Directed by Terence Fisher [Other horror films: Three’s Company (1953, episodes ‘The Surgeon’ & ‘ Take a Number’), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959), The Stranglers of Bombay (1959), The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), The Horror of It All (1964), The Gorgon (1964), The Earth Dies Screaming (1964), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), Island of Terror (1966), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Night of the Big Heat (1967), The Devil Rides Out (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)]
Confession time – I’m a big fan of Universal horror films, and in fact, it’s probably the fact that I was largely raised on movies like Dracula, Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Invisible Man that I’m a horror fan today, and a lover still of the Universal classics.
I never could get into the Mummy, though, and to this day, I don’t know if I can honestly say I’ve sat through the whole thing without losing either my focus or consciousness.
Luckily, Hammer came around 20-some years later and gave us a new version, and it’s one I’ve seen a couple of times now and find quite a bit more palatable. Now, to be fair to the 1932 version, I don’t think there are any scenes in Hammer’s rendition that are near as classic or memorable as the opening to Universal’s story (the ‘he went for a little walk’ scene, with that slow, dragging hand, always kicked things into gears that just couldn’t be sustained), but overall, I find the Hammer version an easier movie to get into and enjoy.
Definitely the cast has to do with that. Peter Cushing is one of my favorite classic horror actors (Vincent Price is preferred, but Cushing is a close second), having starred in some damn fantastic movies such as Horror Express, Dracula (1958), The Flesh and the Fiends, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Abominable Snowman, and he’s no less great here. I love how, despite his character’s leg injury, he’s able to get some decent action in toward the end, and his back-and-forth with George Pastell’s character near the conclusion was top-notch stuff.
Pastell isn’t an actor I’m widely familiar with, but I really liked him here. Obviously, Christopher Lee played the titular Mummy (doing so much like how Karloff played Frankenstein’s Monster in the 1931 classic), and while his more muscular design wasn’t quite as good, or as classic, as the original version, I loved how he just burst through doors and went to town on people. Definitely a quicker-moving and more action-packed mummy, and I can’t complain about that.
Some aspects, or perhaps better said, the only aspect of Yvonne Furneaux’s character seemed to come in a bit late into the story, and it felt somewhat cliché (and in fact, it was done before in previous Universal Mummy movies), but it still led to some quality scenes. Eddie Byrne was solid too as an inspector who was actually open to the possibility of a mummy walking around and committing murders, so kudos to him.
There is a 13-minute flashback about halfway through the film that does drag a little (most of this is the history of the mummy and Egyptian stuff that you can find in every mummy horror film), mostly during the funeral procession lineup, but it’s the only time in the film we can really see Christopher Lee outside the decaying bandages, so it comes with it’s pros.
Being a Hammer film, the color here does help bring the film more to life, and the film, at least to me, rarely feels as dry as my experiences with the 1932 version. After seeing this twice, I still enjoy it, and while it’s not quite as good as Hammer’s Curse of Frankenstein or Horror of Dracula, it is perhaps one of the few Hammer films that, to me, outdoes the original Universal counterpart.
11 thoughts on “The Mummy (1959)”