The Mummy (1959)

A group of archeologists have opened up the tomb of Princess Ananka and have decided to take the artifacts to a museum in England. What they don’t know is that they have awaken Kharis (Christopher Lee) her former lover long ago.

Director: Terence Fisher

Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux, Eddie Byrne, Felix Aylmer, George Pastell

MPAA Rating: N/A

Run Time: 1hr 28min

Fun Fact: The walk that Christopher Lee does in the film is not all acting. He sustained various leg and back injuries during filming.

Sorry for the delay as I have been on vacation and didn’t have access to movies or a computer. I took a nice break in San Fransisco. Halloween month is still in full swing and here is another film review from Hammer. I didn’t intend the focus to be on hammer films but its what I have been craving to watch as of late.

The Frankenstein and Dracula adaptations from Hammer proved to be hits. These remakes brought classic monsters to a new audience and in color. Hammer decided to go on and do their version of the mummy story. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were brought on again with Lee once again portraying the monster.

The Mummy is an interesting take, and it has a bit of everything to it. It has a mystery element to it as a group of people are trying to find out who is committing murders to a group of people. With that element we get a slasher film as well. This was way before the slasher craze took off so in a way it brought a not so used genre to the fore front. Instead of having a person commit the crimes we have the supernatural and that is a mummy brought back from the dead. How does one go up against that? Oh, and we also get a fairy tale element to it. Two long lost lovers with one of them doing everything they can to protect the other one from harm. See where this is an interesting film? While this was supposed to be just a straight remake of the 1932 version with Boris Karloff, it actually borrows more from the sequels but, overall, it borrows from all the films.

Hammer also is well known for their design work and this feature is beautiful looking. The tomb sets look fantastic and authentic in a way. The set pieces are the focal point in certain scenes and they hold up even today. Hammer was always known for their “gothic” feel and The Mummy shows that off as well. The costume/makeup on Christopher Lee is fantastic and you can’t really recognize him that much unless you look very closely.

When it comes to Christopher Lee’s monster performances, I would have to say that this is one of my favorites. To me Lee had always hinted that he really didn’t like doing the monster roles that much (especially Dracula) because he felt like he couldn’t show off his acting talent. He also had an issue that he never got many lines of dialogue in these roles. In this one he’s fantastic and for a good majority he doesn’t talk. We get dialogue during a flashback scene, but he’s covered in bandages. What he does great though is a very physical performance. Like stated in the fun fact he suffered some injuries on set, and it shows in his performance that he was hurting. Those injuries though bring out a unique walk that does come off as supernatural and terrifying. Who wouldn’t be terrified seeing a mummy come after them?

For the rest of the cast, we get some stand outs. Peter Cushing is just as great as ever. He also has a pretty physical performance as he has to sell a broken leg to the audience. When Cushing and Lee have their confrontations its one of the better ones that I have seen. The pretty much have to fight bare handed. The two of them were best friends in life and I wonder if they got excited if one of them had the upper hand in certain scenes. George Pastell plays a great secondary antagonist. He has motives of his own and will do anything to achieve them. The only performance I didn’t really get into was Yvonne Furneaux. Her character is just there, and she doesn’t really do much until the climax. Part of me forgot she was even in the film until the climax began.

Overall, the 1959 version of The Mummy is a solid film. We just don’t get a straight up horror film, but a film that has many different genres to it. We get a solid mystery story peppered in with a fairy tale love story in a way. This film is one of Christopher Lee’s best performances as a monster character. Lee and Cushing once again have that amazing chemistry that they always had in the films they did together. The production is top notch, and the sets hold up even to this day. An interesting thing is that this film doesn’t have the gore that Hammer is known for and that is replaced by some pretty physical and intense performances that make it unique.

Verdict: Hit


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