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Time travelling mummy
by Thanos Kalamidas
Issue 4
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The Mummy
Karl Freund
Universal Pictures, 1932
Watching a film made in 1932 in 2005 is like being in a time machine and that’s exactly how you should watch it. This film has nothing to do with Indiana Jones, MacGyver or the rest of the artificial heroes the TV era brought in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Boris Karloff is an actor who came from the period of silent movies; he was one of the ones who survived the change when the speech became equally important to the theatrical movement. Still, in the same acting school the body language was important, which is why his movements are so slow.

The professors are rich. They wear safari suits in the morning, while the poor workers dig the ancient Egyptian graves, and they smoke cigars, wearing tuxedoes in the evening, while they analyze the discoveries of the day.

In the first scene, three professors are arguing in front the box whether they should open it or not is a classic example. The director and the actors come straight from the silent movie era, they have no special effects and computers creating thousands of 3D tricks, they have no tens of stuntmen ready to catch the snake or the evil spiders. They have to build the horror and transmit it to the audience.

The scene is slow and might look childish, but Indy looks the same when he’s constantly escaping to the unknown or using dramatic laser tricks to build up the horror. Boris Karloff had to wear all the make-up himself, not a stuntman, and, with all the heat, he had to move carefully, since even make-up at that time was powder and would have easily been damaged with the first blow or sudden move.

The film had to be short. The only film from that period that was long was Napoleon lasting nearly one and a half hours; that’s why it failed. The director had one hour to build the horror and a romance. Horror was not enough to bring the audience into the cinemas. Why to watch a scary movie, but people would watch a romantic story with scary parts. No complaint about that, even Indy has a girl in every one of his three movies.

When you watch this movie, watch it as a time traveller. Watch it the same way you read a classic. You don’t expect David Copperfield, after meeting Uriah Heep, to drive away in his Porsche.

If you are not happy with The Mummy, you can always watch the 1999 remake, directed by Stephen Sommers. However, 70 years later people are still watching Boris Karloff’s master class in acting, while Arnold Vosloo’s mummy failed at the box office despite using all the tricks they learnt from Indiana Jones.

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