The Mummy (1932) Poster

(1932)

User Reviews

Add a Review
173 Reviews
Sort by:
A Well-Crafted Horror Classic
Snow Leopard27 October 2004
With one of Boris Karloff's numerous acting successes and a production done the way that a horror feature should be made, this is a well-crafted classic of the genre. From the first scene, the right atmosphere is established, and the story is told at an implacable pace that slowly builds up the tension and possibilities.

As he does with his characters in so many of his horror features, Karloff makes "The Mummy" a menacing monster, yet one with enough human motivations to keep him from becoming cartoonish. Karloff's approach, as does the movie as a whole, stimulates the imagination rather than the senses, giving this classic version a depth and permanence that cannot be matched by those more recent adaptations that rely on boring "special" effects and contrived "action" sequences instead of a well-told story with solid characters.

Edward Van Sloan, David Manners, and the rest of the supporting cast also help out. The atmosphere and settings are kept relatively simple, but effective. Naturally, the story is far-fetched, but it has a consistency that makes it relatively easy to suspend disbelief. The picture fits together well, and it remains a solid entry in the list of classic horror films.
50 out of 51 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Moody, understated and succinct
hausrathman29 October 2004
Boris Karloff plays Imhotep, a cursed Egyptian buried alive 3700-years-ago, returns to life to claim the reincarnation of his lost-love in this Universal classic. Moody, understated and succinct, The Mummy is one of the best films from Universal's classic horror period. Although much of the success can be credited to first time director Karl Freund, who normally worked as a top cinematographer, and the brilliant make-up artist Jack P. Pierce, it is Boris Karloff who gives the film its resonance. As he previously did with the Frankenstein monster, Karloff imbues this character with an aching sense of humanity which was completely absent later incarnations of the Mummy character. Credit must also be given to the able supporting cast including Zita Johann and the always reliable Edward Van Sloan. Now here's a question. Is the film scary by today's standards? I guess I'd have to say not really. However, I just watched this film again after seeing the American version of 'The Grudge.' 'The Grudge' certainly had me jumping more, but which film did I enjoy more? It'd have to be 'The Mummy.'
52 out of 56 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
The Most Subtle of the Universal Horror Films
gftbiloxi2 October 2005
Although frequently reinterpreted, the original 1932 THE MUMMY remains the most intriguing film version of a story inspired by both 1920s archaeological finds and the 1931 Bela Lugosi Dracula: when an over-eager archaeologist reads an incantation from an ancient scroll, he unexpectedly reanimates a mysterious mummy--who then seeks reunion with the princess for whom he died thousands of years earlier and ultimately finds his ancient love reincarnated in modern-day Egypt.

Less a typical horror film than a Gothic romance with an Egyptian setting, THE MUMMY has few special effects of any kind and relies primarily upon atmosphere for impact--and this it has in abundance: although leisurely told, the film possesses a darkly romantic, dreamlike quality that lingers in mind long after the film is over. With one or two exceptions, the cast plays with remarkable restraint, with Boris Karloff as the resurrected mummy and Zita Johann (a uniquely beautifully actress) standouts in the film. The sets are quite remarkable, and the scenes in which Karloff permits his reincarnated lover to relive the ancient past are particularly effective.

Kids raised on wham-bam action and special effects films will probably find the original THE MUMMY slow and uninteresting, but the film's high quality and disquieting atmosphere will command the respect of both fans of 1930s horror film and the more discerning viewer. Of all the 1930s Universal Studio horror films, THE MUMMY is the most subtle--and the one to which I personally return most often.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
40 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The greatest Mummy movie ever made. Full of atmosphere and suspense.
Infofreak11 August 2003
I love the classic horror movies of the 1930s. They were made when the talkies were still novel and film makers were experimenting with storytelling approaches, often taking inspirations from German Expressionism (indeed 'The Mummy's director Karl Freund, who later directed another 1930s classic 'Mad Love', originally worked as a cinematographer on Fritz Lang's science fiction classic 'Metropolis' and several movies by F.W. Murnau). And it was before the Hayes Code kicked in and took a lot of the fun and thrills out of horror movies (just look at how safe and uninteresting horror became in the 1940s with a few notable exceptions e.g. the movies produced by Val Lewton). The film obviously owes a lot to 'Dracula' and Edward Van Sloan and David Manners from that film reappear here in similar roles. Karloff is brilliant as Imhotep a.k.a The Mummy, and stage actress Zita Johann is wonderful too, very striking with exotic good looks. Too bad she became very quickly disillusioned with Hollywood as she should have been a major screen star. Karloff and Johann are fantastic on screen together, and make 'The Mummy' impossible to forget. I was quite surprised to discover that this movie wasn't enormously successful when originally released, but it has obviously captured the imagination of thousands of film fans since. It is easily the best Mummy movie ever made (though I also have a fondness for Hammer's "Blood From The Mummy's Tomb' made almost forty years later), and much more entertaining and intelligent than the awful remake starring Brendan Fraser et al. 'The Mummy' stands alongside 'Dracula', 'Frankenstein', 'Island Of Lost Souls', 'Freaks', 'The Invisible Man' and 'The Black Cat' as one of the best horror movies of the 1930s, an era that has had an enormous impact on horror ever since. Highly recommended!
34 out of 37 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
It's the Atmosphere
Hitchcoc23 October 2001
I love these Universal horror movies. This one is all atmosphere. The lighting, the focus on Karloff's eyes and his threatening persona carry the film. When I was in elementary school (my kids would say not long after this film was made), I had another kid scare the daylights out of me by describing the internment of the Egyptian rulers. The taking of the body, perfuming it, placing it in a room full of gold, then killing the slaves so that only the priests would know the actual resting place of the body. There was also the bit about being wrapped alive for burial. I'll tell you.

