Thursday, July 24, 2008
New DVDs: ‘Vampyr’ and ‘The Mummy’
I recenlty read a brief review of the original 1933 version of "The Mummy", starring Boris Karlof. I have the blank version of the film, but another print is being release in conjunction with the newest mummy movie.
Critics are certainly welcome to their opinions. But the review makes some statements that I think should be challenged. First off:
...there are no sinuous camera moves...Rather, the film is characterized by the stillness within its vertically composed images and the studied stiffness of the performances, particularly that of Karloff, who holds himself ramrod straight, barely moving a muscle of his body or his face, which is covered in a network of narrow wrinkles..."
On the contrary, there's some inspired camera work. The scene near the beginning where the just discovered box containing 'The Scroll of Thoth" is opened is particularly memorable. In regards to Karlof's "stiffness", is he not 'of the living dead'? In "The Mummy", the character of Im-Ho-Tep wields his power through mastery of Egyptian magic and mysticism. Although immortal and able to magically effect those around him, he is a fragile being, kept alive through a curse and by his own will. People fear him, not because of his physical prowess, but because he can control--even kill--by thoughts and words alone.
But then the reviewer makes this comment:
... Disguised as a wealthy Egyptian aristocrat, he is in fact Im-Ho-Tep, a priest of Isis executed 3,600 years ago for daring to love a temple virgin...
Well, that's factually wrong. In the movie, Karlof's Im-Ho-Tep was a High Priest of Anubis, not Isis. It was the female lead, Im-Ho-Tep's love interest (in the played effectively by Zita Johann) who was a High Priestess of Isis. As far as I recall, the status of her maidenhood was never explored.
Btw, Zita Johann was an inspired choice for the roll of Anks-En-Amon/Helen Grosvner. According to the commentary, she practiced spiritualism. Someone even states that she 'cast circles'! However, I cannot find any independent confirmation of that.
I have the Universal "Legacy Collection" for 'The Mummy'. It's excellent and has good commentary. Sadly, the sequels Universal dreamed-up in the 40's, and included in the 'The Legacy' collection, were rather piss-poor. They didn't advance the story and the mummy devolves into a hulking murderer.