Wednesday, 25 February 2015
The Mummy (1933 version) (4 Stars)
The film is listed in IMDB as being made in 1932, but the splash screen says "Copyright MCMXXXIII". So who's right? I'm not sure. Maybe the plan was to release it in 1933, but Universal Studios was impatient and brought it into the cinemas at the end of 1932.
As was the case with all the early American horror films, the director and producer were German Jews. The German influence on the pre-WW2 American film industry is immeasurable. While some notable people, such as Carl Laemmle, one of the founders of Universal Studios, emigrated to America in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the biggest influx of German Jews into the American film industry was in the 1930's, when Jews were no longer allowed to work in German films. Even today the top places in the American film industry are held by Jews.
In the film the mummy Imhotep (Boris Karloff) is unwittingly brought back to life when a scholar working at an excavation site reads an old scroll aloud. Why oh why do people in films always feel the urge to read ancient scrolls out loud? Can't they keep their mouths shut while they read? No good ever comes of reciting incantations. Imhotep then plans to bring his long lost lover, Ankh-es-en-amon, back from the dead. But then he unexpectedly meets Helen Grosvenor, the daughter of the Governor of Sudan, who looks identical to Ankh-es-en-amon.
At this time Universal Studios was promoting the actor William Pratt as an almost mystical figure. As a stage actor he had changed his name to Boris Karloff, but Universal Studios shortened his name to Karloff. The film poster above even refers to him as "Karloff the Uncanny".
When a new film called "The Mummy" was made in 1999 it was described as a remake, and people began giving their opinions on which version was better. I wonder if the film critics even took the trouble to watch both films. It's silly to call the new version a remake, because the story in the new film has almost nothing to do with the old film. It's the same mummy, Imhotep, and he's also brought back to life, but that's where the similarity ends. There is no need to compare the two films as if they were on an equal footing.
I like both films. My main problem with the 1933 film is that it seems too short. That was a product of the age. In pre-war days 73 minutes was a typical length for a film. After all, it was still common for cinemas to show two films together, so neither film could be too long.