Cast & Crew
In Egypt in 1895, Stephen Banning leads an archaeological dig with son John and brother-in-law Joseph Whemple. Stephen believes they are just days away from uncovering the 4,000-year-old tomb of ancient princess Ananka, the culmination of twenty years of work. Although Joe wants Stephen to order John, who has broken his leg, to return to the city in order to have the bone set properly, Stephen allows John to stay, knowing that the dig is vitally important to them both. Finally, Stephen and Joe prepare to enter the tomb, ignoring the warning of local man Mehemet Bey that robbing the graves of Egypt will lead to death. As soon as Stephen identifies Ananka's mummified body, Joe leaves to inform the bedridden John of the find, after which Stephen removes The Scroll of Life from the wall of the mausoleum and reads it. Moments later, Joe returns to the tomb and finds Stephen on the ground, muttering incoherently. Six months later, John and Joe finish the site excavation and prepare to return to England, where Stephen remains catatonic in a sanitarium. At the same time that they set off an explosion to re-seal the mouth of the tomb, Mehemet prays in secret to his god Karnak, vowing to avenge the desecration of his princess' crypt. Three years pass, during which Stephen remains incoherent, until one day he suddenly asks for John. John visits, thrilled, but is disturbed to hear his father rave about a mummy who stood guard over Ananka's tomb, who was awakened and now wants to kill them for despoiling her resting place. Soon after, Mehemet rents a house near the sanitarium and hires two drivers to transport a box containing the Mummy. After Stephen senses the Mummy's presence, his screams prompt the doctors to move him to a padded cell to protect him from his "paranoid delusions." Stephen's screams also scare the drivers, whose subsequent rush to cross the nearby swamp causes the Mummy's box to fall into the water. That night, Mehemet prays to Karnak and raises the Mummy out of the swamp, sending the creature to Stephen's cell to kill him. After Stephen's body is found, John and Joe pore over his father's papers searching for clues to his murder. John is fascinated by a paper describing the legend of Ananka: In 2000 B.C., the princess dies while on a religious pilgrimage. Her high priest, Kharis, whose love for her is forbidden and therefore secret, presides over days of formal mourning, during which her body is consecrated and mummified. Although tradition calls for her body to be returned to her home village, Kharis prepares a lavish tomb nearby and leads the burial procession and final rites. Finally, the tomb is sealed, but that night Kharis secretly re-enters the tomb in order to attempt the ultimate blasphemy: to bring his beloved back to life. He is caught and sentenced to have his tongue cut out and be buried alive, to serve as her guard for all time. John wonders why the entire traveling party vanished without a trace, but Joe counsels him that the tale is only a myth. Later that night, Mehemet once again releases the Mummy into the countryside, and after passing a stunned poacher, it enters John's house and attacks Joe. John shoots at it, but the bullets have no effect on the Mummy, which soon leaves. Later, John relates the story to Inspector Mulrooney, who is skeptical until he canvasses the poacher and the drivers and learns about Mehemet's presence. Meanwhile, John, who is certain he will be the next victim, is forced to inform his wife Isobel about the impending danger. He orders her to remain upstairs, but when the Mummy attacks that night, Isobel runs into the study to help. Isobel's strong resemblance to Ananka causes the Mummy to turn away from John and approach her tenderly. Confused, the creature leaves the house without a sound. Called to investigate, Mulrooney informs John about Mehemet's presence, and against the inspector's orders, the next night John goes to Mehemet's rented house. Mehemet is shocked to learn that John is still alive, but invites him in pleasantly. John refers to Karnak as "insignificant," succeeding, as he has planned, in inciting Mehemet to accuse him of blasphemy, profanity and condescension. After a heated exchange, each apologizes, and John returns home, knowing that the Mummy will soon attack again. John informs Mulrooney that they must take precautions, but the inspector can arrange for only two guards, Blake and the poacher. Mulrooney takes Isobel outside with him to wait, while John paces in the study with a rifle. Mehemet accompanies the Mummy to the house, and knocks out Blake and the poacher before they can fire warning shots. While Mulrooney guards the driveway, Mehemet and the Mummy break into the study and John fires his gun at them. Isobel races inside, and although the Mummy looks up, her hair is in an upsweep and so this time the creature does not stop choking John. John, however, is able to signal to Isobel to put her hair down, and after she does, her appearance transfixes the Mummy. When Mehemet then orders it to kill Isobel, the Mummy becomes enraged at the suggestion and instead kills Mehemet. Isobel faints, and the Mummy carries her off to the swamp, chased by John and Mulrooney, who calls in police reinforcement. Just before the Mummy can drag Isobel under the water, John awakens her by shouting her name, and instructs her to command the Mummy to put her down. It obeys, allowing the police to shoot repeatedly. Staggering under the force of the bullets, the Mummy collapses into the swamp and sinks, as John pulls his beloved wife to safety.
The Mummy (1959)
Hammer's successes wound up spurring a 1958 agreement with Universal, wherein the American studio granted remake rights to its legendary stable of monster properties. The first production made pursuant to the deal - The Mummy (1959) - stands as one of the most crisply crafted and memorable shockers to emerge from Hammer's heyday.
