy of ancient Egyptian prince Im-Ho-Tep, who was condemned and buried alive for sacrilege. Also found in the tomb is the Scroll of Thoth, which can bring the dead back to life. One night a young member of the expedition reads the Scroll out loud, and then goes insane, realizing that he has brought Im-Ho-Tep back to life. Ten years later, disguised as a modern Egyptian, the mummy attempts to reunite with his lost love, an ancient princess who has been reincarnated into a beautiful young woman. Written by
Jeremy Lunt <email@example.com>
Given enough time and interest, I'm sure that I would have gotten around to the original Universal version of "The Mummy", but the hideous (in every respect) 1999 remake is the straw that broke the camel's back. The second I happened to see the original (complete with poster art) on the shelves of my local Wal-Mart, there were no second thoughts. It HAD to be better than that low-grade (though high budget)"Raiders of the Lost Ark" ripoff I spent two hours suffering through. Thankfully, my impulse proved to be on the money.
I really look at this film as Karloff's first piece of proof that there was more to his talent than Frankenstein's monster. Imhotep (aka Ardeth Bay) couldn't be more different than that sweet-natured brute. Though both are pathetic in their own way and lonely, Imhotep is more intelligent and a great deal more malicious by far. He's willing to do anything, kill anyone, and break any taboo to be reunited with his lost love. Karloff never has to raise his voice to convey menace; just a hardening of the eyes or a steely tone in that oh-so-distinct voice of his is enough to make you a little uneasy.
An overlooked aspect of this film is that, in a way, it's something of a tragedy. Imhotep has literally sacrificed everything he ever had just to be by the side of his beloved princess. So focused on this goal is he that he doesn't realize the great harm he is doing to all those around him, including to his beloved (who, in a thankful break with movie tradition at the time, proves to be the undoing of the immortal monster). I feel more of a sense of relief at film's end than triumph. Maybe now Imhotep can rest in peace.
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