My soft spot for Universal Pictures’ early Monster Movies clearly knows no bounds, and having said that, I actually went out of my way to purchase a copy of Boris Karloff’s The Mummy. I actually gave money for this copy of the film, and anybody that knows me in real life will know I can barely afford food and my rent. Still, sometimes it’s nice to spend a few quid on a proper copy of the film, and with The Mummy, the buyer’s remorse set in immediately. Who would’ve thought it’d get worse when I actually viewed the film, as it turns out it’s horrendously mediocre.
Boris Karloff’s outstanding titular role as the horrifying Mummy is, as expected, rather enjoyable. He’s a consistently great actor, bringing to life some of the most terrifying and enjoyable monsters ever put to film. His work here doesn’t exceed that of Frankenstein but as the villainous Imhotep, we don’t get the chance to see that effectively terrifying side to him. Perhaps the biggest issue of the performance is that they gave him a fair bit of dialogue, to flesh out the character a little more. It doesn’t work as well as it should, providing evidence to suggest that visuals will always prevail over the spoken word in monster movies.
There’s no denying the terror that remains with Karloff’s rendition of Imhotep, but the real let-down comes from the other cast members. David Manners and Arthur Bryon are as forgettable as you’d expect. In fact, I’m not entirely sure what the point of them being there was. Sure, we need some plucky heroes to tag along with, but surely, they could’ve provided us with a group of much more interesting characters. Someone with consequence would’ve been nice, because throughout The Mummy there’s not one moment that feels like it really matters. The plot unfolds for the sake of it, with no consequence throughout.
Not even my adoration for 30s Monster Movies can save this film from being completely mediocre. It’s a harmless piece of film, but one that I’d have real trouble remembering. It doesn’t have any memorable moments like Frankenstein or the overall strengths of Dracula. If anything The Mummy should’ve just stayed buried. Karloff is the only man worth watching throughout the film, but even then, he’s the monster in every other Monster Movie from this era. You’d be better off watching Frankenstein, or nothing at all.