The effect of that story, which is portrayed in the movie, put a bigger scare into me than any movie I've ever seen. Since this one was really the only one we would ever see on television, I watched it every time I could. Isn't it interesting that both the Lugosi "Dracula" use a quotation from "Swan Lake" as a theme song. I've always wondered why that is. It is certainly eerie and as the credits roll, it builds in intensity. I was told once that Tchaikovsky would probably do movie soundtracks if he were alive today. Pardon my digressions. It is interesting that the mummy (as a fully wrapped personage) really doesn't appear after the beginning sequence--we just know that old Boris is in the process of decay and will eventually be sent to his eternal reward. As usual, the scientists and those who should know, carelessly leave the young woman unattended and he makes his move. The threatening suavity of Karloff is the high point of the movie. I feel the world received such a gift when these films were made. It is a delight, full of frightening images and classic moments.
38 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
The one, TRUE mummy!
George R. Willeman10 May 1999
Having recently seen the 1999 remake, I realized just how powerful Karloff's portrayal of Imhotep/Ardath Bey truly is. Without fancy effects or CGI, without an $80,000,000 budget, with little more than dry-looking make-up, a doleful stare, and that wonderful, lisping voice, Karloff created a monster that will endure long after the rental copies of the remake have shed their metal oxide coatings. Karl Freund, the director, was one of Germany's finest cameramen and this was his first film as a director. Employing the "less is more" theory of film-making, he keeps the mummy a very mysterious and deadly creature. Never does the mummy stroll up to someone, working them into a corner to strangle them. No, he just reaches out with his mind, killing people from miles away. Finally, the flashback scene is one of the best, done in "silent film" style with music and Karloff supplying a morbid voiceover. Sadly, Universal cut the flashback short before the mummy had a chance to tell about chasing the re-incarnated princess throughout time. Some stills survive and Henry Victor still gets credit as "The Saxon Warrior".
65 out of 76 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An oddly poetic episode of terror.
reptilicus14 June 2003
Karl Freund, who photographed some of the most memorable silent films made both in this country and Germany, turned director only twice in his career. He directed Peter Lorre in MAD LOVE (1935) and Boris Karloff in this film I am about to discuss. Following FRANKENSTEIN and THE OLD DARK HOUSE the public knew it liked Boris Karloff but he had been silent in his two biggest roles. When this movie was released they flocked to the cinema to hear him speak (evidently they had missed THE MIRACLE MAN, NIGHT WORLD, BUSINESS AND PLEASURE and the other minor roles he appeared in while FRANKENSTEIN was becoming a hit). His voice was no disappointment and neither was his performance in this picture. Director Freund handles many important scenes as if he were directing a silent film . . .and it WORKS! The scene of Im-Ho-Tep returning to life is masterful, as is the flashback sequence where he shows his reincarnated princess just what became of him. David Manners is a far more practical hero in this film than he was in DRACULA (and he is not hampered by having to wear those ridiculous knickerbockers) and Edward van Sloan is fabulous yet again. Watch for Noble Johnson showing off his muscular frame as the Nubian servant. Jack Pierce's makeup is nothing short of fantastic; what he did with gum cotton and collodion was truly masterful. The photography is very well done also. One scene where the camera flashpans away from Im-Ho-Tep and over the rooftops of Cairo coming to rest on Helen Grosvenor is truly Germanic. A similar scene appears in FAUST (1926), and also in SVENGALI (1931). Red Rock Canyon substitutes for ancient Egypt but we always believe we are seeing just what we are supposed to be seeing. This is a very subtle film, and all the more scary because if its subtlety. Now shall we discuss MAD LOVE?
28 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Karloff Walks!
Ron Oliver27 May 2003
THE MUMMY awakened in Egypt by English archeologists goes on a rampage searching for its reincarnated lover.

Boris Karloff dominates this little fright fest, bringing new nightmares to the screen and proving that his Frankenstein's Monster was no mere quirk, but actually the beginning of a distinguished career in shocker films. Helped immensely by makeup master Jack Pierce, who gave the Mummy face & hands like weathered parchment, Karloff uses his own saturnine features and tall thin body to full effect, creating a horror portrait that has stood the test of time.

A sturdy supporting cast gives Karloff good support: exotic Zita Johann is lovely & slightly mysterious as the woman of Imhotep's deathless desires; valiant David Manners as the young hero gives another typically fine performance; Arthur Byron & Edward Van Sloan are enjoyable as the requisite old gentlemen (every horror film must have at least one) who study & stalk the Mummy. African-American silent film star Noble Johnson appears as a sinister Nubian.

