Monday, 22 October 2012

The Mummy (1959)

Well, despite the pedigree (Terence Fisher directing, Jimmy Sangster writing, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee starring) this is a mummy movie and, when played as straight horror, I have always found mummy movies to be a little bit lacking in atmosphere, scares or anything else that can put them higher up the horror league table. So the fact that I've given this a 7/10 is actually a very good sign.

The plot is the standard gubbins that you get from every mummy movie: a tomb is excavated and a mummy is released to exact some revenge. Deaths occur. Then there's someone who looks like a lost love (in this case it's Yvonne Furneaux playing both Isobel Banning and Princess Ananka).

The direction from Fisher is fine, even if the material isn't quite as exciting as most of his other Hammer films, and the script by Sangster structures things in a way that helps the pacing of the movie by making viewers wait longer for "the big reveal" and building up the storylines for each character.

It all looks nice enough, and there's always entertainment provided by watching Cushing and Lee (with the former being the hero of the piece and the latter doing a great job as the bandage-swathed mummy), but it's also just not that exciting. George Pastell gives a worthwhile performance as the man trying to control the mummy, and there's a fantastic exchange between him and Cushing, but the movie still can't quite claw its way up to anything great because it adds nothing new to the mythos of this creature.

Why the generous rating then? Well, although it's retreading very familiar territory (an accusation I realise that could be levelled at almost every Hammer movie ever released) it does it very well. The performances are all great and the mummy is given an adequate backstory that allows it to be depicted as quite a sad and pitiable creature, much like Frankenstein's monster. If I actually liked mummy horrors then I'm sure I would have rated this one as highly as many other Hammer fans. It's a very good film.


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