Of all the mummy movies, which one should you watch? Try the one with the incomparable duo of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
It’s Egypt, 1895. Archaeologists Stephen and Joseph hit pay dirt in the tomb of Princess Ananka, a high priestess of the god Karnak, buried far from her original home. But before entering, a modern Egyptian follower of the same god, Mahemet Bey, warns them of terrible consequences if they desecrate her tomb.
Posh-posh, say these Egyptologists, forging ahead in their imperialistic British way. Joseph ducks out because he forgot something from the car or something, leaving Stephen to find the Ancient Scroll of Bringing Dead Things Back To Life, read it aloud like a dummy, and wake Anaka’s guardian. When they find Stephen, he’s a blubbering victim of shock.
Fortunately, his son, John Banning (Peter Cushing), was keeping the tent warm during the whole ordeal, nursing a broken leg. So he's available to finish his father’s work and return to England, dropping dad off in the looney bin along the way, muttering something about mummies coming to life.
But Bey hasn’t forgotten, and the mummy, of course, remains very much alive. And angry.
Forget the boring Boris Karloff mummy from Universal - this is the Mummy movie you came to see. Tall, crusty and silent, moving stiffly under so much dusty hemp cloth, Christopher Lee’s beast relentlessly pursues his victims and dispatches them with unstoppable strangling force. Bullets only blast gaping holes in his body. You do wonder - how on earth are they going to stop this thing?
The proceedings are dry, colorful, brightly-lit, and underscored with constant dramatic music in the classic Hammer Horror tradition. The bare-bones plot wastes not a line of dialogue with no unnecessary scenes. Bey’s earnestness lends him the right amount of sympathy, and we always feel sorry for the mummy: buried alive for transgressions of love, a faithful devotee to the very end.
At this point, I’ve seen most every Peter Cushing / Christopher Lee collaboration. What a winning duo - even when one is wrapped up and silenced. If you’re looking for a fairly pedestrian but enjoyable Halloween movie that the kids can see also, this is probably the one for you.Now that you’ve seen the film…
*** SPOILERS ***
I just checked out the IMDB trivia page, and it seems that good ol’ Lee took a beating for this film:He dislocated his shoulder crashing through a door that a grip accidentally bolted closed before the shot. He injured his knees and shins on pipes and fittings in the swamp water in the studio tank. The squibs used when the mummy was shot left burn marks for weeks. He threw his back out carrying the girl.
I’m not sure if Lee is a Method actor, but if so, perhaps sacrificing his body for real helped him get inside the role.