The film's best scene, the resuscitation of the Mummy, demonstrates the potential of the medium. The only indication the viewer has that something horrible is about to happen is a flicker of Karloff's eye and a slight movement of his hand as he stands in his casket, bound in bandages. The rest of the scene unfolds in the hysterical reaction of young Bramwell Fletcher (excellent performance) as he watches the undead leave the scientists' tent. All the audience sees is Karloff's hand and the trailing bandages from his feet as they drag across the floor. It is enough.
28 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
One of the better classic horror flicks
Matthew Dickson22 September 2005
Another film that puts the basic storyline of Dracula to better use. This time, it's the undead Egyptian priest, I'm-ho-tep (Boris Karloff), who puts the beautiful Helen under his spell. David Manners and Edward Van Sloan both reprise their Dracula roles as the young hero, and the wise old mentor respectively. Van Sloan, who is the only actor to appear in Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy, gives his best performance here. Karloff is also quite good as the evil villain, I'm-ho-tep. This remains the only mummy movie that can really be called a suspense film or thriller rather than a monster movie. It's not quite as good as Frankenstein, but it's still one of the better classic horror flicks.
19 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
True originals don't need remakes...
keihan1 July 2000
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.
26 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Imhotep takes his first steps...
Coventry21 July 2003
Warning: Spoilers
The great story of the mummy Imhotep who comes to life again after scientists discover the grave of his beloved female Egyptian Priest will be told many times again after this original from 1932. But never again will it be so magical. Never again will it be so scary with the use of so less effects. Boris Karloff BECOMES Imhotep, just like he became Frankenstein in the earlier monster classic. His achievement makes this film immortal. Even in another 75 years he will still be the one and only Mummy to me. This classic monster production from Universal delivers. It's grabs your attention from the very first minute and it doesn't let you go. Most of the credit for that go to Karloff himself of course. His voice and especially those eyes !!! All the modern computer generated skills can never give the same horrific effect as Boris Karloff's creepy look. The mummification at the end, the few close ups when the camera stares right in his eyes...those are images who can never ever die !! I have to give some credit to the rest of the cast as well of course. Zita Johann is absolutely gorgeous as the Princess Anckesen-Amon. Imhotep sees in Helen Grosvenor the reincarnation of his long lost Egyptian priest. Only her love for archaeologist Frank Whemple can save her. Edward Van Sloan, also a great legend in early horror ( he played in Frankenstein and was the very first Dr. Van Helsing in Dracula with Bela Lugosi ) plays a very memorable part in this film as well. His character, Dr Muller, is an expert in the field of the Egyptian culture. Overall, like the credits in they end say " A good cast is worth repeating" I think that's great.

I'm a great fan of the Egyptian Myths and recommend this film to everyone who likes this great culture as well. I also advise you to see the Hammer version starring Peter Cushing and Christoper Lee and The mummy lives starring Tony Curtis. I do not like the modern version of the mummy actually. Brendan Fraser is good the CGI effects spoiled the magic for me. It's loyal to the story, I gotta give it that. Finally, I would have loved to be there when this film came out back in 1932. Only a few years after the amazing discovery of the tomb of Tut. this must have been gigantic. I heard the audience was frightened to death when Karloff opened his eyes for the first time. The hype back then, I would love to be a part of that. My humble opinion on The Mummy...what do you think ... 10/10 !!! This title comes with my highest recommendations
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The greatest of the Universal horror films
krumski10 August 2001
What director Karl Freund achieves in this movie is nothing short of staggering, even at a remove of nearly 70 years. If this same story, with this same basic approach, were released today, it would still be great. And especially now, when the box office successes of such movies as The Sixth Sense, What Lies Beneath and The Blair Witch Project demonstrate that audiences are hungry for a return to the classic horror virtues of style, mood and suspense (as opposed to the tired formula of gore, in your face shocks, special effects, and more gore) The Mummy would seem ripe for some kind of revival (too bad the lame Brendan Fraser vehicle has stolen its title - though nothing of its wit, skill, or conviction).

What makes this movie so good is. . . gosh, there are so many things! Start with the creepy and unsettling tone, which the movie establishes right away. The very first scene - where the Mummy is awakened - is one of the greatest ever for pure atmosphere and chills. Look at the way Freund *under* plays it, every step of the way. Instead of piling on a crescendo of "scary" music and using odd or distorted camera angles to dramatize the situation, he has the action play out in total silence and with a resolutely still camera, the tasteful cut-aways (from the mummy in the tomb to the archaeologist sitting not five feet away) being the only frill. The tension which results is unsettlingly powerful - and is made moreso by the fact that the scene refuses to resolve itself in the way which we expect it to. I'll give no more details, but when you watch the film, ask yourself: isn't *this* resolution ten times more creepy and effective than the one we thought we saw coming. Already, five minutes in, it's clear that The Mummy has a far more wicked, sophisticated sense of horror than any of the other big "monsters" of the day (Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, etc.) - and a good deal more than many that have come after, too.

But of course, all the style in the world ultimately cannot save a weak or hackneyed script. And so it's a great pleasure to report that all of Freund's technical finesse is at the service of a really super cool story. Not content to be merely a spooker, the film is also - nay, one might even say primarily - a tragic love story: one that deals intelligently with such provocative notions as forbidden love, reincarnation, religious desecration, inhuman torture, and a strong sub-theme of the desire to respect the past vs. the need to live for the moment. All of these elements swirl so ingeniously and non-didactically in The Mummy's streamlined storyline, that I'm tempted to proclaim this at once both the most compact, as well as the most ambitious, horror movie script I have ever come across.

Of course, such superlatives can get you in trouble too, so let me add that yes, there are flaws - mainly the ones endemic to all horror movies of the time. The so-called "hero" is once again a young man of no charm or interest whatsoever. Meanwhile, the venerable old "expert" who must explain the ways of the monster to everyone else is already a tired convention at this point - and since the role here is played by Edward Van Sloan (who was Van Helsing in the original "Dracula" and its sequel "Dracula's Daughter", as well as Dr. Waldman in "Frankenstein") there is an even greater than usual sense of perfunctoriness to the undertaking. However, even here the movie displays its strength and uniqueness by toying with our expectations of what these stock characters will be able to do and achieve. Whereas in most other horror films, the romantic lead and the crusty old doctor end up being the white knights who vanquish the monster and save the girl, here they operate on a much less exalted plane - and are thereby made more human in the process.

