Much like the Dracula filmography, where the first silent version from 1922 has never to this day been bested by any other Dracula film, the first mummy film holds up as greatest in this horror genre. If you watch this film for the first time you may not get what you expect in terms of those cliched bandage wrappings which is a genre trope developed in the sequels. But this first ever mummy film was really an interesting attempt at that time to present a re-animated corpse. It is important to note that this film in 1932 came off the heels of the recent discovery of King Tutankhamen’s Egyptian tomb by the British explorers Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in 1922. Tut’s mummified corpse did not look anything like the large, lumbering and bandaged wrapped creature we envision in our minds when we think of this monster. So this film really had some interesting possibilities to explore in terms of how they would present this monster for the first time on film.

 

Boris Karloff Portrays The First Mummy On Film

In the film’s opening, it did show a large bandage-wrapped Boris Karloff as a 3,000 year old mummy in the open coffin, but for the rest of the film Karloff brilliantly played a walking and talking corpse with just enough skin to cover his skull-like face. When Karloff was cast as the Frankenstein monster, the director of that film, James Whale, chose him because of his tall gait and the contours of his head which transitioned well into the famous neck bolted flat headed creature in make-up. In this first mummy film, Karloff’s eyes became the central feature that transfixed audiences. In addition to the dead wrinkled flesh tightly wrapping his drawn and skull-like face, there was just enough animated light emanating from dark hollowed out eye sockets; and it is that overall presentation that represented the ‘mummy’ for the first time on film.

So have a watch of this first ever mummy film and reset your thinking on what comes to mind when you think of a mummy, because the first, and to this day, most iconic representation of this classic monster is the corpse-like skin and dead soulless eyes rather than the slow-walking bandaged creature that developed in all the inferior sequels. And by sequels I mean the Universal follow-ups. Certainly as an overall film genre there are some other great mummy films to watch, but this first still holds up as one of the best.

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