Saturday, December 22, 2012


On this day 80 years ago, the Universal Pictures production of THE MUMMY premiered. Audiences thrilled to the fictional screen version of archeologist Howard Carter’s discovery of a tomb full of treasure from ancient Egypt . . . only this story diverged into a tale of lost love, reincarnated souls, and a horrific living mummy!

I first saw THE MUMMY on antenna TV back when I was 8 or 9-years old. I can still hear Norton’s crazed laughter ringing in my ears!

Like a number of the early Universal horror pictures, over the years critics have been , let’s say, a little less enthusiastic than when the films were first shown. This is quite common in writers who insist on conveniently leaving out the contextual elements of the times in which these films were created, and instead use modern comparisons to frame their unwarranted opinions. It’s not only unfair but downright as nuts as Renfield, if you ask me!

Realistically, comparisons can be made within its original time period. For example, the sitting room scene between Im-ho-tep, Helen Grosvenor, the Whemple’s, and Dr. Muller is unquestionably similar to a scene between Van Helsing and the Count in Universal’s DRACULA.

I watched the new Blu-ray version from the Universal Classic Monsters Essential Collection this week, and the print is a beauty. The series went on without Karloff (maybe the name Kharis was a nod to him?) and Tana leaves replaced the Scroll of Thoth. One thing is undeniable – like its character, the mummy will live on through the ages!

And now, following is a special "Picto-Fiction" story to commemorate the event . . .


Sir Joseph Whemple and Ralph Norton discuss their findings during the British 1921 Field Expedition in Egypt.

One of the artifacts uncovered is that of the mummy Im-ho-tep, an ancient Egyptian high priest. Dr.  Muller, noted Egyptologist specializing in the occult has examined the mummy and declares that whoever it was, was buried alive because of committing some sort of sacrilege!

Norton is anxious to look into the contents of the casket that was uncovered with the mummy. After breaking the seal and removing the box inside, they discover that there is a curse written in hieroglyphics telling that whosoever opens the box shall incur the wrath of the ancient gods! It is believed that the legendary Scroll of Thoth, a papyrus that holds spells to bring the dead back to life, lies within. Dr. Muller calls Whemple to join him outside for some air and warns Norton, “Do not touch that casket!”

The temptation is too great for Norton and he opens the forbidden box. Inside he finds what certainly must be the infamous Scroll of Thoth. He carefully unrolls it and begins translating the spell.

He reads the spell out loud: “Ra – life – breath – thou”. Unwittingly, as he reads the spell, he brings to mummy back to life!

The mummy, now reanimated, approaches Norton to retake the scroll. Startled, Norton gazes upon the mummy and begins laughing manically, uncontrollably. Whemple and Muller race into the hut and find Norton blathering: “He – he went for a little walk! You should have seen his face!”

The scene is now the 1932 Field Expedition and Sir Joseph’s son, Frank  Whemple, along with Prof. Pearson are worrying over their lack of finds for the season. A man who introduces himself as Ardath Bey appears at their door, claiming to have knowledge of the location of the burial place of the Princess Anck-es-en-Amon, not more than 100 yards from where they are standing.

He shows them where to dig, and a day later they have found the tomb. The Seal of the Seven Jackals has been unbroken since the time of internment, guaranteeing them the find of the century. Her treasures are unearthed and taken to the museum in Cairo.

Ardath Bey (Im-ho-tep) gazes upon his long, lost love on display in the Cairo Museum.

Ardath Bey begins reading aloud from the Scroll of Thoth in front of the case containing the mummy of Princess Anck-es-en-Amon. It is evident that he wants to reanimate the mummy of his beloved Princess like he was himself. The spell reaches across the city and is mysteriously received by Helen Grosvenor, a patient of Dr. Muller. As if under a spell, she hails a cab to the Cairo Museum and tries to enter. The door is locked. Sir Joseph and Frank witness this. Frank runs to Helen’s aid, and she swoons in his arms. They take her to the Whemple’s apartment to recover.

Realizing that Helen Grosvenor is the present-day reincarnation of Princess Anck-es-en-Amon, he tracks her to the Whemple’s home.

Helen falls under the spell of Ardath Bey!

Ardath Bey demands that the Scroll of Thoth be returned to him. He is refused.

Through his mystical connection with Helen Grosvenor/Anck-es-en-Amon, Im-ho-tep/Ardath Bey summons Helen to his home.

He reveals to her the story of her death, his love for her, his attempt to reanimate her dead body, and his subsequent discovery by the tomb guards. The penalty for this sacrilege is to be buried alive!

Helen returns home, but soon is once again psychically summoned to the Cairo Museum, where Im-ho-tep has arranged to sacrifice her modern-day body to be rejoined with the soul of his beloved Anck-es-en-Amon.

Frank and Dr. Muller are hot on Helen’s trail and come upon her about to be sacrificed by the living mummy. Helen appeals for mercy to a statue of Isis. Her prayers are answered and the statue raises a hand that grasps an ankh, symbol of life. A lightning flash fills the room and Frank and Dr. Muller see the mummy go up in flames. Frank rushes to Helen and summons her back from her diabolical spell – through the centuries – and back into his arms. The evil of Im-ho-tep – the living mummy – is no more!

And, since this is a blog about monster magazines in particular, here is an article from FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND #4 (August 1959) that covers the legendary Mummy movie cycle made famous by Universal Studios.

1 comment:

DRB in Karloffornia said...

GREAT feature on THE MUMMY!


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