Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Who's the Best... Mummy?


Karen: This one might not be as easy or as fun as some of the others. Let's face it, of all the classic monsters, the Mummy probably has the least personality. Now, admittedly, Karloff's Imhotep/ Ardath Bey actually spoke, so he gets a few more points I guess. And the most recent remake also invested the reborn Mummy with some little personality, in between all the obvious CGI and stunts. Personally, I always found Christopher Lee's Kharis physically impressive. The Tom Tyler Mummy (also named Kharis) was kind of menacing too. And then there's the shambling Lon Chaney Jr. version (Kharis again)...and the Aztec Mummy...OK, who ya got?





























23 comments:

J.A. Morris said...

I'd probably go with Karloff, but even as a kid, I thought most of the Universal mummy movies were silly.

You know, Kharis spots a potential victim 20 feet away. Said victim looks at the mummy and screams, then stands still while Kharis slowly limps towards him. Never mind that merely running would have saved his life.

Anonymous said...

Kharis's victims usually had to stand there while he limped toward them, or they had to back into corners or run down blind alleys. Otherwise, he never would have caught anybody. That's a horror movie convention that continues to this day: the victims have to be idiots not to escape from the menace. As for the question of who played the best, Karloff had the advantage of being allowed to speak. Tyler and Chaney didn't really get to do much acting, since Kharis didn't do much except shuffle around. As with Frankenstein's monster, Karloff's successors did not have a lot to work with. But there is a scene in Hammer's first Mummy movie where Kharis meets Isobel, the woman who may be the reincarnation of his lost love, Ananka. Despite a ton of monster make-up and no spoken lines, Christopher Lee managed to convey emotion and remind us that Kharis was once human. Lee, like Karloff, was underrated as an actor.

Anonymous said...

I’ve never been much for Mummy movies, but one film that utterly sticks in my memory, though I haven’t seen it for 30 years is Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb. It was a Hammer B movie (and let’s face it, their A movies were pretty creaky) and had a horribly troubled production (Peter Cushing left after one day and the director died during the shoot). The film, as I recall, relied rather heavily on the premise that the unimaginable beauty of a long dead Egyptian queen would be enough to intoxicate men even from beyond the grave. In a masterpiece of casting, they used a British actress called Valerie Leon whose beauty was, actually, pretty unimaginable. Think Liz Hurley times three. It kind of relied of a very specific atmosphere of glamour & sumptuousness provided by Ms. Leon mixed with good old fashioned Hammer creepiness, which it pulled off surprisingly well. I don’t remember, but I imagine it rather neatly answered the issue about victims just standing there and waiting to be killed because: (1) she mesmerised them (2) she walked normally (3) she used other people to do her bidding.

It’s probably a load of old rubbish, but it’s stuck in my memory for 30 years, so it must have had something. Probably the obvious.

Sidebar: Karen, am I right in saying that much as the Mummy re-make was built around showing off the newly minted CGI effects, the original Mummy was also made to show off new effects and developments, particularly Karl Freund’s cinematography and the elaborate Karloff make up? Or was that something I, in fact, made up? I googled it, but I couldn’t see anything about special effects in the 1932 original.

Richard

david_b said...

OT..: FINALLY saw 'Bride of Frankenstein' last night on AMC.. Talking about Karloff, it was interesting how he dealt with Frankie finally having lines to speak.. He didn't quite know how to approach that with the director, but the movie itself was awesome, just a great sequel.

Richard, I'll have to look up that 'Blood' movie, it sounds pretty cool.

I liked Mike Nesmith as a Mummy guy on the Monkees's "Monstrous Monkee Mash" episode, sorry, not much else to offer today.

Edo Bosnar said...

Never saw the original Karloff film, but I thought Arnold Vosloo was actually pretty good as Imhotep in those most recent movies - quite believably malevolent.
But now that I think of it, I think my favorite mummy feature was that episode of Amazing Stories called "Mummy Daddy" - I thought the guy playing the 'fake' mummy and the 'real' mummy did a great job.

Anonymous said...

Hi David – just be warned, I was a teenager when I saw it. It didn’t take much to impress me. Actually, probably only one thing, now I came to think of it.

Hi Karen – if you’re in the mood to expand your pics at the top and maybe the debate, two of my favourite TTA covers (#8 and #31) feature mummies. In fact, 8 is Kirby inked by Big John, who gave a great musty, dusty texture to the bandages. Check it out; you’ll see what I mean.

Richard

Inkstained Wretch said...

Let me second Arnold Vosloo from the recent movies starring Brendan Fraser. This was one case where extensive CGI really worked and created a believably spooky, malevolent monster.

Also, let me throw a shout-out to the mummy in the Tales From the Darkside: The Movie. Quite well done in the special effects department and the monster's end was pretty clever too.

Karen said...

Richard, just this weekend I watched a couple of documentaries on the blu ray release of the 1932 Mummy, and they talk quite a bit about how Jack Pierce's extensive and time-consuming (8 hours to apply!) make-up on Karloff as Imhotep was never fully seen in the film. We see the Mummy reclining in his sarcophagus in the background, we get a close-up of him as he comes to life, but we never see him from head to toe once he is revived. All that work, for so little screen time. Pierce's make-up for Karloff as Ardath Bey is nice but surely nothing compared to the mummy make-up.

As the films went on, eventually workarounds were made and I forget exactly when it started, but at some point the mummy get-up actually became a rubber suit.

I would also agree that Christopher Lee imbued his Kharis with emotional depth -as much as one can wrapped in bandages.

Anonymous said...

