Alongside James Whale's masterful Frankenstein films and Tod Browning's eerie version of Dracula, Karl Freund's The Mummy ranks as one of the finest examples of classic horror cinema. Set in Egypt in 1921, an archaeological expedition results in the revival of Imhotep's mummy (a powerhouse performance from the great Boris Karloff). Following his awakening, the terrifying Imhotep will stop at nothing to find the reincarnation of his lost love.
Legendary makeup artist Jack Pierce, known for his now-definitive vision of Frankenstein's monster, once again turns Karloff into a convincingly creepy monster. This excellent makeup plays a large part in the film's most famous scene, the transformation of Imhotep from clay figure to man. The special effects on show here are impressive for today, let alone for the 1930s.
All that makeup would be for nought if the actor wasn't up to the challenge, but the audience needn't worry as Boris Karloff gives us one of his career-best performances. As Imohtep, Karloff channels the power of his performance as Frankenstein's Monster to deliver both a tragic and horrifying portrayal of evil incarnate. The rest of the cast all support him capably, with Zita Johann perhaps being the pick of the bunch as the film's heroine.
The film's sinister atmosphere coupled with the brilliant black and white cinematography make The Mummy unique in comparison to modern cinema; the horror is unveiled slowly through its dark and dread-filled ambience, rather than through jump scares or CGI monsters. This is crucial to the film's success, as the beautiful storytelling on show here lingers far longer than any film that relies on gore.
Not a single second of the 73 minute running time is wasted, with every shot allowing the story to progress and evolve. Simply put, The Mummy is one of the greatest of all horror films, but it is in fact rarer than that; it is a horror film that approaches art, and as such should not be missed.
Book your ticket to the screening of The Mummy on Saturday 29 October here.