Ah, you can almost feel the chill in the air and sniff the dank smell of a musty tomb. There’s a new Mummy movie in theaters this weekend, which means it’s time to brush up on your hieroglyphs again…
Of course, the ancient shufflers of old have been spooking moviegoers for decades and we thought it’d be a great time to dedicate the Friday Five to some essential – and okay, some just plain weird – Mummy Moments™ on screen. Go wrap your head in some ACE bandages and give these titles a look. (Note: We left a few titles off intentionally, ex. 1999’s The Mummy and its sequel; generationally, more folks reading this have probably seen those movies than any others!)
The Mummy (1932)
The original horror classic directed by Karl Freund still holds up as a terrifically atmospheric tale. Boris Karloff is just as eerie and captivating in the role of Imhotep as he is for his more well-known performance as Frankenstein’s monster. Even though the mummified, bandaged look of Imhotep is the most common visual from this film, Karloff spends far more screen time in a relatively human (though still spooky) look, masquerading as a man named Ardeth Bey.
The Mummy (1959)
The Brendan Fraser-starring 90’s film wasn’t the first remake of the original Mummy; it was remade 40 years earlier by the masters of British horror at Hammer Films. Though they changed some of the character names and plotlines, though the motivations of revenge over forbidden love is still there. The legendary Christopher Lee is an outstandingly creepy and imposing ghoul, and as always Peter Cushing is a commanding and debonair leading man.
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
Back in the 1950’s Abbott and Costello were one of the biggest comedy acts of their day, and well before the subgenre of “horror-comedy” became established they added a series of run-ins with Universal’s monster greats to their long movie CV. Yeah, the humor feels dated to younger generations and it’s heavy on the gags instead of scares, but worth a look for nostalgia’s sake. Lou Costello’s reaction shots alone are still classics. (Karloff had given up Mummy duties at this point, though the guys did work with him in Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff)
The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (1964)
And now we get into the weirder end of the mummy movie spectrum. 😉 What’s particularly funny about The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy is how it shoehorns two concepts together that don’t seem to fit at all, as if they were looking to amplify the horror part by mixing in science fiction which was more the rage by the mid-20th century. Nowadays, mixing those two categories happens all the time but in 1964 it was a stark contrast. Plus, well the movie’s pretty darn goofy. So much so that it made a terrific episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000!
Bubba Ho-Tep (2003)
This one is certifiably weird, but also totally brilliant. Bruce Campbell is an aged Elvis impersonator, with one twist: He insists to everyone who will listen that he’s the real Elvis. He ends up in a nursing home with the late Ossie Davis, playing a man who insists just as strongly that he’s John F. Kennedy. (Never mind that he’s black, he can explain that too.) Meanwhile, a crash nearby containing stolen museum goods unleashes an ancient mummy to terrorize the nursing home – and only these two American “legends” can stop it. A hilarious and heartfelt gem from Don Coscarelli (who brought you the Phantasm series), this one has its cult of fans but definitely deserves to convert more.
BONUS: “Mummy Daddy”, Season 1 / Episode 4 of Amazing Stories (1985)
One extra for good measure!: Back in the 80’s, this anthology series of tall tales produced by Steven Spielberg was a family favorite for a couple of seasons, like a more light-hearted Twilight Zone. One of the highlights of Amazing Stories’ first season sees an actor playing a mummy in a horror film get the call that his wife is about to go into labor, setting off a slapstick journey for him to get to the hospital. And it so happens that a real mummy is on the loose, the local townspeople are out to take him down, and things get extra complicated for our faux mummy hero. It’s bananas, but a very funny half-hour of TV; check it out on home video, or if you have a cable package you can watch it on NBC’s website.