As for faults, that's pretty much it. The pace is masterful; some have called it slow, but I strongly disagree. The film flows naturally and inevitably, with every scene building upon the one before it. There's nothing extraneous in the way it unfolds - achievement enough when compared to the countless other horror movies of its day. As an added treat, there is a flashback sequence in the middle of the movie that is a mini-masterpiece all by itself: it has all the fury and grandeur of a D.W. Griffith silent, honed and encapsulated down to its bare essence. It tells the tale of the title character's previous life with an economy and precision that could still serve as a model for filmmakers today. And, well, most of all, the movie has. . . Boris Karloff.

I've restricted my discussion of him until the end because his towering greatness is so routinely accepted and understood that it's almost redundant to comment upon it. Also, I wanted to make clear that, though he is the film's chief asset, he is far from its only one. But there's no question that it is his stately, brooding, menacing performance that ultimately pushes this film over into the realm of greatness. The key thing here is this: while the concept of a centuries-old being raised from the dead and out for vengeance is a great *idea*, Karloff's portrayal is what gives it tangible, terrifying REALITY. Observing this man - with his stiff ramrod posture, his measured and stately movements, and his absolutely hypnotic voice - we are truly convinced, on a visceral level, that yes here indeed is the walking dead. That kind of verisimilitude is rare enough in horror movies of any era, and its presence here stands as an absolute revelation. Just as does the entirety of this wonderful, exquisitely made film.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
"He went for a little walk!"
bensonmum27 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
-Throughout the great length of his career, Boris Karloff played a number of horror cinema's most memorable characters. But I've always been of the opinion that his work in Universal's The Mummy is his best.

  • The story in The Mummy is, in many respects, almost identical to Universal's earlier Dracula movie. Exchange a mummy for a vampire and Cairo for Transylvania and the rest is quite comparable. Both movies are basically love stories - regardless of how twisted the "love" may seem. Ardath Bay's sole purpose in life (or should that be afterlife) is to resurrect the spirit of his long dead love, Princess Anckesen-Amon. His 3,000 year obsession and devotion is demonstrated in the line, "Anckesen-Amon, my love has lasted longer than the temple of our gods. No man ever suffered as I did for you." The response he receives a few scenes later, "No. No, I'm alive. I'm young. I won't die. I loved you once, but now you belong with the dead. I am Anckesen-Amon, but I'm somebody else too. I want to live, even in this strange new world", is heartbreaking.


  • Other obvious and less obvious examples of how the two movies are similar include: the use of religious symbols to repel the monsters, the use of hypnosis, the close-up shots of the eyes, and cast members who play basically the same roles (Edward Van Sloan and David Manners appear in both films in almost identical roles). Finally, a similarity that I've always noticed that I've not read anywhere else concerns the Renfield character from Dracula and poor Ralph Norton in The Mummy. Both become stark-raving, hysterical-laughing, mad lunatics. And whether intentional or not, both assist their respective monsters with their plans – Renfield by actively helping Dracula and Norton by accidentally bringing the mummy back to life.


  • Karloff is perfect as Imhotep/Ardath Bay. I've said a number of times that Karloff was born to play this role. His slim, long body looks like what I imagine a mummy might look like after 3,000 years in the hot, drying desert. Karloff's face, with the help of Jack Pierce's make-up, looks like it would turn to dust at the slightest touch. And, as most would agree, Karloff's voice has an otherworldly quality that sounds as if it were coming from the grave. Karloff's acting abilities also add to the illusion that he is the mummy. Whether his decision or that of director Karl Freund I don't know, but Karloff gives a very understated performance that is necessary if he is to be believed. The understated performance without wild, exaggerated movements is perfect for a 3,000 year old mummy. His carriage suggests a very fragile being that fears crumbling with any strenuous action. To me, Karloff simply is The Mummy.


  • Every time I watch The Mummy, I'm amazed at how little screen time Karloff has as Imhotep. To think that he spent 8 hours a day getting the full-body mummy treatment only to appear for a few minutes in the final film (and never a full body shot) shows an amazing amount of restraint on the part of Freund. If you're a believer in the "what's not shown is more frightening that what is" theory of horror, you'll appreciate Freund's decision. But the few shots where Imhotep does appear are, for me, the definition of movie magic. I'll never forget the first time I saw The Mummy. The scene where Imhotep slowly opens his eye to reveal for the first time that he is alive immediately became (and remains) for me one of the most memorable moments in horror history.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Outstanding Horror Film
Rainey Dawn28 October 2014
This is the best film I have ever seen about The Mummy! It might be from 1932 but it is the greatest movie about The Mummy/Imhotep ever made - a true horror film.

Boris Karloff is great as usual - he seems to be a natural at playing monsters. The film gets good once Karloff has taken off his traditional mummy wraps and he reveals himself as the terrifying Imhotep.

I did enjoy The Mummy (1999) but I wish it did not have the comedy in it (although it was very funny) - the only thing that ruined an otherwise good film. My point being: If you want to watch a pure horror film on The Mummy then you will need to turn to The Mummy (1932) starring none other than our very on Boris Karloff as The Mummy/Imhotep.

10/10
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Boris Karloff At His Best
robertguttman27 October 2013
Poor David Manners, there was an actor who truly never had a break. Imagine being an actor whose fate was seemingly always to be consigned to playing straight-man to Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. In one film, "The Black Cat", he actually would up playing straight-man to both of them!

In "The Mummy" it was poor Manners' misfortune to be cast opposite Boris Karloff. How can any actor hope to get noticed while sharing the screen with one of the greatest horror icons of all time, especially in what many consider to be one of Karloff's roles? Granted that, after 80 years, some aspects of the movie may creak a bit. However, there's no getting around the fact that time has detracted absolutely nothing from Karloff's performance.

