Last weekend, one of the local twenty-four hour stations ran a mummy marathon with the first five of Universal’s MUMMY series from the thirties and forties, the only one not showing was ABBOT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY, the spoof from 1955. it gave me a chase to watch them in order at my convenience(love my DVR) and I noticed a few things I never had before.
There were two separate Mummies even though they shared the same back story. Three actors played the mummy over the series(four if you count the A & C comedy, which means a third mummy as well).
Boris Karloff was our wrapped monster in the first. Imhotep was his name. The mummy became Kharis for the rest of the five films with Tom Tyler taking the role in the second and Lon Chaney, jr. the rest. Karloff’s love in the first was Ankh-es-en-anon. She became Ananka for the four films next.
There’s always an Egyptian on hand in each to direct the mummy. Karloff did the duties in the first as the reincarnated mummy(Kharis in the other films was silent as his tongue had been cut out before being wrapped and buried alive). George Zucco was in the second, Turhan Bey the third, a young John Carradine served in the fourth, and Peter Coe in the fourth.
The female leads in all five were beautiful women, usually the focus of the mummy or a horny Egyptian wanting to make her his immortal bride with the sacred Tanna leaves(seemingly an extinct plant, there always seemed to be a generous supply on hand. A hardy leaf indeed to have survived three thousand years in a trunk). Two of the women were reincarnations of the princess he’d loved.
Now the oddities.
The time lines in the films was strange. Between the first and second, seventy years passed. Twenty-five between two and three. Twenty between four and five. A lot of time here, but the technology was always current with our times(only twelve years from one to five).
At the end of THE MUMMY’S GHOST, Kharis and his reincarnated princess wade out into a New England bog, disappearing. When THE MUMMY’S CURSE opens, a Louisiana bog is being drained and two scientist from a museum arrive who want to find the mummy and his princess. Some of the locals remember the incident from the last film, some twenty years before in movie time(hell of a swamp stretching from New England all the way to Louisiana).
The Mummy was set on fire twice(well left in a burning mansion in one), yet he always had crisp bandages with no scorch marks. Strips that fell off were examined and confirmed as to age(the weave) and always laden with mold. In the fifth film, when he gets up from the bog and wanders around, again the clean looking bandages(no mud at all). Whereas, the mummified princess gets up covered in mud until she wanders into a stream and emerges clean and miraculously restored to young health(in the fourth, she visibly aged, hair going white, as Kharis carried her into the swamp.
Archival footage from the early films was used over and over to show the back story. Karloff technically was in the second film, Tom Tyler in the third.
Watching these five films in order was a lot of fun. I’d never seem them like that and usually spread out over years. None of the old monster movies ever frightened me when I was young, especially the Mummy. To slow, dragging a leg behind him. I always wondered why they just didn’t run(the restored young princess in the fifth did frequently and never had any trouble getting away until the end).
For more overlooked films, and other goodies, check out Todd Mason\'s SWEET FREEDOM.