The Mummy is a strange horror movie. While there’s a definite villain–a monster–in Boris Karloff’s resurrected mummy, he poses a danger specifically to only one cast member–Zita Johann. She’s the reincarnation of his lost love and her exact importance to him isn’t clear until the last act. There’s a somewhat goofy moment where Edward Van Sloan, as Johann’s guardian and the closest thing to Karloff’s nemesis, reveals it all to David Manners (as Johann’s more appropriate suitor). Fortunately Van Sloan experiences the eureka moment just in time but not too early… otherwise the entire last act could have been avoided.
And the last act is the payoff of The Mummy. There are some excellent sequences throughout and Karloff is fantastic, but the last act is where Johann gets to toggle between a reincarnated Egyptian priestess finding herself in the 20th century and her initial character. It’s less than fifteen minutes of the runtime, but it’s awesome stuff. There’s an abrupt ending to the picture, but it has gotten the job done.
Van Sloan is reliable, Manners is likable–he and Johann’s initial flirtation scene is one of the film’s more successful ones between the couple. Arthur Byron is good as another Egyptologist.
John L. Balderston’s script has a lot of fine moments too, especially for Byron, as he comes to terms with meeting a reincarnated mummy.
As for Freund’s direction… it’s always good, but sometimes exceptional. Great editing from Milton Carruth too.
The Mummy is lean and successful. Rather good stuff.
Directed by Karl Freund; screenplay by John L. Balderston, based on a story by Nina Wilcox Putnam and Richard Schayer; director of photography, Charles J. Stumar; edited by Milton Carruth; music by James Dietrich; produced by Carl Laemmle Jr.; released by Universal Pictures.
Starring Boris Karloff (Imhotep), Zita Johann (Helen Grosvenor), David Manners (Frank Whemple), Arthur Byron (Sir Joseph Whemple), Edward Van Sloan (Docter Muller), Bramwell Fletcher (Ralph Norton), Noble Johnson (The Nubian), Kathryn Byron (Frau Muller), Leonard Mudie (Professor Pearson) and James Crane (The Pharaoh).