Director: Terence Fisher
Writer: Jimmy Sangster
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux, Eddie Byrne, Felix Aylmer, Raymond Huntley, George Pastell, Michael Ripper, George Woodbridge, Harold Goodwin, Denis Shaw, Gerald Lawson, Willoughby Gray, John Stuart, David Browning, Frank Sieman, Stanley Meadows, and Frank Singuineau
Composer: Franz Reizenstein
Release Date: 9/25/1959
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
While excavating the tomb of Egyptian Princess Ananka (Yvonne Furneaux), British archaeologists John Banning (Peter Cushing), Stephen Banning (Felix Aylmer), and Joseph Whemple (Raymond Huntley) inadvertently bring Kharis (Christopher Lee)—high priest of Karnak—back to life. Incensed over the desecration of Ananka’s burial site, Mehemet Bey (George Pastell)—devoted worshiper of Karnak—calls on Kharis to punish the entire archaeological team.
Featuring a vengeful priest, an ancient Egyptian curse, and a reincarnated princess named Ananka, this offering combines the most intriguing aspects of Universal Studios’ The Mummy series. Similarly worth praising are the film’s creepy atmosphere and boggy location, which create the perfect setting for Kharis—a living mummy swathed in bandages—to prey on his victims.
Lacking the crippled frame and sluggish movements of the original Kharis (Tom Tyler and Lon Chaney Jr.), Christopher Lee’s portrayal of the Mummy benefits from tremendous strength, stature, and mobility. Horror fans will therefore appreciate the terrifying nature of Lee’s Kharis, who, by tearing through walls and strangling people to death, comes across as an unstoppable killing machine.
During the middle act of The Mummy, John Banning gives a detailed account of Kharis’ forbidden love toward Ananka, blasphemy against the god Karnak, and live burial inside an Egyptian sarcophagus. Despite providing the viewer with necessary background information on Kharis, Ananka, and Mehemet Bey, Banning’s exposition serves to hamper the pacing of this film.
The Mummy also suffers from an abrupt and anticlimactic final scene, which mirrors the ending of The Mummy’s Ghost—a subpar entry in the Universal Monster series.
Relying on subtle eye movements to convey complex and relatable emotions, Lee delivers a sympathetic performance as Kharis. (In the Universal films of the 1940s, in contrast, Kharis fails to display a shred of humanity when carrying out his nefarious deeds, leaving little reason for the audience to care about him.)
The Mummy offers a compelling update on the legend of Kharis. Specifically, Hammer horror buffs will appreciate this film for its ominous makeup effects, harrowing monster sequences, and nuanced acting moments from Lee—the physical limitations of his character notwithstanding.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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