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Monday, October 27, 2014

Run-Up To Halloween

The Mummy (1959) Shining Brighter Than Before On Blu-Ray

Among fruits of Universal subcontracting horror films to Hammer was the Brit firm's access to properties Uni-controlled, including The Mummy, which they'd remake here along Kharis rather than Im-Ho-Tep lines (Schenck/Koch rubbed lightly against preserve with their Pharaoh's Curse in 1957, but reanimated mummies were otherwise U's alone to exploit). Christopher Lee gets to humanity beneath his wraps, the only gauze-bound Mummy I can recall pulling that off (Hammer used no-name bandage wearers after this). Lee moves stiff but determinably, his Mummy unstoppable with stiff-at-first legs (naturally after 3800 years), but use of both arms, unlike Kharis of old who needed victims to position themselves just so for his lumbering attack. Mummy trailer bait was scenes where he smashed through glass doors to get at Peter Cushing (latter the one with a game leg) and is shot, speared, each unsuccessfully. This Mummy had muscle! Lee's is a sterling go at a role more confining than most movie monsters I can offhand recall. Should there be "Best Actor" category for work done in head-to-toe rubber (or gauze as here) outfits? Who then for nominees? Perhaps Ray Corrigan in It! The Terror From Beyond Space, or any one of guys in Godzilla guise. There has been, or will be (upcoming book) recognition for ones who wore gorilla skin (Corrigan again, among others). I'm going afield of The Mummy, however, so never mind.

Had a guest group, including deftly observant Dan Mercer (in from the North) to view The Mummy this weekend. His reaction, shorn of sentiment for not having grown up on Hammers: "A colorful presentation that was sure to have pleased its intended audience, but pedestrian in many ways. The mysticism and romance of the original was relegated to the searching depths of Christopher Lee's eyes. His performance almost redeemed the picture for me." As for Greenbriar, there was but wish I'd been beyond (too young) five in 1959. The Mummy used to show up on mid-60's kiddie shows in Winston-Salem --- I'd sit home Saturday mornings, 58 miles away, and despair over newspaper ads for shows too distant to attend. The Mummy wouldn't turn up on TV until Seven Arts unloaded its Hammers on CBS for late network nights, these having reverted to 7A after Universal (and others) distributed theatrically. An initial DVD of The Mummy was soft and uninviting. You had to wonder if elements were imperiled, but then comes Blu-Ray from Region Two to bell the cat --- it's superb. Comparison to the 1932 classic won't wash --- better to link with ones Chaney did, or better yet, Tom Tyler in The Mummy's Hand, a player Christopher Lee somewhat resembles during flash-way-back to Egypt. Color is point of departure here, plus English spoken among ancients, a mistake Universal didn't make in glory days. Legend has it Hammer shot closer observed tongue-slitting and had on-camera nudes amongst vestal virginity. Is another search of Japanese vaults in order?

Pace slackens for Michael Ripper's drunken sighting(s) of marauder mummy Lee, padding needed to eke 88 minutes from The Mummy. The wrapped one intrudes twice upon Peter Cushing meditation to near-identical result, not an only whiff of redundancy here. Was it to pump more action into the show? Hammer's tomb opening looks like entry to a jeweler's shop that needs but light tidy. You expect a friendly clerk to emerge and assist visitors to this cave undisturbed for thirty centuries. Cushing does nice cat-mouse dialogue with Turhan Bey-ish George Pastell, probably a best talking portion of the show. Writer Jimmy Sangster once summed up his work by memoir-asking "Do You Want It Good, Or Tuesday"? --- he'd opt for Tuesday with The Mummy. What matters in long run is less what we hear than what Hammer shows, always arresting design, spray of color where mummies hadn't trod before, and a stock company game no matter words given to speak. My group enjoyed The Mummy for these, and probably will again as it makes future Halloween/Hammer rotation.


Blogger Dave K said...

Just revisited Hammer's re-think of THE MUMMY about a week ago. Think Dan Mercer's observations have some validity, but having recently checked back on the studio's first few passes at traditional characters (CURSE and REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN, HORROR and BRIDES OF DRACULA, THE MUMMY, CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, etc.) am impressed with how much cool and classy their stuff was right out of the box! Throw in some really dandy black and white non-monster thriller second features, and you realize they really had their own little golden period. I, too, was a little too young to see THE MUMMY on first release, but this is the first Hammer movie poster I remember seeing.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Saw this MUMMY twice theatrically. First run at one of our town's hardtops, then again when it played at my family's drive-in.

3:15 PM  
Blogger b piper said...

I was also struck by not only how spotless the 3800 tomb was but how well lit. You'd think fewer lights on the set would be quicker and cheaper, always a plus at Hammer! But their version remains my favorite of all Mummy movies.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Laurent Aumaitre said...

Good morning,
Do you know the borx office for this film and the other version, with Boris Karloff. I look for them for years.
Thank you for your excellent articles.

6:05 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Regret to say, no figures on either Mummy. Wish I had them. Maybe some time down the line. Thanks for your kind words.

6:11 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson recently dug out Warner's DVD of "The Mummy" and files this:

A few years back I picked up "The Mummy" for $3 at Big Lots -- for a while they had amazing deals on vintage Time Warner titles; now it's all recent and unremarkable -- and forgot about it. Your writeup inspired me to dig it out.

The DVD looked good to me, except for a couple of shots. Enjoyed it a lot, and liked how they managed to split the difference between Karloff's intelligent killer and the later shambling zombies. I suspect a modern audience might go "awww" -- only half jokingly -- when Lee stands looking like a guilty dog after failing to kill Cushing.

Not perfect: Everybody seems awfully blase about a man coming out of a near-coma just to have a short and comparatively cool chat with his son, who doesn't press the point. British sang-froid?

One big laugh line for me: When the inspector says he sent someone to "round up some villagers." I envisioned somebody passing out torches and pitchforks to the usual Universal extras in lederhosen.

8:18 AM  
Blogger James Corry said...

Hopefully, we will see the following Hammer films released to Blu-ray (soon I hope!): "The Abominable Snowman", "Revenge Of Frankenstein", "Curse Of The Werewolf" and "The Hound Of The Baskervilles".....they all deserve it!


10:26 AM  

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