The Mummy

Year: 1932
Director: Karl Freund
Cast: Boris Karloff
Another classic film in the fantastic genre (sci-fi, horror, etc) that suffers from 50 years of reverence and seems much bigger than it turns out to be.

And by 'bigger', I mean literally. The sets were claustrophobic, the effects were cheap, the premise was small scale and the story was unengaging.

As I imagine most people who have never seen it assumed, I thought the story was about the iconic image of the mummy still swathed in rags attacking people, like a monstrous serial killer tracking down his victims.

Instead, we get a very low key dramatic and decidedly unhorrific premise of the Mummy (Karloff) disguising himself as the Egyptian Ardath Bey searching for the love he was condemned to death for thousands of years before.

He happens to find Helen, a modern woman who looks just like the princess he was in love with. Cue a classic and camp monster-era set-up of the nasty villainous creature trying to take the virtuous and virginal white woman from her dashing hero mate.

The killings, the entrance of the creature and its subsequent defeat are all stuff you'd expect to see in a school play nowadays - not because of filmmaking technology, but because of ideas about how a certain premise needs a certain scope to move. Even though Dracula the year before was still faithful to the camp heroics of the period, the set pieces and settings had scale. It felt epic.

And let's not even start on Karloff's icy stare when he hypnotises his victims. I find it hard to believe even audiences in the 1930s would have found it scary. I found it as chilling as if Rob Schneider was doing it.

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