It is interesting to compare the 1932 version of "The Mummy" with the 1999 version, because the differences in style and production emphasis are so striking. The modern version is all about CGI special effects and roller-coaster paced action. The 1932 version is all about setting an eerie mood and, of course, the sheer charismatic presence of Boris Karloff.

In Frankenstein Karloff played The Monster as a heavy, hulking, stumbling mute. Yet how different he seems in The Mummy. Yes, there are scenes in which the actor was wrapped up and heavily made up to simulate a 3,700-year-old mummy. By all accounts that was a very unpleasant experience for the actor, too. However, in most of the movie Karloff was dressed in a sort of full-length gown, emphasizing the actor's tall and spare frame, further implying the notion that he is a 3,700-year-old re-animated mummy. Nevertheless, the actor's performance was not limited to makeup and costume. Further accentuating the idea of a walking corpse is the subtle manner in which Karloff moved, or should one more precisely say, didn't move. Karloff's mummy moved very slowly, almost gliding; and when he stood he stood very still, moving his body as little as possible. The overall effect of that stillness was to make Karloff's mummy seem even more powerful and menacing. Another notable difference was that, unlike in Frankenstein, in "The Mummy" Karloff got a chance to make use of that wonderfully sibilant, purring voice of his; that unique voice that has put chills up generations of spines, and still continues to do so.

It is also worth noting that Karl Freund's direction was a textbook example to aspiring modern horror film directors of how less can be so much more. The initial scene in which Karloff's mummy becomes alive, opening his eyes slightly and slowly moving one hand just a little bit, still has the power to chill. So does that the subsequent scene, in which all that is visible to the viewer are a couple of bandages moving slowly along the floor and trailing out of the door. Nothing is more frightening than the imagination and, in that classic scene, Freund demonstrated exactly how far a little bit of suggestion can go.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Moody And Suspenseful
bkoganbing19 June 2006
Talk about crushing out big time on a woman. Boris Karloff's been buried for 3700 years just thinking about Princess Ank-sa-namen and no cold showers where he's been.

Maybe I shouldn't be so flip because I do in fact consider The Mummy to be one of the best horror films ever done. Amazingly so because it relies so little on special effects or make-up. You see Boris Karloff in the beginning while he's still in his coffin in his Mummy wrap. Then at the end there are special effects ever so briefly in the final battle with Karloff.

Other than that this film relies entirely on the mood and suspense created by director Karl Freund and the performance of Boris Karloff as the tortured soul Im-ho-tep.

In 1922 I'm-ho-tep's secret unmarked tomb is found and when young assistant Bramwell Fletcher utters an ancient Egyptian spell, the Mummy gets up and walks out, leaving a stark, raving mad Fletcher.

Fast forward ten years, a mysterious man named Ardath Bey tells another expedition where to find the tomb of Princess Ank-sa-namen. Her mummy is raised and put in the Cairo Museum.

But that's only the beginning of Ardath Bey/Im-ho-tep's plan. It also involves Zita Johann the daughter of the Governor of the Sudan who is Egyptian on mom's side. She's a collateral descendant of the princess and feels drawn to Karloff. She's also drawn to young David Manners and that could put a crimp in Karloff's plans.

Boris Karloff probably had his most challenging role here. It's a terribly complex part. We are repulsed by Karloff's scheme, but at the same time the audience feels terribly sorry for what he's been through. While Johann is in a trance, Karloff narrates a flashback sequence to her telling how he was buried alive after she died because he tried to use Egyptian black arts to raise the princess from the dead. What a terrible hurt the man must have felt, and the audience feels it too.

The mood is helped in large part by the great orchestrations of James Dietrich of Tschaikovsky themes. Also interpolated in the film background score is the popular ballad Beautiful Love. It creates an aura of unredeemed sadness throughout the film.

There is a lot of similarity between The Mummy and that other Universal horror classic Dracula. But Bela Lugosi's Dracula is hardly as sympathetic a figure as Im-ho-tep as played by Boris Karloff. Also Edward Van Sloan as Professor Muller plays the same kind of role in The Mummy as he did as Van Helsing in Dracula.

The remakes of The Mummy used a lot of gimmicky special effects to achieve what Boris Karloff did with sheer talent. Personally I still think this version has the power to frighten and entertain.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
The most unsung of all 1930s Universal horror
MissSimonetta12 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
If you come into The Mummy (1932) expecting either a cheesy horror flick about a slow-moving, bandaged killer or an Indiana Jones-esque adventure, then you'll be sorely disappointed. If you come in without an appreciation for atmosphere and subtle storytelling, then yes, you will not get why this is such a highly regarded film.

The Mummy stands apart from most of the other Universal horrors with its slow, dreamlike quality. Some complain that nothing happens in this film, but that is only because they are looking at the surface. Really, what's happening inside of the characters' heads is more fascinating than any generic horror movie killing spree could be. The reincarnation love story is interesting and the conflict between the ancient and modern world within the heroine Helen makes for good drama.

Karloff's performance as the menacing but sympathetic Imhotep is one of his finest characterizations. Though the character and the movie overall are often compared to Dracula (1931), I think Imhotep has more in common with the 1925 Phantom of the Opera in that he is a grotesque figure out to claim the romantic love of a woman he feels he deserves.

I believe Zita Johann as Imhotep's beloved Helen deserves special mention too, for unlike most Universal damsels, she gets a role with depth and plays it off beautifully. Unlike say, Mary Philbin's Christine in POTO, Helen is conflicted as to her feelings for Imhotep, whose presence awakens a love from another lifetime within her. And yet, she also loves her life in the modern world and struggles as to whether or not to give it up to resume a relationship cut short centuries ago. Johann underplays it, coming off as more soulful than your garden variety horror movie heroine.

