One of the great things about all of the Universal Horror films (or essentially all the horror films made before Hitchcock popularized surprise effects), is the way they manage to combine really superb conceptual work with a complete disregard for anything resembling a coherent style. While Dracula and Frankenstein are much more stylistically intense film, conceptually nothing can surpass The Mummy.

(I should note at this point that the film was directed by Karl Freund, who is known to be one of the best cinematographers ever. Leave it to be said though that I don't remember the style as much as I remember the conceptual work.)

The film centers on one of those strikingly good looking Eastern European actresses who seemed to have flocked over to America around this time just to enliven Hollywood productions. In this film she is a lovely English woman with a tendency to wear thick eyeliner. Two men are in love with her, some haughty Englishman, whose father is the archaeologist that uncovered the Mummy's tomb, and the Mummy himself, who was mysteriously brought to life several years earlier. The woman it seems is a reincarnation of the Mummy's ancient love, and he desires to have her back.

Both men face hurdles in their desire to obtain the woman, the Englishman because he is a pompous asshole who is continually proposing sex to her (yay pre-code movies!), and the Mummy because in order to have her he must first kill her. She eventually chooses the Englishman, and we are all disappointed (unless she is still possessed by the princess!!!).

The mummy of course is secretly the good guy in the film. He has been in love with a woman for over 2000 years, and the young Englishman is only interested in a quick screw, but because the poor mummy is 'living impaired,' he has to kill the woman to really be with her, and of course the woman doesn't really love him that much, and would much rather have a toss in the hay with the British guy then eternal love after death.

There are so many ideas running around in that plot that I really don't know where to start. The first noticable thing is the direct connection between death and love, which can be turned wildeian without much of a stretch (' Yet each man kills the thing he loves/By each let this be heard,/Some do it with a bitter look,/Some with a flattering word,/The coward does it with a kiss,/The brave man with a sword!). The idea of death as a marital consumation has been around for a long time, and it can be seen in Double Suicide, and In the Realm of the Senses (I know I chose two Japanese films, just a coincidence).

When the love-death proposal is rejected then the woman is instead given the opportunity of life-sex. A juxtaposition that really would not have been allowed in a film between 1934 and 1960. It is a pleasent juxtaposition too, the idea that the sex act really proves that we are still alive, and that we need to somehow prove that we still exist before our flesh begins to rot in the grave endlessly.

I like this movie, its fun to watch, and it is really about how love consumes you.

Buy the Mummy here

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