Wow. OK, Karen, you do realise that your own status as Nerd Goddess of BAB’ers is pretty much cemented by that post? We are not worthy. Centuries from now, it’ll be you under the bandages, doing the Stiff Leg Shuffle up the corridor in search of ever more highly restored vintage movies, ever more esoteric DVD extras, and, probably, a REALLY good moisturiser. R

david_b said...

Oh, she is the unchallenged 'Nerd Goddess of BAB', sort of a patron saint of all nerd-dom here.

Unquestioned.

William said...

Who's the best mummy? That's easy-- my mummy is the best mummy in whole wide world!!

Karen said...

'Nerd goddess'? Oh my...well, I'll take any compliment I can get. But living here in the desert, I need a good moisturizer NOW. Seriously, I'm starting to look like Imhotep. Or Kharis. Or Ardath Bey.

Anonymous said...

LOL. My uncle had a chronic lung condition which basically meant that he needed to live in the driest place on Earth (the moon not being an option). He went all over the world in search of the most parched landscape he could find, and, over the rest of his life lived in 3 places: Phoenix, Scotsdale & Flagstaff.

Take it from him: you live in Dry Central.

Richard

humanbelly said...

Y'know, when I was 11 or 12 years old, and these movies popped up either on saturday afternoons or on Creature Feature, I ALWAYS heard the Mummy's name as "Chris" (rather than "Kharis"), and simply couldn't wrap my head around him having such an obviously casual, contemporary name. (I had a pretty high doofus factor even then.) It wasn't until a couple of years later when I read one of those great, lengthy story-synopsis features in FMoF that I realized my mistake.

"Oh---KHARIS! Of course-!!"

Boris Karloff was appropriately (and convincingly) sinister, inscrutable, cunning, and even kind of charming in a way, in the 1932 original-- but as noted above, the character had little to do with being a "monster", and was much more like a patient, immortal supervillain. Really, just another mystical mastermind with rather dry skin.

My vote also goes to Christopher Lee. He's just so flippin' tall and imposing as the Mummy. And even though he does shamble a bit, he manages to do it with speed, determination, and alarming power. And they obviously ramp up his strength, what with crushing lackies' skulls with his foot and shattering doorways with his entrances.

Lee has a fairly interesting autobiography- "Lord of Misrule", but sadly he doesn't ever dwell for long on his Hammer work outside of DRACULA. He does write at astonishing length about golf. And his love of opera. It's the kind of autobiography where you learn as much about the subject by reading between the lines as you do from the information he's actually disclosing.

HB

Steve Does Comics said...

I have to go for the robot mummies in Dr Who's Pyramids of Mars. They were mummies AND robots; how could I not love them? On top of that, unlike most mummies, they actually looked like they could crush you with their bare hands.

Like Richard, I feel an urge to express some love for Blood From The Mummy's Tomb.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve- whatever happened to Hai Karate aftershave ? R

Steve Does Comics said...

Sadly, every one of its customers was sent to an early grave by the fighting skills of Valerie Leon. No wonder it was doomed.

Karen said...

Just thought I would mention this: here in the US, some AMC Theaters will be showing a double bill of the original Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein tomorrow night! Luckily a theater that is about a 15 minute drive away will showing the films, so I will be taking them in for the very first time on the big screen. There's also supposed to be a taped segment featuring interviews with Sara Karloff (Boris' daughter), Bela Lugosi Jr, and make-up maestro Rick Baker. I'm really looking forward to it!

Fred W. Hill said...

Ok, I was going to post a little earlier, but after reading Richard's post I felt compelled to look for images of Valerie Leon and, uh, what was the question again? Oh, yeah, once again I gotta go with Karloff, mainly because he's the only one I'm really familiar with although I'm thinking I should check out Christopher Lee's take. More importantly I need to take another closer look at those Valerie Leon photos. Now don't anyone break the spell by telling me how many decades ago they were taken!

Rip Jagger said...

I give the nod to Boris Karloff's utterly fascinating turn as Kharis, the evil priest and grim villain in The Mummy. This movie might have more great scenes than any of the classic Universal horrors. Karloff is tremendous.

But I want to give a shout out to another fave...and that's Bubba Ho-Tep. If for whatever reason you have not seen the hilarious but crude film adaptation of Joe Lansdale's short story, you must drop everything and do so. It has everything one could ask for in a movie. There's the secret life of Elvis, the secret life of JFK, profound commentary on health care in the United States, and an utterly awesome waylaid Mummy stranded in the sunny clime of Texas.

It must be seen to be believed, but it must be seen. It stars the fantastic Bruce Campbell as the finest Elvis ever brought to the small or large screens. The late great Ossie Davis portrays JFK (yep). And there are deadly scarabs too.

Check it out!

Rip Off

Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, man, Rip, I've never heard of Bubba Ho-Tep, but now I need to see it, like immediately...

humanbelly said...

Believe it or not, the Brian Tyler score for Bubba Ho-Tep is quite good, and used to make appearances on XM's Cinemagic channel (which I don't get anymore, since they made it a "premium" channel). The clips they play between tracks are riveting, because while they come across as patently absurd, the performances (particularly Ossie Davis')sound deeply committed and invested in the situation. It has the desired effect of making you want to see the film, just to figure out what the flip is goin' on. . . !

HB

Dougie said...

My favourite has to be Karloff's mummy. The most memorable moment is surely the laughing archaeologist: "He's gone for a little walk. AHAHAHAHAHA!!" Actors just don't go mad they way they did in the 30s.

Runner-up should be Xaltotun, the leonine Acheronian mummy revived in Thomas and Kane's "Conan the Conqueror".

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