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The Mummy (1959)
Topic Started: Oct 15 2012, 09:12 AM (1,580 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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August 20, 1958, Hammer and Universal-International announced that they'd signed a joint finance and distribution agreement that would give Hammer remake rights to Universal's storied horror film library; the first titles would be The Phantom of the Opera, The Invisible Man, and The Mummy. Only two of them got produced, and the first would be latter.

Unlike the earlier Dracula and Frankenstein pictures, which were produced by Anthony Hinds, Michael Cerreras was given the task, and the film, with its faux-Egyptian settings and atmosphere, looks better than any of the gothic horrors before it. Of course, Terence Fisher was back to direct; Jimmy Sangster wrote this amalgam of Universal's Im-Ho-Tep and Kharis mummy films of the '30s and '40s. Peter Cushing is John Banning, whose father and uncle desecrated the tomb of a 4000-years-dead Egyptian Princess; Yvonne Furneaux is his wife; George Pastell is the High Priest of Karnak; Eddie Byrne is the Scotland Yard Inspector who doesn't believe in living mummies; Christopher Lee is the living mummy he doesn't believe in.

Having learned what the censors were going to object to, and with the censors getting used to what Hammer was doing, there were fewer notes and admonitions this time, although Cerreras was warned to keep the screams of the (off-screen) execution of the slaves who bury the mummy in the flashback sequence to a minimum, and Kharis' bloody tongue being shown after it's cut out of his mouth was barred.

The film opens in 1895 at an archealogical dig in Egypt; the tomb of Princess Ananka is discovered by the Banning brothers, but alas, son/nephew Peter Cushing, having broken his leg, cannot enter the tomb, not a bad thing for him, actually. Well, you know the plot even if you haven't seen this thing: the High Priest brings Kharis to live to kill those who entered the tomb, including Cushing just for pissin' him off. It takes three years and a boat trip to England to get the job done, of course.

Very atmospheric, with a nice swampy bog and lots of drunken character actor villagers thrown into the mix. Lee's Kharis is swift and deadly, unlike any previous film Mummy. I saw a reissue of the film as a kid, and the sequence where Kharis smashes into the asylum and kills Cushing's father was as terrifying a sight as I'd ever see in a movie when I was a tot. This is my favorite Hammer film, despite the silliness of the plot (Cushing's British wife happens to be the exact double of a 40-centuries-old Egyptian Princess?) and the fact that it's the only movie that I can recall that has a flashback to its own flashback!

Hammer moved on to a comic version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde called The Ugly Duckling, starring Bernard Bresslaw, and then attempted to buy the rights to a popular novel called The Deceivers, about a British officer who infiltrates the notorious Thuggee cult in India. Not able to buy the rights, they decided to film an original story, The Horror of Thuggee, which will have a title change before we get to it....
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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panzer the great & terrible
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Mouth Breather
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Just gotta say it: Sangster's lousy script ruined this movie.
Life is just a bowl of cherries, it's too mysterious, don't take it serious...
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Laughing Gravy
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panzer the great & terrible
Oct 17 2012, 04:46 AM
Just gotta say it: Sangster's lousy script ruined this movie.
In what way?
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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AndyFish
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Hands down the absolute BEST thing to come out of Hammer.
Hammer films are usually about blood and boobs and this one is light on both and rich on atmosphere, something lacking in the other offerings.

I was watching HORROR OF DRACULA not too long ago and thought the set was lit so bright you could operate on someone's appendix right in the Count's living room. So many Hammer films have potential but they lack art direction (costumes all look like costumes, no wear) and it's blatantly obvious through the whole thing we're watching a movie.

Until watching this, my only Hammer like was DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS because it had a feel to it that made it slightly sinister.

But THE MUMMY-- it's filmed beautifully, there is great composition to the shots, Lee is great as a quick moving non-lumbering Mummy and Cushing is in fine form. The script is far from brilliant but it's solid enough to keep me entertained and following along.

Thanks to Gravy for getting me to crack this one open at last! This is what I love old movies for-- the chance to find one that becomes an old favorite.
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DickFlint
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If you would like to see more flashbacks within flashbacks, just watch Passage to Marseilles, a 1940s Warner Bros film starring Humphrey Bogart.
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Frank Hale
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Great segue, and I know the flashbacks are the rap on Passage to Marseilles, but I have to say I never had any problem following the plot. Talky, yes.

Now I feel like I need to look up the Hammer Mummy!
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Mouth Breather
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Waste of time to see this movie. If you like flashbacks within flashbacks try The Locket.
Life is just a bowl of cherries, it's too mysterious, don't take it serious...
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Laughing Gravy
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It's got a big scary monster in it. That's never a waste of time.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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You mean that slow thing with bandages?
Life is just a bowl of cherries, it's too mysterious, don't take it serious...
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Laughing Gravy
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The Mummy is NOT slow in this picture. He's scampers all over the place, a big reason why he's so scary.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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I certainly don't remember that so maybe I never saw it.
Life is just a bowl of cherries, it's too mysterious, don't take it serious...
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Laughing Gravy
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Hammer made 4 or 5 Mummy films, all with different mummies (not sequels). The original, with Cushing & Lee, is the only good one.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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AndyFish
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Nothing slow about this Mummy-- the scene Gravy mentioned in the asylum is still intense!
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Some sample lines of dialogue: "Are you trying to tell me, Mr. Bernay, thaft these murders were committed by a dead man?" "He were ten feet tall. Well, seven foot six." I could go on, but you get the idea. Cliches and the lamest kind of humor, entirely based on contempt for the common man, which includes the audience. I didn't see the thing when it came out so it's not nostalgic for me. If you like a movie with a few monster attacks framed by endless two-shots where truly bad lines are mouthed by people who seem to have no emotions, then this one's right up your alley. The best actor is Chris Lee, and he doesn't have a single line of dialogue. Yvonne Furneaux is wasted, just a couple of years before she caught the world's attention with an amazing turn as Marcello's crazy girlfriend in La Dolce Vita.
Life is just a bowl of cherries, it's too mysterious, don't take it serious...
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Laughing Gravy
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Never quote dialog from a Hammer film. C'mon, Mr. P., you should know that by now!
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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