Who’s your mummy? From the creepy eyes of Boris Karloff, to the uber hot Arnold Vosloo, the mummy has taken many forms on celluloid, evolving from a rags-to-Egyptian-riches incarnation. Spanning more than 60 years, he’s become a monster classic, although not as often celebrated as the vampire or zombie. The original 1932 classic is one of Universal’s creepiest movies, and the 1999 take has humor and sexiness. Celebrate the best of mummies on the big screen.
The Mummy (1932) with Boris Karloff
While it wasn’t technically the first mummy movie (the first being a French film titled “The Mummy of King Ramsey” in 1909) Boris Karloff’s chilling portrayal is considered the standard to which all other mummy movies and performances are compared. Credit should also be given to the director and cinematographer who created the moody atmosphere of the film, with its chiaroscuro lighting.
The Mummy is sort of a pre-cursor to the zombie, at least the shuffling, slow-moving variety. Who would have thought something that moves so slowly could be so menacing? Perhaps part of the mystique is the lure of Egyptian lore, giving this monster an exotic edge.
Lon Chaney Jr. Mummy Movies
Universal tapped Lon Chaney, Jr. to take over their franchise for Boris Karloff, and true to form, he excelled in his new monster role. Chaney’s ability to — and love for — transforming himself likely trumped the fact that playing this monster buried him under makeup making him unrecognizable to the public.
One has to wonder if this hasn’t contributed to the fact that there are so few mummy movies compared to vampires or other monsters – most actors’ egos probably wouldn’t like being buried under rags for a whole film, not to mention rather limited dialogue.
Chaney has three films to his credit: “The Mummy’s Tomb” (1941), “The Mummy’s Curse” (1944), and “The Mummy’s Ghost” (1944).
The House of Hammer – Christopher Lee as The Mummy
If vampires have long been thought of as the “sexy” monsters, it’s only because the people playing other fiendish characters don’t have that spark that Christopher Lee brings to any of his monsters. The House of Hammer tapped their “Dracula” star to make their own series of mummy movies, and Lee certainly didn’t let them down.
But then, does Lee ever go wrong? Rhetorical question.
Even under all that special effects makeup, there’s no mistaking who that wrapped man is. It’s all in the smoldering eyes. Instead of the dark, alpha-male sensuality of his Dracula, Lee showed how versatile he was playing the heavy, and even wrapped up in rags… he still got the girl.
Why? Because he’s Christopher effin’ Lee. Chicks dig him.
In “Waxwork,” the vampire and Marquise de Sade segments may have brought the sexy, but the mummy segment brought… the crunchy.
Note this bag of bones seems to be pretty substantial in weight, which comes in handy if you want to crush someone’s head into dust. As he so aptly demonstrates to great effect. That was quite an “Ew!” moment, wasn’t it?
By trapping the victims in the tomb with this monster, the slow, shuffling gait was completely irrelevant. There was no getting out of this mess. And if you weren’t so submissive as to kindly bow at this bad boy’s feet for a little head crushing, he can always put you in the stone tomb with a few scary spiders and a poisonous asp, so you go out Cleopatra-style.
This was one scary bag of bones.
The Modern Day Mummy
While I tend to dislike humor added to my horror, I’m always down for making my monsters sexy as hell, and Arnold Vosloo made the raggedy-one buffed and hot in a bad ass kinda way. (Watch out vampires, you aren’t the only monsters that can be made sexy.)
A great example of how horror films are finally giving us ladies a little eye candy, this mummy resurrected himself into full flesh and bone form, emphasizing “flesh.”
Yeah, he’s been dead a few thousand years, but this version of the mummy? We’d hit it.
Filmography (non comedy):
- The Mummy (1932)
- The Ghoul (1933)
- The Mummy’s Hand (1940)
- The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)
- The Mummy’s Ghost (1944)
- The Mummy’s Curse (1944)
- Pharaoh’s Curse (1957)
- The Mummy (1959)
- The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
- Attack of the Mayan Mummy (1964 TV movie)
- The Mummy’s Shroud (1967)
- The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals (1969)
- Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)
- Curse of the Mummy (1971 TV movie)
- The Cat Creature (1973)
- The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb (1980 TV movie)
- The Awakening (1980)
- Dawn of the Mummy (1981)
- Sphinx (1981)
- Waxwork (1988)
- Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
- I Was a Teenage Mummy (1992)
- The Mummy Lives (1993)
- Legend of the Mummy (1997)
- Legend of the Mummy (1998)
- Tale of the Mummy (1998)
- The Mummy (1999)
- Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (2000)
- The Mummy Returns (2001)
- Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
- Night of Anubis (2005)
- Legion of the Dead (2005)
- The Fallen Ones (2005 TV movie)
- The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb (2006 TV movie)
- Seven Mummies (2006)
- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)
- Russell Mulcahy’s Tale of the Mummy (2012)
Is this your favorite monster of all time? Which movie is the best? The scariest to you?
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