an entry in OLA Scary Story Contest 2000

The Mummy
by Dana, age ten

Once upon a time there was a group of girls and their names were Dana, Laura, Nicole, Elyse and Rachel. They where good friends. They all went to ECP. One day they all went to France and they met up together they went summing, bike riding and they went to the castles of Paris. We all said it was very fun. We liked it no we loved it. Monday night we all went camping. And when we went camping Laura found the key a dead mummy just awoke so we went to the place where he was buried. And Laura, Nicole, Rachel and I found the book of the dead and while we were opening the book the mummy found us. And if you were there you could have heard a loud scream. So Laura read loudly and quickly. So we could kill him. And we killed him and he's dead. So we all got on an airplane and left. But we still had a sleep over. We had very good faith and still do. When we got home and tucked in, suddenly, we all heard the door open. THE END!

The Mummy is a return to the classic swashbuckler. Action, adventure, humor and a happy ending.

Brendan Fraser stars as Rick O'Connell, an American whose troop met death at the fabled Egyptian city of Hamunaptra, where it is said that the wealth of the pharaohs was buried. He is about to be hanged for having a "very good time" when he is rescued by Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz), a librarian and Egyptology who wishes to join the Benbridge Scholars, but is denied for "lack of experience." She learns of O'Connell from her upper class twit of a brother, Jonathan (John Hannah), who is also an accomplished pickpocket, having lifted an ornate key from O'Connell while at a bar. The key held a map, which Evelyn showed to her mentor and head librarian Dr. Bey (Erick Avari), who manages to set the map on fire, burning off the location of the city. Luckily for Evelyn, O'Connell knows the way.

Things get more interesting when they get to the boat and find O'Connell's old "friend" Beni Gabor (Kevin J. O'Connor) who is leading a group of three Americans (Stephen Dunham, Corey Johnson, Tuc Watkins) and Egyptologist Dr. Chamberlin (Jonathan Hyde). Also, warden Gad Hassan (Omid Djalili) arrives to protect his 25%, which Evelyn had promised for O'Connell's release. There follows trouble when the boat is burned in an attempt by a mysterious group to steal the key, then a race to the city, then a race to the chamber. And that's when the action really heats up as our heroes find the mummy, Im-Ho-Tep (Arnold Vosloo), and their rivals find the Book of the Dead and the canopic jars of Im-Ho-Tep's mummified lover, Anck-Su-Namun (Patricia Velasquez), who had been their pharaoh's wife and was his death.

With the mummy after the Americans and Egyptologist for their organs and the jars and the mysterious group led by Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr) charging them and our heroes with the eventual destruction of everything, Evelyn refuses to leave, having decided that since she was responsible for his release, she must now find a way to put him back. She finds that task more difficult as Im-Ho-Tep kidnaps her to use as the sacrifice to bring Anck-Su-Namun back from the dead. O'Connell, Jonathan and Bay enlist the aid and airplane of Captain Winston Havlock (Bernard Fox) to get back to the city of Hamunaptra. More adventure and many scarabs follow.

Helen: "Do you have to open graves to find girls to fall in love with?"

DID YOU KNOW...? That the popular action movie starring Brendan Fraser and a bunch of computer effects was actually based on a much OLDER movie that is ill-regarded by modern film audiences primarily because it does NOT feature Brendan Fraser and a bunch of computer effects? IT'S TRUE!

"The Mummy" was originally a horror movie -- with a big fat dollop of romance movie -- from all the way back in 1932. It was directed by Karl Freund and written by Nina Wilcox Putnam and Richard Schayer. The makeup was designed by movie makeup pioneer Jack Pierce. It starred Boris Karloff as Imhotep, Zita Johann as Helen Grosvenor, David Manners as Frank Whemple, and Arthur Byron as Sir Joseph Whemple.

The movie is set in Egypt (surprise, surprise), where an archeological expedition discovers the mummy of Imhotep, who was buried alive for sacrilege. They also find the Scroll of Thoth, which is said to have powers to return the dead to life. A young member of the expedition reads the scroll, and the moldy old Imhotep is able to shamble out into the world... Ten years later, the mummy, now disguised as Egyptian museum curator Ardeth Bey, kidnaps a beautiful expedition member -- he believes that she is the reincarnation of his ancient lost love, and he'll do anything to have her back...

