I was nine years old in 1997 when the U.S. Postal Service released a sheet of 32-cent stamps commemorating the classic Universal Monsters. From the moment I saw them, I had to have them.
I saved the $2/week that my parents gave me as an allowance for the next three weeks just so I could own these miniature postage paintings of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff - this, despite the fact I had never seen any of the Universal Monster films. That didn’t matter to me. This wasn’t about logic. I was entranced by the unnameable allure in that row of decrepit portraits - a mysterious quality in the coldness of Dracula’s stare, the feral snarl of the Wolfman, and the rigid, ominous pose of the Mummy, his weathered face slumped in a permanent scowl. I was born a monster fan before I even knew whether or not I liked the movies.
Unsurprisingly, I loved them.
I have more than a few personal doubts as to whether or not The Mummy (2017) will be a worthwhile addition to the canon of monster (and Mummy) movies - I’m honestly not expecting much. However, the nine-year-old deep inside me still thrills at the thought of what I would've long written off as an improbability: that the Universal Monsters are still considered a property worth revisiting.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the consistent re-summoning of these monsters for the past 100-years-or-so of movie history is their reflection of the dark aspects of our shared humanity. Like all of the best horror, they’re modern fables about subjects we often leave unspoken. Frankenstein’s monster speaks to our collective fascination with death, as well as the animating spark of life, and the pain of wanting to understand both. The Wolfman is a blunt force metaphor for the fear of our primal selves. But no monster occupies the space of decay, time, and regret quite like The Mummy. A walking grudge, he clings to life for the sake of revenge, grieving the loss of his beloved to the sands of time. He murders to temper his pain...and, on occasion, he dances the night away with his monster pals.
I’m extremely fortunate to work for a company that deeply values the celebration of all forms of cinema, and therefore pays me to do exceptionally fun things - such as cut in-depth, somewhat comprehensive video essays about the history of movie mummies! In cutting the following clips together, it was my hope to illustrate the Mummy’s prolific body of work, as well as the variety of roles the Mummy can play in a story.
This segment recaps the earlier movie mummy incarnations, focusing on the original Universal cycle of Mummy films, as well as the Aztec Mummy movies that came out of Mexico in the 50s and 60s.
This segment recaps the Hammer Horror Mummy cycle, as well as the rise of the mummy as a staple of monster mashup films and low-budget horror.
This segment recaps the Mummy’s eventual ascendance to movie monster icon, as well as the second Universal Mummy cycle, and the continued history of mummies in low-budget, independent horror.
Whether it’s the menacing Mummy who strangles and brawls his way through the Universal and Hammer films, or the slapstick Mummy of Abbott and Costello and The Monster Squad, or the Mummies that crawl their way out of Aztec Tombs or David “The Rock” Nelson’s garage - I hope you enjoy watching these clips as much as I enjoyed cutting them.