This remake of the 1932 Karloff opus pulled together the signature talents of the House of Hammer. The leads were assigned to Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, already established as a fiend-and-foil tandem through playing the creature and his creator in The Curse of Frankenstein and the vampire and Van Helsing in Horror of Dracula. Director Terence Fisher, the once self-described "oldest clapper boy in the business" who found breakout success with The Curse of Frankenstein, was on board, as were screenwriter Jimmy Sangster and production designer Bernard Robinson.
The narrative opens in 1895 at the site of an Egyptian archaeological dig, where a party headed by Dr. Stephen Banning (Felix Aylmer) prepares to breach the walls of its find, a tomb believed to be the lost resting place of the Egyptian princess Ananka. Banning's son John (Cushing), confined to camp with a fractured leg, cannot share the moment of triumph. So Banning and his brother-in-law Joseph Whemple (Raymond Huntley) enter the crypt without him, shrugging off the arcane warnings of Mehemet (George Pastell). After confirming their find, Whemple leaves Banning to share the news with John, but returns to the tomb to find his brother-in-law reduced to gibbering lunacy.
Britain, three years later: the institutionalized Banning finally becomes lucid, and John is summoned to his side. The elder archaeologist warns his son of a curse on their entire party, which John chalks up to continuing delusion. However, they soon gain a new neighbor in the shire in the person of Mehemet, who in turn has transported the mummy of Kharis (Lee), the high priest who had been entombed alive with Ananka, and resuscitated him with an incantation from an ancient scroll.
John and Whemple pore over their research on the legend of Ananka, as a flashback sequence reveals how the princess was abruptly taken mortally ill, and how the heartsick Kharis was condemned for his heresy in attempting to revive her through the power of the scroll. They are also struck by the resemblance of a rendering of Ananka to John's beautiful wife Isobel (Yvonne Furneaux). This coincidence, of course, will come into play as Mehemet seeks to fulfill his promise of vengeance.
Swathed in the effective makeup of Roy Ashton, with his imposing physical presence and the profound sadness conveyed through his eyes, Lee added another classic monster characterization to his resume. The scene where Kharis emerges from the bog where Mehemet's porters lost his crypt remains memorable. As always, Cushing provided the ideal complement, as a man of reason forced to confront the terrible truth underlying a legendary curse.
In retrospect, The Mummy is surprisingly free of the degree of gore that marked the early Hammer Dracula and Frankenstein efforts. In an interview given to The Kinematograph Weekly during production, Fisher stated that "I have always strenuously tried to avoid being blatant in my pictures. Instead, whenever possible, I have used the camera to show things - especially nasty things - happening by implication."
Further, The Mummy bears more commonality with the subsequent entries in the Universal series than with the Karloff original. "I must, at some point, have been shown these earlier Universal films," Sangster recalled for Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio's Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography (McFarland & Company, 1995). "How else could one explain the same character names and plot elements? But I honestly don't recall doing so - it has been thirty-five years, you know!"
The Mummy would prove prodigiously successful in Britain and abroad, and Hammer would plumb the Egyptian sands a few more times over the years with The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964), The Mummy's Shroud (1967) and Blood From the Mummy's Tomb (1971). Of the other projects initially contemplated under the Universal deal, The Phantom of the Opera (1962) proved a double rarity for Hammer flicks of the era, with its large budget and largely disappointing returns. The third property ultimately went unproduced, and a Hammer remake of The Invisible Man (1933) would, ironically, never be seen.
Producer: Michael Carreras, Anthony Nelson Keys
Director: Terence Fisher
Screenplay: Jimmy Sangster
Cinematography: Jack Asher
Film Editing: Alfred Cox, James Needs
Art Direction: Bernard Robinson
Music: Franz Reizenstein
Cast: Peter Cushing (John Banning), Christopher Lee (Kharis, The Mummy), Yvonne Furneaux (Isobel Banning/Princess Ananka), Eddie Byrne (Inspector Mulrooney), Felix Aylmer (Stephen Banning), Raymond Huntley (Joseph Whemple).
C-88m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Jay S. Steinberg
The Mummy (1959)
I've seen the likes tonight that mortal eyes shouldn't look at.- Poacher
You've been around to Molly Grady's again.- Irish Customer
A door that Christopher Lee must crash through is accidentally bolted by a grip before the scene is shot. Lee's shoulder is dislocated when he breaks down the door, but the shot remains in the movie.
The squibs used when Peter Cushing shot Christopher Lee left burn marks for weeks. Lee also threw his back out carrying the girl.
Hammer Films had already done remakes of Frankenstein and Dracula. This was the first film made after Hammer reached an official agreement with Universal (then Universal International) allowing them to do remakes of their classic horror films. In this film, for example, the agreement with Universal allowed them to use the name "Kharis".
The Hollywood Reporter review notes that the film "seems to have been inspired by the curse...of Tutankhamen." The Mummy marked the first in a series of classic Universal horror film remakes that the studio co-financed with Hammer Films. According to modern sources, additional swamp scenes were shot at Shepperton Studios in England. Modern sources add James Clarke, John Harrison and Frederick Rawlings to the cast. For more information on other films featuring "The Mummy," please see the Series Index and the record for the 1932 Universal film The Mummy (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40).
Released in United States 1959
Shown at Film Forum Universal Horror Festival in New York City October 30 - November 12, 1998.
Remake of "The Mummy" (USA/1932), directed by Karl Freund and starring Boris Karloff.
Formerly distributed by MCA Home Video.
Released in USA on laserdisc December 1988.
Released in United States 1959