EVERY MONSTER KID NEEDS A MUMMY
Pop Ghoul Unwraps Some Terrifying Treats from the Tomb at your video store now
I see you've found your way to my little crypt. You're just in time to help me examine some tomb treasure I uncovered on
my latest expedition. I've just returned from the Valley of the Kings where deep beneath the City of the Dead I uncovered
a secret cache of shiny discs sealed within individual plastic sarcophaguses. Join me now while I dare the wrath of Amon Ra
and break the seals on these containers.
THE 1ST SEAL: KARLOFF THE UNCANNY
The story of Im-Ho-Tep. Yes, I remember this one well. Released in 1932 as The Mummy and starring
the great Boris Karloff. This is the crown jewel of Mummy pictures and Universal gives it a premium presentation in their
Classic Monster Collection of DVDs. The package contains many special features including production notes, cast and filmmaker
biographies with film highlights, a theatrical trailer, and a slide show set to the original score featuring posters and stills
from the film. Of even more interest to Monster Kids are the feature commentary by film historian Paul M. Jensen and the half-hour
documentary, Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed written and directed by David J. Skal.
While obviously not restored, the print is a good one and the ability to pause, zoom-in, backtrack and fast-forward through
the movie is a Monster Kids delight. When I was young I tended to fall asleep after the opening sequence, not having much
interest in the story after the Mummy shambled offscreen. As an adult I came to appreciate that the greatness of this picture
was not necessarily in its monster but in the atmosphere created by Karl Freund, the ethereal acting of Zita Johann, and the
restrained performance by Karloff in the title role. With a great supporting cast, this film has earned and still maintains
its lofty position in the pantheon of great horror movies.
THE 2ND SEAL: HELLO, KHARIS
Next we have two double-feature DVDs from Universal containing the quasi-sequels to the previous film. While lacking the extensive
features of the previous package, both double-features contain trailers for the films and exceptionally well written cast
and film production notes. The prints, while not perfect, are stunning in their clarity and actually make the 1932
The Mummy print seem a little shabby. The first disc contains The Mummy's Hand
(1940) and The Mummy's Tomb (1942). The Mummy's Hand introduces
us to Kharis who like Im-Ho-Tep before him makes the mistake of falling in love with a dying Egyptian princess. Suffering
the same fate as Karloff before him, cowboy star Tom Tyler finds himself jonesin for tana leaves while George Zucco falls
under the spell of Peggy Moran, a habit which will prove unlucky for all subsequent high priests. The Mummy's
Tomb begins the cycle of Mummy films in America and brings Lon Chaney, Jr. to the title role. Taking place
30 years after The Mummy's Hand (it still looks remarkably like the 40s) Turhan Bey steps in
as the latest love-smitten high-priest, Elyse Knox as the love interest, while Lon Chaney, Jr. imbibes tana juice and slowly
(and I mean slowly) kills off the surviving members of the previous film before meeting a fiery end. While The
Mummy (1932) is a horror film, the sequels are good old fashioned monster movies. I have a fondness for
The Mummy's Hand but its not until Kharis arrives upon the shores of the good old USA that my genuine
love for the monster begins. As long as the Mummy was in Egypt he was an interesting but somewhat removed terror. Once he
set foot on our shores he became a genuine threat to this Monster Kid.
THE 3RD SEAL: LIVE FROM TANTE BERTHE'S
The second disc contains The Mummy's Ghost (1944)and The Mummy's Curse
(1944). John Carradine is the latest high priest who seems almost more interested in reading his lines with Shakespearean
gusto than following in the lecherous activities of his predecessors. Ramsey Ames gets a white streak in her hair as she steadily
succumbs to the spirit of Kharis former love the Princess Ananka. Lon Chaney, Jr. continues his eternal quest for a full bottle
of tana juice. The Mummy's Curse moves us 25 years farther into the future (causing the timeline
of the series to play out over 55 years without ever leaving the 40s) and places us in the middle of the swamp where Kharis
and Ananka disappeared at the end of The Mummy's Ghost which has strangely become home to a settlement
of Cajuns. Lon Chaney, Jr. takes his final spin as Kharis, Virginia Christine grinds her way through the role of Ananka, Peter
Coe, as the high priest, finally puts his job ahead of his love life leaving his assistant, the sleazy Martin Kosleck, to
hit on the girls.
Quite honestly, these final two entries in the Kharis series are my favorite mummy pictures. Despite some glaring plot holes
(and if youre trying to keep track of continuity then youre missing half the fun) I find these films to be the most entertaining
of the entire lot. Ramsey Ames slowly aging as she disappeared into the swamp was a haunting image when I was young. Mud-caked
Virginia Christine digging herself out of that swamp gave me nightmares. The step-slide sound effect (put to great use in
Curse )provided countless Monster Kids the impetus to chase their younger siblings around the
house despite the fact that they never seemed to back slowly into a dead end in order to be caught. And what Monster Kid could
not sing from memory the Tante Berthe classic, Hey You.
THE 4TH SEAL: BEWARE
With Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy (1955), Universal effectively put an end to their Mummy
franchise. But wait . . . before we look at this film there appears to be an additional curse. Those who break the seal on
this DVD may incur the spell of endless sleep. Perhaps we should leave this one sealed and return it to the sands from which
THE 5TH SEAL: IF I HAD A HAMMER
In 1959 Hammer revived The Mummy once again pairing Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in the third
film re-launching the Universal monster mythos in Technicolor. Basically a remake of the Kharis series, Christopher Lee imbues
the title role with an energy somewhat lacking in the Universal movies, Peter Cushing gives his standard bravura performance,
George Pastell channels Turhan Bey as the high priest, while Yvonne Furneaux mostly looks good as the latest re-incarnation
of Princess Ananka. The DVD itself is a bare-bones presentation with brief cast notes and a theatrical trailer. The film itself
looks and sounds great.
Although many Universal purists actively dislike Hammer's version, I've always thought it was a genuinely enjoyable movie.
I've never met a Peter Cushing performance I didn't like and Christopher Lee uses his eyes and body to great effect in providing
his mummy with motivation. The story incorporates the best elements of the Kharis films and moves at a swift clip to a satisfying
conclusion. Hammer revisited the mummy theme three more times over the years although these sequels had no relationship to
the Universal series.
THE 6TH SEAL: THE MUMMY RETURNS (AND RETURNS AGAIN)
Universal dusted off their tomb terror in 1999 looking to bring new life to the franchise. Drawing on the original Karloff
film for inspiration, Stephen Sommers', The Mummy (1999) is more of a re-think than an actual remake.
Starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz with Arnold Vosloo as Im-Ho-Tep, 1999's Mummy is a retelling
of the 1932 classic as though seen through the eyes of Ray Harryhausen and Stephen Spielberg. The Ultimate DVD version is
loaded with bonus features including deleted scenes, visual and special effects sequences, storyboard comparisons, trailers,
a photo montage, cast and production notes, Egyptology 101, as well as highlights and a trailer for The Mummy
Returns . Also included are an excellent Documentary on Building A Better Mummy and three separate feature commentaries.
The commentary featuring Director Stephen Sommers and Editor Bob Ducsay is very entertaining as their friendly banter reveals
a lot of the thought process that went into making the film.