The Mummy (1959)

THE MUMMY (1959)

Notes: Hammer.
Kharis, The Mummy: Christopher Lee
John Banning: Peter Cushing
Stephen Banning: Felix Aylmar
Uncle Joseph Whemple: Raymond Huntley
Mehemet Bey: George Pastell
Ananka / Isobel: Yvonne Furneaux
Inspector Mulrooney: Eddie Byrne

Produced: Michael Carreras
Associate Producer: Anthony Nelson-Keys
Directed: Terence Fisher
Screenplay: Jimmy Sangster
Make-up: Roy Ashton.

Summary: In 1895, brothers-in-law Stephen Banning and Joseph Whemple searchfor the tomb of Princess Ananka (why is one Egyptian sledgehammeringa boulder?). Stephen’s son John Banning has broken his leg (“Confoundthis leg!”) and must decide whether to stay and risk a badheal or leave the camp. A befezzed Egyptian warns, “He whorobs the graves of Egypt dies.” But the older men enterthe mountain and discover Ananka’s tomb. When Uncle Joe leavesto inform John, Stephen finds the Scroll of Life. The next weknow, he screams and is reduced to babbling insanity. Joe andJohn stay on for six months of excavating. When they blow upthe hole they made in the mountain, the Egyptian, Mehemet Bey,utters a curse of vengeance for the desecration and vows to thegod Karnak that he’ll dig up what he needs.

In 1898, John and wife Isobel visit Dad inthe “Nursing Home for the Mentally Disordered.” Dadtalks of another mummy, not Ananka, coming through the wall. “You’re a fool, John. Thank you for coming.” In aspasm of Renfieldism, Dad has himself locked into a more secureroom, but when two drunken relics carters get spooked and allowa box to fall into a local swamp, the mummy is revived by Mehemetusing the Scroll of Life, and it emerges from the bubbling bog,breaks through the grate at the hospital, and strangles Banning. An inquest blames a homicidal maniac.

John and Joe search old records and John summarizesthe “Ananka folio”: about 2000 bc, Ananka, High Priestessof Karnak, set out on a journey, contracted an illness, and died. Kharis, the High Priest, conducted weeks of ceremony, includingthe stashing of the tomb and the butchering of Nubian women andslaves. When discovered trying to revive Ananka using the Scrollof Life, his tongue was cut out, he was wrapped in bandages, andsealed alive as a guard of the tomb. Uncle Joe oxymoronicallydefines “legend” as “historical myth.”

A drunk witnesses the mummy stalking. Kharisbursts through the Banning doors and, despite gunshots from John,chokes Uncle Joe to death. (Why not kill two on one trip?) Dawnbreaks on marblehead, and we see the earlier tomb-entering footage,now with John’s guess at what happened: old man Banning read fromthe Scroll of Life (which runs close to love poetry at times,involving “tenderness” of “this heart” andso on). The mummy appears from its secret cabinet and reducesBanning to inanity. Inspector Mulrooney is skeptical and plansto “dig around until I unearth more facts.”

Isobel is the spitting image of Ananka, supposedly. So when the mummy attacks John and neither gunshots nor a spearing throughthe torso work, as John is being choked, the appearance of Isobeldissuades Kharis and he leaves. John visits the new neighbor,an Egyptian (Mehemet), who is testy about archaeological “intruders””unearthing sacred secrets.” John pointedly insultsKarnak and his followers, and leaves.

The next attack comes soon. Mehemet conksthe drunk and a cop, and the mummy conks the Inspector. Kharisstarts choking John again, but when Isobel lets down her hairand Mehemet goes to kill her, the mummy kills Mehemet and carriesoff Isobel to the swamp. John instructs Isobel, who says, “Kharis,put me down.” (Although locked up for 4000 years, he knowsEnglish.) When he does, the police and locals open fire. Riddledwith bullets, Kharis sinks with the Scroll.

Commentary: Color seems all wrong, and the film seems devoid of any cultishor ancient weirdness which might help create the needed eeriness. Most impressive here is probably the combination of all the disjointedmotifs from the Universal films (minus “cycles of the fullmoon” and tana leaves). The invasion of old Banning’s cellis effectively terrifying, but this is primarily a psycho-spacialeffect again, rather than the result of a successful monster.

Mummy Films