Paired with a fine story and fantastic direction from the great Karl Freund, classic horror fans should not go through life without at least two viewings of this wonderful movie. It takes multiple viewings to really grasp the genius at hand.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
No man ever suffered as I did for you
utgard1410 December 2013
Egyptian expedition uncovers the mummy of Imhotep (Boris Karloff) and inadvertently brings him back to life after thousands of years. A decade later, now going by the name Ardeth Bey, the mummy seeks the reincarnation of his lost love (Zita Johann). This is one of the great horror classics from the Golden Age of Hollywood. The Mummy is very different from the cliché image people have of it today. The bandage-wrapped mummy slowly shuffling through the dark towards his victim would come largely from the later Universal series. There is one short but unforgettable scene at the beginning of this film that features the iconic mummy. The image of the mummy gradually opening his eyes is a classic. This scene is the highlight of the film for many, showcasing makeup artist Jack Pierce's genius. The makeup holds up even by today's standards and outshines anything we have been able to do with computer imagery.

The script is heavily influenced by Dracula, which was released the previous year. The screenwriter, John L. Balderston, had written the stage play that Universal's Dracula film was based upon. It also has the cinematographer of Dracula, Karl Freund, as the director. It even features a couple of notable cast members from Dracula: Edward Van Sloan and David Manners. I actually find it to be a superior film to Dracula in many ways. Freund's direction is better than Tod Browning's for starters. The stagey elements are gone. The story is very good. Unlike many future Mummy movies, both at Universal and later Hammer, the focus is not on a "monster" that kills people. Instead the focus is on slowly building a sinister mood. It's an atmospheric picture, as all the truly great horror films are. The Egyptian visuals and mythology add something extra to the ambiance of the film. It must have been especially intriguing to audiences in 1932.

Boris Karloff, with his trademark voice and manner, gives a subtle, ominous performance as Imhotep/Ardeth Bey. It's a legendary performance by one of the icons of horror. The scenes of Imhotep's evil eyes glowing in closeups or the eerie scene where he chants over a scroll by candlelight are the stuff of legend. Zita Johann does quite well, as do the aforementioned Van Sloan and Manners. Plus Arthur Byron and a memorable turn by Bramwell Fletcher as the man who actually revives the mummy ("He went for a little walk!").

I love this movie. I love Universal horror films in general but this is one of the jewels in the crown. The acting, directing, writing, and makeup are all excellent for the period. I would encourage everybody to try these classic films out. I realize not everyone can enjoy older films and I think that's a shame. But please if you are able to see past the age of this film and lose yourself in it, I think you will enjoy it very much.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
More slowburn drama, but earns an honorable mention
Steve Pulaski28 October 2013
The Mummy's place with classic monster movies is down several notches from the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man seeing as the film features very little jolts, a surprisingly slow narrative, and some rather hokey acting by everyone involved. But the film deserves praise for Boris Karloff's unsurprisingly strong performance along with the makeup and set design which make the film an immediate, if minor, success.

The story concerns Imhotep (Boris Karloff), an ancient Egyptian priest who is revived on an archaeological expedition conducted by Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron), who discovers Imhotep's mummy. Imhotep attempted to resurrect his lover Princess Ankh-es-en-amon, and was mummified alive as a result. Joseph, much to the dismay of his friend Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan), reads an ancient Egyptian script that brings Imhotep back to life, which leads to the mummy roaming the area of Cairo to find his long-lost love.

Karl Freund's direction here is extremely meticulous - a trait many of these older monster films possessed. Freund's direction is very focused on providing efficient light and specific character placement, which at least shows a distinct level of alertness on part of the filmmaker.

If only director Freund and writer John L. Balderston had realized The Mummy was also a monster film instead of solely a slowburn drama. This is the kind of thriller that remembers it is part of the horror genre almost fifteen minutes before it's over, leading to an identifiable panic to try and include some scares before the entire opportunity is missed. Because of this, The Mummy is redundant and not very frightening or even remotely eerie.

As a drama and a parable about revisiting and tampering with history, I'll say The Mummy succeeds on that level. Universal monster movies seemed to always include some sort of realization or moral and this one in particular kind of keeps the film together and makes its existence as a drama more justifiable. However, marketed and released like a monster film, this poises an odd issue. When we have a film with its title character occupying roughly two minutes in the film, than this is a problem.

However, when we do see the mummy, the film becomes a bit more satisfying. Karloff's makeup job is extraordinary, and his acting, throughout the whole film, is the glue of the film. I don't critique acting much because I feel a good story is made by much more than such a thing, and to waste time by saying "this guy was good, this guy was bad" makes for a lame, overly-subjective, general review. But Karloff works in the regard that he is a natural screen presence. His modesty (such as saying that anyone could've done his job in Frankenstein) only makes him shine more.

The Mummy is an interesting piece of history, well-directed, mostly well-acted, but falls short of monster movie standards due to its lame expository and reliance on drama rather than on tone and exemplified eeriness.

Starring: Boris Karloff, Arthur Byron, and Edward Van Sloan. Directed by: Karl Freund.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
A classic film suitable for pre-teen children.
abrooks4 July 2001
This film features the story of a man (Imhotep, high priest) who loved a woman beyond his social station. Imhotep was punished for this crime by a suffering a living death. A few millenia as an undead corpse have made Imhotep a psychopathic killer, willing to do away with anyone who obstructs his obsession with reviving the lost woman as an undead creature like himself.

An unwitting young archeologist without respect for the culture he studies animates Imhotep by reading the Scroll of Thoth and thus starting the action with his own mental collapse. (He was warned by a more mature academic, but hubris proceeds the fall.)

