(Release Date: September 25, 1959)
Interestingly enough, they actually DIDN'T "do this" by remaking the 1932 classic. Possibly because of the fact that The Mummy was a thinly veiled remake (in and of itself) of Dracula, the Hammer-Heads elected instead to base the film on two latter-day sequels to the Karloff Klassik, 1940's The Mummy's Hand and 1942's The Mummy's Tomb!
The film in question is, of course 1959's The Mummy, starring, big surprise, Christopher Lee as Kharis, the title monster (I'm pretty sure it was some kind of British Law back then). He doesn't quite ape Karloff here, but he does portray much of the same silent menace that made the original Wrap Star such a creepy menace.
We begin with a British Archeological expedition, led by Stephen Banning (Felix Aylmer), sent to pillage... oh, I mean COLLECT some ancient artifacts from the tomb of Egyptian Princess Ananka! This Banning guy is no Indiana Jones, but he does seem to care more about the treasures in the tombs more than anything else, including his young buck son John Banning! The fact that this young buck son was played by Peter Cushing certainly gave me pause. Not because I'm at all surprised to see Cushing in a "Hammer Horror" production, but because he's actually playing a young, somewhat romantic lead. Somehow I thought Peter Cushing was, you know, kind of BORN in his mid fifties or something. Anyway, it isn't long before that Banning guy finds an Ancient Scroll and reads aloud from it, causing that which had once died to walk the Earth again. Kind of like in most other Mummy movies along with The Evil Dead, Zombie 4 and about 30 other flicks out there.
Well, technically it's just smilin' Kharis, High Priest of Ananka who returns to life, but he's enough, man! With the help of modern-day Fez-wearin' man of Egyptian Faith Mehemet Bey (George Pastell), Kharis is all ready to cut a one-Mummy Swatch-clad Swath through the ranks of all of those who would dare desecrate the tomb of his beloved Ananka!
Oh, did I let that slip out LOUD? Well, there's the rub, folks! Kharis was bound and dragged to hell for his desires for the fair Princess in life and was condemned to a deathtime of watching over her (which is rather poetic irony, I would say). There is just one thing that confuses and distracts Kharis from his vengeful and murderous rampage: Just as he is closing in for the kill on a certain John Banning, Mister Mummy bumps right on in to Johnny-boy's wife Isobel (Yvonne Furneaux), whom the Kharicutioner could just swear was the "spitting image" of Ananka her damn self.
Does that make the mission any simpler? Aw, hell naw, man! In fact, things are officially HORKED UP for Sir-Wraps-A-Lot, who can't decide whether to murder the whole lot, or ask for Isobel/ Ananka's hand so that they can share eternal unlife together watching reruns of NBC's Grand until the gauze-wrapped cows come home! Whew! That was an oddball sentence, even for me, man!
The whole thing combines to form a rather exciting and frightening picture that feels a lot like most other Mummy-related films (from any studio), but maintains its Hammer Edge throughout! The direction of Terence Fisher helps to bring the composite script by Jimmy Sangster to life, just as the more advanced makeup effects by Roy Ashton help make Lee's Mummy a dusty and dark nightmare, even in the brightest-lit of scenes.
True, the film does show its age in a lot of areas, but folks, take a good gander at the pace, timing, colors, effects and acting in this film and you'll see a quality piece of British Cinema that can still frighten to this day! Further, it stands up great when compared to similar films of its kind (and there are a lot of similar films of this kind). It's not hard to see why this is a true favorite among the fans of the genre, and a must for Hammer junkies.
Folks, let's raise those Oktoberfest Steins, 'cause here's to the film that proved to have the ties that bind between Hammer and Universal. Those guys would play nice for quite some time after this one! Gotta love it! Three and One Half Stars out of Five for Hammer's long-loved, Lively Lee Lark The Mummy. It's up there with the original film and stands as an Ace Bandage covered form with bragging rights over a whole hell of a lot of other Mummy films that hath made not the cut! So until that cut sends you running for enough bandages to cover you head to toe, I'll see what's still visible of you in the next reel.
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that's a wrap... again!