The Woeful Malaise of the Mummy


To a black-and-white monster movie fan, the only thing more terrifying than a mummy is the prospect of getting out, meeting new people and having a normal life. The concept of the mummy is a universal one: A person so dedicated to their job that they can never die is familiar to anyone who’s worked in a government office. The problem is that the mummy is meant to be a sympathetic character because it never dies; but, we don’t think of its victims, who DO manage to die, as “lucky”.

Dozens of movies have been made about mummies… and I’m not just referring to that biography of Rudy Giuliani. If I might have the reader’s indulgence, I’ll describe some of the more interesting ones.

Hammer Files: The Mummy (1959) | Ghastly Reflections by Terence Nuzum
For those of you who don’t know, Hammer Productions, in the U. K., made monster movies in the 1950s and 1960s. They were the same monsters as used by Universal Studios but in colour and with more cleavage than you could shake a stick at. Peter Cushing, in The Mummy, is cast as an archaeologist who, when he’s not shaking sticks at cleavage, is looting an Egyptian tomb. Annoyed that the Egyptians want him to stop grabbing all their relics, he blows up the tomb and goes back to England. He is the hero. Ultimately, one of the mummies resurrects, kills and is destroyed in the most British way possible: Sucked to the bottom of a bog.

In The Mummy’s Ghost there are two monster movie greats: John Carradine and Lon Chaney jr. Plot elements of the previous movies in the series are introduced via questions at a lecture on mummies. Questions like, “Wasn’t the mummy resurrected by a type of leaf?” and “Isn’t this the third movie in the series?”. The mummy was resurrected twice before and the word “mummy” is in the title so either the mummy gets resurrected again or the title is completely ironic. Lon Chaney Jr. plays the mummy. The mummy loses in extra innings…

With a title like Aztec Mummy v. the Robot, you expect drama, action, Aztec mummies and The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy | Creature feature, B movie, Good moviesrobots; and, by God, this movie delivers two out of four of those. The acting was kind of odd, as if the plot of the dubbed movie was different than that of the original. The hero resembled a Mexican version of Marvel Comics’ Dr. Strange. The other male lead looked like a nauseous version of Buddy Holly.

Why was the mummy driven away by a cross? Why are scientists, in Mexico, allowed to pillage antiquities at will? What is a doctor of medicine doing practicing archaeology and how can he read ancient hieroglyphics? Wasn’t it convenient that the doctor knew a soil analyst? Why is the reincarnated princess wearing bags on her feet? And, why was the rattlesnake pit full of boa constrictors?

This movie was bad, but very enjoyable. And, short. Mostly presented in flashback form. If it had starred a masked professional wrestler, this movie could’ve been a classic.

Abbott and Costello did not kill vaudeville, but they did hold vaudeville down while the Ritz Brothers took turns standing on its throat. So, how did they do with Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy? Surprisingly well, actually. Imagine an Egypt with nightclubs, Indian fakirs and a cobra in every basket. Lou Costello manages to swallow a sacred medallion and gets the two caught up in an attempt to resurrect a mummy… but, instead of ONE mummy, you end up with THREE mummies… one real and two fakes. Wacky, right? And, everything is resolved with a simple stick of dynamite, the deus ex machina of screwball comedies.

Orgy of the Dead is a landmark in Ed Wood’s career. It is the first and last time he built an entire movie around topless dancers in historical costume. When I saw it, I counted twenty-three breasts and I remember shaking a stick (NOT A EUPHEMISM FOR ANYTHING) at some serious cleavage. The mummy, in this movie, stands off to one side while the lady spirits dance topless. He stays pretty motionless probably for fear that his mask and gloves will fall off.

At the close of the twentieth century people were questioning things. “Is our political George of the Jungle star Brendan Fraser looks totally different at film  premiere - NZ Heraldsystem a viable one?”; “Will overuse of technology destroy us utterly?”; and, “Why SHOULDN’T we remake The Mummy with the guy who played George of the Jungle?”. Using the same CGI team tasked with making Bruce Willis seem interesting, they created an action/comedy tour de force that will definitely kill a couple of hours. Woven into the story are the Biblical plagues of Egypt. You’ll see this one again and again, mostly because you’ll keep forgetting you’ve already seen it.

Does the Mummy come back to menace Brandon Fraser and Rachel Weisz? Well, I don’t want to spoil it but the title, The Mummy Returns, kind of gives that plot point up. Same couple as main characters, but their motivation involves the kidnapping of their precocious and mischievous son. The boy is perfect for the role because the viewer doesn’t waste a lot of anxiety caring if he lives or dies. The two end up fighting the Scorpion King, played by Dwayne Johnson. Dwayne Johnson’s nickname is “The Rock” which was also the nickname of my mother’s meatloaf…

So, The Rock did so well as a half-man/half-scorpion, they gave him his own movie and he played a half-man/other half-man. The Scorpion King is an action movie that draws on Johnson’s experience as a wrestler and his short but eventful term as Viscount of Barn Spiders…

Tom Cruise made a version of The Mummy. Most viewers, upon seeing it, remark, “Oh, I thought this was one of the GOOD versions of The Mummy” and change the channel. The only thing made better by putting Tom Cruise in it is a burning bus.

I’m saving the best for last because if you save the best for any later than that, everyone will have gone home. Boris Karloff’s The Mummy is the BEST… and not just because Tom List: 7 classic Universal monsters - STACK | JB Hi-FiCruise isn’t in it. The mummy looks like a real mummy… to the point where you are shocked when his eyes open. He is brought to life by a sacred scroll… which you’d think they’d keep locked up somewhere. He wanders over and snatches the scroll from a surprised archaeologist, who subsequently goes insane… although, I think he was already pretty tightly wound before that incident.

The rest of this film is the mummy (in human form, kind of) trying to convince the daughter of an archaeologist to allow her reincarnated self to come to the surface so they can be together again after thousands of years. Sadly, she wants to see other people… living ones, preferably…

See it either with someone you love or someone you WILL love after both of you die and are reincarnated…

16 thoughts on “The Woeful Malaise of the Mummy

  1. Oh my god Charles, my dream came true then, you wrote Tom Cruise and burning bus in one sentence. My life is now complete. (PS – I quite like Brendon Fraser)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh good, he’s not the best actor in the world but he does pick his movies well. I did a post just for you this week Charles. It goes up tomorrow. I think it will give you a smile 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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