The Mummy (1959)

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Yvonne Furneaux
Warner Home Video
RRP: 7.99
Certificate: PG
Available 11 October 2004

The hidden tomb of the Egyptian Princess Ananka is discovered by John Banning, his father and his uncle. However, John cannot enter the tomb because of his injured leg. His father suffers a seizure inside and blabbers insanely about a mummy and the theft of the Scroll of Life. His father is eventually institutionalised, but even here he is not safe because an Egyptian who had warned them not to enter the tomb has animated Kharis, protector and ultimately avenger of the tomb's desecrators...

This 1959 film was Hammer's third major monster movie, after The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula. At only 60 minutes, this example must have been the shortest of their releases. That's not necessarily a bad thing; the script is short and to the point, and even caters for a flashback to the princess's pilgrimage, death and laying to rest.

Christopher Lee (who else?) is seen as Kharis performing the rituals and sealing the tomb. It transpires that Kharis was in love with Ananka and secretly desecrates the tomb himself in an attempt to revive her using the Scroll of Life. For the crime he is bandaged-up and stuffed in a cupboard for all eternity, guarding her resting place and ready to punish other desecrators.

Lee is simply superb as the mummy of the title, emerging from a bog after an accident in transportation, and staggering/lurching menacingly but unsteadily, obviously not used to this walking lark.

The scene where he breaks into a cell in the sanitarium from outside has the appearance of being well-choreographed. It's quick and brutal. The camera stops short of showing the mummy get a leg-up the wall to the high window, which would have been so humorous I'd have paid good money to see it. I think this is the most convincing look and portrayal I've seen of a cinematic mummy. The Mummy/Mummy Returns has no style in comparison.

One last comment: Does the Egyptian look uncannily like Eddie Murphy, or is it just me?

Ty Power

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