Research from the Internet Movie Database ( and from actually watching the damn thing.

"Old movies? Why should we watch old movies? There's not any morphing, is there?" Bah...

Reasons why the 1932 production of The Mummy kicks serious ass:

  • Its star was billed as "Karloff the Uncanny".
  • Hours were spent devising realistic mummy makeup, hours were spent applying it to Karloff, he was forced to shamble around in it under hot studio lights...yet the audience never sees it in its entirety. In an era where directors can't wait to wave their expensive special-effects toys in your face, such restraint in the service of creepiness is a miracle to behold.
  • It contains the second-scariest laugh in movie history, when an archaeologist is driven mad at the sight of the resurrected Karloff. (The scariest laugh of course belongs to Dwight Frye as Renfield in Dracula.)
  • Karloff's deep-set eyes, burning like live coals in his gaunt, leathery face as he telepathically murders his enemies.
  • Director Karl Freund. He worked as a cameraman for F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu), Fritz Lang (Metropolis), and Tod Browning (Dracula) before his directorial debut here, and you can't ask for a better pedigree than that in the world of 1930s cinematic horror.
  • Karloff just being Karloff. He radiates lethal menace in every scene, like a cobra ready to strike. You can't take your eyes off the man.
  • The next time someone puts his mitts on you uninvited, think, What Would Imhotep Do? Then fix them with an subzero stare and say, "I prefer not to be touched."

We all know the Mummy, one of the classic movie monsters, brought into the public's consciousness by Universal Studios. He shares a 'verse with the flat-topped, bolt-necked Frankenstein Monster, the caped-and-tailcoated Count, and the upright-walking, respectably trousered Wolf Man. No doubt he fought and teamed up with all of them. A living dead remnant of ancient Egypt, the Mummy (usually named Kharis) wears the face of Boris Karloff, cracked and crumbling like an ancient temple wall. He shuffles menacingly though slowly, leading the way for movie zombies and mad slashers to come. He cannot speak beyond an inarticulate moan. The pop-culture memory has kept this version alive, despite his successful reinvention in a swashbuckling series at the turn of the millennium, and a less-successful attempt in 2017 to create a cinematic universe based on Universal's classic monsters.

That creature, however, cannot quite be found in any old movie. Just as Dr. Frankenstein never had a lab assistant named Igor, Karloff never played the Mummy we now imagine. That monster who stalks us on Halloween is a composite, different visions held together with ancient bandages.

We must start, of course, with The Mummy (1932), a film reviewed here by others. Universal had scored sound successes with Dracula (1930) and Frankenstein (1931). They were seeking a new monster. With Egyptology still a trend, a decade after the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb, they turned to the practice of preserving corpses and penned an original script.

Boris Karloff, in make-up developed by Jack P. Pierce plays the titular Mummy. The scene where he awakes is a still-unsettling moment of horror, but this isn't the Mummy pop culture recalls. Karloff does the bandaged walk once, briefly, and we barely see him. For the rest of the movie, the familiar-looking, cracked-face, haunted-eyed Imhotep poses as "Ardeth Bay," a dried-up, sinister ancient, clad in robe and fez. Far from a groaning, shambling, monstrosity, he's as educated and articulate as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. He's also (romantic heart notwithstanding) arguably more evil.

Karloff's performance and Pierce's make-up gave the pop-culture Mummy his face his basic backstory, which involves an undying obsession with a forbidden beloved.

Despite the film's success, it would be eight years before Universal brought out anything approximating a sequel. By then, Universal's horror films had grown less serious and atmospheric. They were fast becoming matinee fare, low-budget b-movies churned out for quick bucks.

