[LIGHT 2016] THE MUMMY (1932)

After the two masterpieces that are Dracula and Frankenstein, both made by exceptional artists, we are continuing this retrospective of the series UNIVERSAL MONSTERS (our retrospective: HERE) with The Mummy. If the film of Karl Freund is certainly less well-known and iconic as the previous, it has helped to popularize the figure of the mummy in the same way that remakes gentillets but harmless from Stephen Sommers. However, this would be a mistake to treat The Mummy as a film minor or second box as it fits perfectly into the logic set up by Carl Laemmle Jr throughout the series. Imperfect, sometimes awkward, sometimes very friendly, the first movie from Karl Freund is in any case not to exclude, and knows how to distinguish enough of the great classics of the series to become interesting.

The Mummy is a first film, and like most early films, it is not perfect. Of course, Karl Freund is not an illustrious unknown and inexperienced, he was chief camera operator on the excellent Dracula of Tod Browning, and most importantly, he has worked with the geniuses that are Murnau, Fritz Lang, or Paul Wegener. The prospect of having a director of photography, the most well-known and talented of the era at the helm of a fantasy film such as The Mummy was more than enticing ; the means colossal put in place by Universal, allied to a subject such as ancient Egypt who allows a lot of ideas and visual biases, would have been able to give a film visually bold and unique atmosphere. Unfortunately, Karl Freund achieves here a work of art is quite a goody-goody in terms of photography, not unpleasant to look at of course, but quite disappointing compared to the potential of The Mummy. Well, there are these few sequences very surprising, or these plans on the faces typed expressionism that work perfectly, but on the whole, the frameworks and the work of the lights is without surprises, and sometimes even a little inspired, a shame for Karl Freund. To stay on the technical side, mention must be made of a bind mount to a writing surprising, which at first glance can confuse but eventually turns out to be full of ideas. The abuse fades to black very fast and the sequence of scenes, all of this is thought to raise the pressure, and the intention is clearly visible, but again there are a few blunders. The dialogue scenes, which constitute a large part of the work, alternate with scenes of tension well made but much too short and not included in the narrative, giving the impression of a rhythm to be poorly managed. But with the benefit of hindsight, this mounting and this writing sometimes frustrating because the annihilation of the action is in fact a bias rather interesting. It allows the atmosphere to develop, and to assume the priority given to the characters. Better yet, he recorded the film in a classical heritage, which has clearly aged and is a far cry from the modernity of a Tod Browning or James Whale, but who pays both the charm a little cheap, a little retro film operates perfectly. And it is somehow this saves The Mummy.

There is a point to clarify ; the movie from Karl Freund is not a film to miss, it is a film to be clumsy. And this nuance is what makes The Mummy work very nice, you can’t hate both its biases and its imperfections reveal a will to do well that is full screen. And if the director manages to bring to the stage this sincerity, he is helped by a cast of talented and headed in this direction. The reactions of the characters are surjouées, dated, and this contributes to the charm of the film. It is also a point worth mentioning in the film by Karl Freund ; rather, it is more a love story than a horror film per se, this could have been a big tare as Paul Leni fell into the trap in the Man who laughs. But The Mummy has the good taste not to last more than 70 minutes, and to give life to his characters in the consequences. No boredom, no rhythm problems, and especially, the beautiful face and the game is very stylized but so beautiful Zita Johann, who plays here two roles and to the perfection. It is unfortunate that his film career is so little true as long as she seems comfortable with his characters and allows the viewer to be interested in their fate. Thus, Karl Freund manages to from a scenario very similar to series-B, and a production that seems to be just as much – a first for the moment in my viewing of the series UNIVERSAL MONSTERS – to make us love this little film-a very short, unpretentious and well away from the ambition of a Frankenstein, and to have a good time. One could legitimately expect a masterpiece, as all the elements were gathered for this, but it would be a shame to snub his pleasure in front of The Mummy and the good intentions of its director.

Karl Freund sign a first film is flawed, awkward, but who let themselves be viewed with pleasure and even paying the luxury of moving his audience”

Less marking than the last films of the series that I have watched, The Mummy is certainly. Karl Freund sign a first film is flawed, awkward, but who let themselves be viewed with pleasure and even paying the luxury of moving his audience. The director, surrounded by actors and a team totally at the service of its intentions, seems to take pleasure to build the charming kitsch of the film but do not forget the criteria of the series. The plans on the deformed face of Boris Karloff or scenes épouvantes are well present and always striking, but the director imposes his style is dated, far from the modernity towards which tend the previous works, but truly friendly. Nice, this is, in sum, the best word to characterize The Mummy. It will be interesting to see if James Whale, the origin of the best movie of this series for now, will return to the ambition and the power of the Universal, or will it continue in the interesting way that initiates here Karl Freund. Response in a few days, with the critique of theInvisible Man !


Your opinion ?

The Light Festival, will take place from 8 to 16 October 2016, dan stous the cinemas of the grand Lyon.

– programming

– our coverage

– our retrospective UNIVERSAL MONSTERS


Original title : The Mummy

Achievement : Karl Freund

Screenplay : John L. Balderston

Main actors : Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, Edward Van Sloan

Country of origin : United States

Output : 1932

Duration : 1: 12

Distributor : Universal Pictures

Synopsis : In 1921, on the site of Thebes, archaeologists from the British Museum discover a sarcophagus containing the mummy of Imhotep, a priest of the ancient Egypt embalmed alive for falling in love with the princess Ank-Souh-Namun, in spite of the ban. Brought back to life by accident, Imhotep fled, taking the scroll of Thoth, which enables to resurrect the dead.



1923 – Our lady of Paris (★★★★☆)

“an excellent way for Universal to establish itself as a studio major”

1925 – The phantom of the opera (★★★★☆)

“a nugget of visual and omen yet beautiful things for the rest of the series”

1928 – The man who laughs (★★★☆☆)

“not a bad movie, but it could have been much more”
1931 – Dracula (★★★★★)

“Tod Browning performs a major work, whether on the movie or pure on the representation of Dracula on the big screen”
1931 – Frankenstein (★★★★★)

“an instant classic made to perfection”
1932 – The mummy (★★★★☆)

“a first film is flawed, awkward, but who let themselves be viewed with pleasure and even paying the luxury of moving his audience”

1933 – The invisible man (★★★★☆)

“the director tackles the themes of power and greed without concession and multiplies the sequences challenging morally”

1935 – The bride of Frankenstein (★★★★★)

“The work of James Whale stands out as the jewel ultimate of a series absolutely fascinating”

1941 – The Wolf man (★★★☆☆)

“THE LOUP-GAROU is still a film to see, registering visually and thematically, the continuity of the Universal Monsters, and who will enthrall you with the time an hour”

1954 – The creature from the black lagoon (★★★★★)

Jack Arnolds carries a film of great intelligence and an audacity all making honors the early masterpieces of the series, while creating his own myth”

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