Peter Cushing as John Banning
Christopher Lee as The Mummy/ Kharis
Yvonne Furneauz as Isobel/ Ananka
Eddie Byrne as Inspector Mulrooney
Felix Aylmer as Stephen Banning
Egypt, 1895. An archeological expedition, led by Stephen Banning (Felix Aylmer), his son John (Peter Cushing) and his brother, uncover and break into the tomb of the Princess Ananka, despite the warnings of Mehernet Bey (George Pastel) to not proceed. Inside something so horrible is discovered that it drives Stephen mad, and three years later he is still confined to a British asylum. Meanwhile, Bey brings the Mummy they found to England, where he resurrects it from a bog that it accidently fell into while being transported by two drunk men in horse-carriage, and sends it kill those involved in disturbing Ananka’s tomb. We soon learn that the Mummy is Kharis, a high priest who in ancient Eypgt attempted the ultimate blasphemy by trying to resurrect the beautiful princess. He is stopped before he can finish reading the words from the scroll oflive and finish his goal, and has his tongue sliced off before being mummified alive. His job was to protect the princess for all eternity. Now, the Mummy is going about his killing ways, and soon sees that John’s beautiful wife, Isobel (Yvonne Furneux) is the spitting image of Ananka. The Mummy will stop at nothing, with Bey in control, to kill the desecrators of the tomb and to have Isobel, as well.
Universal’s The Mummy is a film I have never been very fond of. While, I respect it as a classic of the genre, it is far too slow moving and the villain not threatening enough to hold my interest. Hammer rectified that, though, with what is a clear example of them taking an idea from Universal studios and improving on it in every way, shape, and form. The film moves at a fast and exciting pace. This Mummy, unlike the Universal version, is strong, aggressive, and powerful. He is the Terminator of the living dead, as he is able to break through doors and gated windows and is seemingly unstoppable. Every scene he appears in is absolutely thrilling.
Director Terence Fisher, fresh off of both The Curse of Frankenstein and The Horror of Dracula, continued to take classic monsters and make new versions of them, which would go on to become classics in their own right. His directing is flawless here, not only upping the ante with the pacing, but also making the film look lush. The scenes depicting ancient Egypt look particularly great. The resurrection of the Mummy from the bog, as well as the climax that takes place there as well, look menacing and dark, thanks to the wonderful use of shadows and setting.
The acting in The Mummy is excellent. As is always the case, Cushing is perfect and exudes class throughout the film, and Christopher Lee is the best man to ever play a mummy in any movie. Aside from coming off as deadly, he manages to say so much just with his eyes. There is sympathy and pathos in them that is usually not affiliated with the mummy character, but seems perfectly suiting of him. Pastell’s Bey is a menacing villain in simply the words he says and his delivery of them. He comes off as a sanctimonious and arrogant bastard. Furneaux is a stunning French beauty and ranks as one Hammer’s most gorgeous women; Her beautiful, flowing black hair and gorgeous light blue eyes are a sight to behold.
The script of The Mummy, by Jimmy Sangster, is quite solid with a back-story for the mummy that is interesting and smart. There is also some wonderful dialogue between Bey and John during their meeting that really manages to show off the talent of both these phenomenal actors.
The make-up FX by Roy Ashton looks perfect, giving us one of the best looking mummies in all of cinema history. Though much of the violence happens off screen, (like most of Hammer’s takes on old monster films) it still manages to up the ante in that regard, especially a cool scene where the mummy breaks a man’s back.
The score by Franz Reizenstein is one of the very best in all of Hammer’s movies. It’s grandiose and also manages to evoke the feeling of ancient Egypt.
In all, this movie will make those of you who dislike mummy movies reconsider your thoughts on them. This film just blew me away the first time that I saw it, and it holds up very well to repeated viewings; in fact I would go so far as saying it gets better in each viewing, as the relationship between the characters grow more interesting. In all, this is truly one of Hammer’s finest moments.