Unlike more recent psychopathic killers, Imhotep exhibits cunning, intelligence, and restraint. He restrains his murderous impulses whenever such restraint advances his own plans. He even uses non-violent means to have his deceased lover exhumed by an archeological team. In this same scene, he employs an ironic comment regarding the special privileges of foreign archeologists. Without glitz and special effects, the plot progresses when moved by the passions of each character. Even the old professor attempts to destroy the Mummy's scroll for love of his son. Acting generates essentially all the action. No doubt there was no budget to blow up vehicles and structures. Dialogue explains the action, atmosphere creates the mood, and lighting and a few props stand in for the foreign locale.

Several people are murdered, albeit with limited or no graphic content. The story does incorporate social discrimination between classes and between Europeans and Egyptians, but only as a fact and without celebration. Actually, the film's limited commentary tends to discredit arbitrary prejudices based on class and nationality. Imhotep himself seemingly condemns the double standard applied foreigners and native Egyptians by insinuation.

The Mummy does not offer color, computer graphic special effects, or a catchy score. However it also lacks political bias, revisionist history, profanity, sexual innuendo, or deliberate overt commercial, ethnic, racial, social, political, academic or scientific distortion or bias. Psychosexual pathology is also not glorified as in certain more recent horror films. Although the film does rely on the magic power of an ancient religion, neither the ancient religion, nor any modern religion is "attacked" by any type of lopsided, unwarranted aspersion.

The villain is portrayed sympathetically, but without exoneration or sympathy for his crimes. The heros do not prevail, but actually see the ancient God intervene. No lawyer sues the heros for desicating a Mummy without a license. This entertaining film was created for people who were themselves destitute and desperate during the Depression. It is still an entertaining film for families. My own children love the film, and have seen it 5 or 6 times.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
5/10
Well, What (In The Name Of Amon-Ra) Did I Expect?
Dalbert Pringle5 July 2015
You know, I'm kinda baffled about horror movies from the 1930s. And, yes, I'm fully-aware that the "Hayes Code" was very much in effect at the time (which restricted plenty) - But, all the same, I found that (when compared to the homicidal gangster films from that particular era) the violence and element of terror in this genre of film was surprisingly toned down and ridiculously tame.

And, yes, of course, this was the case here with 1932's "The Mummy". There was really no violence, at all, to speak of. I mean, I certainly wasn't expecting any over-the-top gore, but, hey, a bit of honest-to-goodness Mummy-type violence would've surely been a real asset to this fright flick's overall horror-factor.

Anyway - Strictly from a nostalgic point of view - (As far as "The Mummy" being something of a curiosity piece) - This 83-year-old relic was most certainly worth a view. But, with that said, when a 73-minute horror movie actually drags its sorry ass in between the action (and requires a romance thrown into the mix, for good measure), then, it's definitely a picture meant only to fully-satisfy an audience of die-hard film buffs of vintage movie-making, and not much more.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Pay attention, and see how a horror film is really done
riegelsvillegrrrl30 September 2004
It saddens me to read reviews of The Mummy that accuse it of being boring and slow. I can only attribute these to MTV-era viewers with very short ADHD-like attention spans. Now class, if you can only sit down quietly, watch carefully and pay attention ...

You'll find an exquisitely-told tale, dripping with languorous atmosphere and Gothic chill, that unfolds in its own good time. No blood, gore, dismemberment or grotesque violence, no overbearing rock-n-roll soundtrack, but nonetheless a horror gem complete with the living dead, human sacrifice, psychic slavery, ancient powerful magic, and more. In fact, some of the most chilling scenes in the film are silent -- not even music. It's about storytelling, boys and girls, not special effects.

Study the performance of Boris Karloff, one of the most mesmerizing performers of his (or any) generation -- even under all that dessicating makeup, he can convey more with one single intense glance than most other actors can in an entire scene. Listen to his voice -- sepulchral yet seductive, despite his unsettling physical presence, with enough quiet power to entice a modern-day (well, 1930's-era) woman to the brink of a violent yet willing death. The character has the power to kill from afar by telepathy -- and when you see Karloff's eyes, you easily believe it.

This version of The Mummy is THE one. All the others that came after are garish, inferior imitations. Look well, my darlings, and learn why.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Boris 'Imhotep' Karloff - The One and Only True Mummy!
Warning: Spoilers
Egyptian Mummies doubtlessly range among the most fascinating Horror creatures, and yet their overall representation in cinema seems a bit weak, compared to that of other ghoulish fiends. This is not due to the lack of mummy films, but to due to the small number of truly imaginative ones. Of all mummy films I've seen, there is only one that is truly fantastic - "The Mummy" of 1932. And what a masterpiece it is! Karl Feund's brilliant milestone is not merely the greatest Mummy picture of all-time, and one of the greatest of the Universal Horror classics; it is doubtlessly one of the greatest Horror films ever made. Horror-deity Boris Karloff gives one of the most astonishing performances of his outstanding career, in one of the Horror genre's most immortal roles - Imhotep. As Karloff's most famous role, Frankenstein's Monster, Imhotep is a tragic character, though incomparably more evil than the predominantly woeful Monster. Though an incredibly haunting fiend, Imhotep is driven by immortal love to a woman. In 1922 an archaeologist awakens the mummy of the Egyptian priest Imhotep by reading out a spell on an ancient scroll. The mummy disappears, but returns ten years later, disguised as Ardath Bey in search of his love - an immortal love which lasted thousands of years. Imhotep was mummified alive for committing the sacrilege of trying to awake his beloved, a priestess of Isis and daughter of the Pharaoh, from the dead. In the 20th century, beautiful young Helen (Zita Johann) is the spitting image of the Egyptian priestess...