The Mummy's Hand (1940) takes place in contemporary Egypt. An archaeologist and his comic-relief sidekick join a professor, a stage magician, and a beautiful woman on an adventure that would have suited a period serial. A former cowboy star (and--Shazam!-- first onscreen Captain Marvel) with arthritis plays a mummy named Kharis. The film lifts and modifies his backstory from the '32 film. Indeed, the flashback consists of re-edited footage from The Mummy, though, in this version, "they cut out his tongue, so the ears of the gods would not be assailed by his unholy curses." A secret cult has kept Kharis alive for three thousand years, using something called "tana leaves." They're apparently now extinct, but the cult kept a supply in a moderately-sized box. Given that Kharis requires three leaves each month to keep his heart beating and nine to rouse him to full waking, that's one heck of a lot of dried leaves. In any case, our heroes find themselves up against the cult and this Mummy, the type of the one that now haunts our Halloween dreams. The movie is cheap, but serviceable, and Universal made the most of their resources. In addition to the '32 flashback, we have the temple set from the jungle adventure Green Hell (a faux Mesoamerican temple, but viewers were less culturally sensitive then) and pieces from other productions.

Its success led to a series of movies that stand apart from the other Universal Monster films, self-contained in a strange timeline of its own. Lon Chaney, Jr. took over the role of shambling, mute monster in The Mummy's Tomb (1942) and The Mummy's Ghost (1944), copy-cat films that depict the still-shambling Kharis in New England-- thirty years after The Mummy's Hand! Chaney's mummy then turns up-- twenty-five years later-- in Louisiana for The Mummy's Curse (1944). Universal made no attempt to alter the 1940s setting (save for an absence of any references to the war), creating a temporal conundrum, though one only worth addressing as a playful exercise1. All the films involve a reincarnation of Kharis's lost loved and the same secret cult. They're not great, but they did establish the Mummy as we know him (minus Karloff's face).

Now established, the Mummy was ready for further franchising. In Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), Bud and Lou encounter a mummified menace named "Klaris," played by stuntman and actor Eddie Parker. Soon thereafter, Hammer Studios nailed the Mummy's place in the popular imagination with a licensed adaptation of the Universal Series. It begins with The Mummy, made in 1959 but set in the Victorian Era. Peter Cushing plays John Banning, based on and named for the archaeologist in The Mummy's Hand. Christopher Lee plays Kharis. The plot draws directly from the 1940s series. Hammer would make three sequels, with the final taking place in the 1920s.

As the retro pop-cult of the Universal Monsters grew, the models and toys and masks often drew upon the post-Karloff incarnations to create the Mummy. Humorous takes on the Universal Monsters, such as Mad Monster Party? and the old comic books, often feature a version of the character.2 It is these later spin-offs that put the Mummy in some kind of larger world of monsters. Over time, Karloff's distinctive Mummy face appears to have become standard, at least on depictions not drawn from more recent reinventions of the character, or which don't simply cover the face with more bandages.

Those reinventions take their own directions, as they should. But pop culture must have access to those ancient tana leaves, because the mute, decaying Mummy continues to shamble, often in Imhotep's mask, especially when more familiar leaves have turned and are falling, and adults send their children out into the night to take candy from strangers.


1. If we place The Mummy's Hand in its year of release, the sequels take place in 1970 and 1995. It's especially amusing to imagine that ...Ghost's college-campus setting has marijuana-smoking students and wannabe hippies protesting, just out of camera range. However, we don't see much of the modern world in Hand (we're in a desert for much of the movie, and Golden Age Hollywood's Egypt for the rest), and we have only the reference to the discovery of Tut's tomb to place us clearly in a specific historic context. The film, therefore, could take place in the 1920s. The next two films would then take place in the 1950s, which really isn't a stretch. The costumes would pass, and the few cars we see would definitely still be in service. Curse would take place in the 70s or 80s, alas, and that makes no sense. A website called Sprocketland suggests that these films really do take place in a shared world of monsters, and the constant need to keep vampires, werewolves, and giant insects at bay has held back social and technological progress.

Continuity was never The Universal Monster Cycle's strong suit. The Mummy's Curse has no real reason to even be twenty-five years later. It picks up exactly where the previous movie leaves off-- except, without explanation, in a completely different American state.

2. Apart from numerous appearances as a usually inarticulate, shambling figure in old Horror Comics, he turns up regularly at the end of Bob Hope's four-color run. DC Comics began publishing The Adventures of Bob Hope in 1950; the early issues gave the comedian adventures reminiscent of his movie and television appearances. Later, they became more comic-book in nature, with a supporting cast that included a nephew with a "mod" superhero alter-ego, an educated, articulate dog, and knock-offs of the Universal Monsters.

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