Classic Movies Remembered: King Tut started the Mummy trend in Hollywood movies

The publicity for the `1932 Mummy was in colour, but the movie was black and white.

The curse of the pharaohs was all the rage from 1922 when King Tut’s tomb was discovered. As most people know, some members of the expedition and other visitors to the grave died horrible deaths for disturbing the royal sleep. The movies soon became involved although the first ever-picture made on Egyptian mummies was Cleopatra’s Tomb made in 1899. No actual prints seem to have survived the ravages of time.

In 1932 Universal Studios released their film The Mummy starring Boris Karloff in that fantastic makeup which took hours to put on and take off. The odd thing is that Karloff only wore it in the first 10 minutes of the movie as the rest of the time he appears as Imhotep who is alive as you or me. This movie was not actually part of a series as The Mummy’s Hand in 1940 was actually the beginning of several more. The follow-up sequels were The Mummy’s Tomb, The Mummy’s Ghost and The Mummy’s Curse all completed in the early 1940s. All three were equally dreadful in spite of featuring Lon Chaney Junior.

Boris Karloff is the archetypal Mummy but the features were copyright to Universal Studios. Later Mummies had to look different.

In 1955 it was the turn of Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy when Eddie Parker donned the bandages. It was something he knew about as he had been Chaney’s stunt double in the past, jumping out of windows in the middle of a fire or disappearing into the depths of a swamp. In 1957 matters became more gory in Pharaoh’s Curse when the mummy not only shuffled around strangling people but drinking their blood in a theme borrowed from Dracula. More nonsense followed with The Curse of the Aztec Mummy in 1958 and Wrestling Women vs the Aztec Mummy in 1964.

In 1958 Britain’s answer was the Universal Horror production The Mummy starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. People wondered at the time why Lee in bandages looked nothing like Boris Karloff, but the answer is that the original look was copyrighted by the American company. Lon Chaney Junior made a comeback as the bandaged one in House of Terror but there is some confusion between the roles of the Mummy and the Wolfman. A 1965 offering The Orgy of the Dead is mainly about burlesque dancers semi-nude, but the monsters do briefly appear to keep the audiences happy.

A very different Mummy from the 2014 movie Day of the Mummy which received bad reviews.

From then on, it has been gore all the way. In 1981 Dawn of the Mummy featured hordes of mummies who thought they were zombies as they devoured human flesh. Time Walker in 1982 introduced a deadly fungus and some magic crystals to divert attention from a sterile plot. In 1993 The Mummy Lives recreated the old idea that a guy in bandages can fall in love and this version starred Tony Curtis in the starring role. In the 1985 Monster Mash: the Movie, a mummified Elvis Presley made an appearance, perhaps offering yet more evidence that he was actually dead.

And so it goes on. In 2005 a horror studio released Legion of the Dead which revealed that a female mummy, though dead for three thousand years, had the strength to break people’s backs in two. In 2006 the film Petrified claimed that the real Mummy was an alien from outer space. 2012 witnessed the release of the animated film Hotel Transylvania where all the staff seem to be monsters. The fat porter is Murray the Mummy. Even now, in the post Covid world, several Mummies are lining up before Netflix and other streaming companies. Enjoy!