Plot: An archaeological expedition has uncovered the site of a lifetime, the home of the mummified remains of Im-Ho-Tep himself. The tomb also holds a number of other priceless artifacts, including the scroll of Thoth, which was once believed to allow the dead to return to life. After one of the expedition members reads the scroll out loud, he learns that those beliefs were true, as Im-Ho-Tep rises from the tomb and in the wake of this, the man loses his mind under the stress of his actions. After years have passed, Im-Ho-Tep is able to disguise himself as a normal citizen and he begins to pursue his lost love. But when he discovers a woman who looks just like his former flame, will the ancient prince stop at nothing to regain her affections, even if it means unleashing supernatural hell on those in his path?
Entertainment Value: This is an inarguable horror classic, one that takes inspirations from other Universal monster tales, but crafts a vision that is unique and would inspire countless other movies in its own right. The narrative is effective, but the atmosphere is what drives The Mummy, a slow burn, but intense and gradual eerieness, all while Boris Karloff turns in one of his best performances. The opening sequence is iconic, with Karloff in the wrappings and the famous “He…he went for a little walk!” line that will echo through all of horror as long as the genre exists. The deliberate pace is never a concern in the least, thanks to the tense mood and at only 73 minutes, there’s no filler or downtime whatsoever. Even in a slow burn approach, The Mummy is efficient and makes every scene count. Of course, this would launch numerous sequels and remakes, but the original remains my personal favorite, thanks in large part to Karloff, the visuals, and the overall atmosphere. The Mummy is a classic for a reason and without question, is a cornerstone of the genre.
In a career with over two hundred performances, to call this one of Boris Karloff’s best efforts is no small compliment, since the screen legend was often able to work wonders even in the smallest of roles. He is impressive with the mummy wraps in this one, but also shines once he takes a more traditional form and as always, he leads with his eyes to effective ends. Just his eyes are enough to convey that something is off about him here, an eerie vibe that permeates the entire movie. To do so much just with a glace or a stare, that is impressive work. Karloff is also able to bring a human element to the role, another of his signature traits and one of the reasons his performances are so timeless and universal. To make us care about his characters, even in brief flashes, is just one of the signs of Karloff’s towering talents. The cast here also includes David Manners, Zita Johann, and Arthur Boyd.