Imhotep is doubtlessly one of the most haunting and memorable villains the Horror genre has ever seen, and Karloff, doubtlessly one of the greatest actors who ever lived, is brilliant in the role. No one could possibly doubt that Karloff was one of the greatest icons ever in cinema, and this role is arguably his greatest besides that of Frankenstein's Monnster in James Whale's "Frankenstein" (1932) and the even greater sequel "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935). Karloff looks incredibly creepy, both as the mummy in the beginning and as Imhotep. The sequence when the mummified Imhotep opens his eyes in the beginning alone is incredibly haunting and unforgettable. Beautiful Zita Johnson is also great in her (double) role. Actually, the whole cast is very good, it most memorably includes Edward van Sloan, the legendary classic Horror actor who also played Van Helsing in Tod Browning's "Dracula" (1931). Director Karl Freund was mainly active as a fantastic cinematographer. However, the two Horror films he directed, "Mad Love" of 1935 and this masterpiece (to be precise, he also served as an uncredited co-director of Browning's "Dracula"), both rank among the greatest classics of the genre. "The Mummy" is brilliantly photographed, and the makeup department did the job of a century - Karloff just looks uniquely creepy. "The Mummy" spawned many sequels and rip-offs none of which got anywhere near the brilliance of the original. In 1959, the British Hammer Studios made a remake starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, which is easily the second-best Mummy film I've ever seen. The crappy new Mummy films with should be avoided at all costs. Incredibly haunting, creepy and beautiful Karl Freund's 1932 classic is, and always will be, the one and only true Mummy-masterpiece that buries all the rest. "The Mummy" is one of the greatest Horror films ever made, and no cinema lover could possibly consider missing it. 10/10
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
A Remarkably Affective Atmospheric Movie
theowinthrop26 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In 1922 most of the events of the day were fairly dull. Example: Lloyd George lost his majority in Parliament and was replaced as Prime Minister by Andrew Bonar-Law. Only one event of that year has remained in our collective memories. The year 1922 was the year Howard Carter found the tomb of the Pharoah Tutankhamon in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor in Egypt. The only perfectly preserved treasure of an Egyptian ruler was uncovered, and it's artistic glories stunned a fascinated world. And soon the brilliance of the discovery was complicated by a series of random, sudden, and frequently violent deaths supposedly connected to Carter's expedition. Among those who died was the Earl of Carnaevon who financed the expedition. Supposedly he died a few days after visiting the opened tomb. So did the American millionaire George Gould, and a long list of others, frequently by suicide, one (Prince Fahmy Bay) by being shot by his wife at the Savoy Hotel in London in 1923. Supposedly the Egyptians who buried King Tut had put a written curse on the doorway. It was similar, ironically, to the one near Shakespeare's grave cursing he who moved the Bard's bones. Few noticed that the person who should have died from such a curse, Howard Carter, lived to spend the rest of his life cataloging, studying and writing about his finds and dying, finally, in 1939 (peacefully in bed)! Finding a treasure of any sort is always fascinating. Finding one that causes disaster in it's wake is even more so. The Tut - curse story has never been dropped, despite every attempt to do so. It was used in many films about Egyptology that cropped up. It was also borrowed in non-Egyptian expedition films. Witness THE GREEN RAY, where a curse seems to be killing off members of an African expedition financed by a wealthy English nobleman seeking a treasure (a rare element from a meteorite) buried in Africa centuries ago (sound familiar?).

The 1932 film THE MUMMY properly kept the "curse" urban legend in it's proper section of Africa - Egypt. An expedition in 1923 led by Arthur Byron and Edward Van Sloan finds an unmarked grave. Van Sloan cautions his friend Byron not to violate the sanctity of the grave, and Byron hedges. He has opened it, and revealed a mummy (which the viewers of course recognize as the star, Mr. Boris Karloff), but he has not decided if he wishes to examine the precious papyrus document that is in a jeweled case beneath the mummy's case. He leaves, and only his jocular young assistant (Bramwell Fletcher) is alone with the case and the mummy. Fletcher decides to read the manuscript. He is so intent he does not see the eyes of the dead creature reopen, and him start moving, until the Mummy is just over Fletcher and snatches the manuscript. When Byron returns he finds the mummy gone, the manuscript gone, and Fletcher in hysterical laughter (we later learn he laughed himself to death).

It is now a decade later and we are now in Cairo. An Egyptian approaches Byron at the Cairo Museum about some antiquities concerning the grave of a daughter of a Pharoah and it leads to a new expedition and opening of the grave. The Egyptian, named I'm-ho-tep, is the missing Mummy (Karloff) and he is involved in planning to resurrect the princess, his lost beloved. He takes over the soul of one of the museum guards (Noble Johnson), and starts planning to use a manuscript at the Museum discovered with the Princess's grave.

He discovers that a young woman named Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann) is visiting Byron. She is attracted to one of Byron's son, David Manners, but she is the spitting image of his lost love Princess Ankesen - Amon. He schemes to bring her to the alter in the Museum so that he can reunite with his lost love.

With it's use of the curse, two more deaths at the museum, and the idea of long lost ancient knowledge from the Egyptians the film manages to carry the audience very well. The photography, in particular the rapid sequence of scenes detailing I'm-ho-tep's loss of the Princess, his act of ancient sacrilege, and the hideous punishment he goes through and it's aftermath, it looks almost like what we would imagine Ancient Egypt would have been like. The finale, when the powers of the Mummy wear off is done with a still photo carefully reprinted and carefully cracked slowly to show decay. It was a perfect ending to a wonderfully shot horror film.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews