Tom Cruise battles an ancient undead evil in The Mummy, the first step in Universal‘s bid to retool its classic monsters into a 21st century franchise. Of course, the Mummy character has had a long big-screen career, inspiring plenty of cheap thrills in lesser films, and a handful of greats from Universal and other studios (the character is in the public domain). As Cruise’s showdown with Sofia Boutella’s risen-from-the-grave Egyptian princess becomes a part of Mummy movie history this weekend, here are six fruitfully frightful flicks featuring the famous fiend to seek out if you feel a binge coming on. (All are available to rent or buy on Amazon; Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb can be streamed via Shudder.)
The Mummy (1932)
Boris Karloff strikes a foreboding figure as Imhotep, an Egyptian priest resurrected by an ancient scroll, in Karl Freund‘s 1932 gem, which established much of the Mummy’s lore. As in Frankenstein, Karloff embodies his monster with both intimidating fury and a piercing romantic heart, the latter of which compels Imhotep to attempt to reunite with the reincarnated woman who, centuries earlier, he was mummified for loving.
The Mummy’s Hand (1940)
Though produced by Universal, this Christy Cabanne-directed thriller — the first in a four-movie series — is neither a sequel to, nor a spin-off of, 1932’s The Mummy. Nonetheless, it too focuses on an ancient mummy (named Kharis) who awakens from his slumber and preys upon various archaeologists, all while seeking a life-prolonging liquid produced by some magical leaves. There’s no romance here, but plenty of trademark shuffling-about horror.
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
The 28th, and final, Universal film featuring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, this horror spoof came on the heels of the duo’s face-offs with Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Here, they’re forced to contend with the slow-moving monster in a typically goofy story involving ancient tombs, buried treasure, and a valuable amulet that Costello accidentally eats. As a lighthearted bit of slapsticky horror silliness, it stands the test of time.
The Mummy (1959)
As with many of its takes on classic Universal villains, Hammer Films’ 1959 version of The Mummy is heavy on ominous gothic atmosphere, inventive murders, and standout performances from stars Peter Cushing (as the lead archaeologist) and Christopher Lee (as Kharis). While it borrows a lot from its precursors (the reanimating Scroll of Life, the quest for a reincarnated love), its malevolent menace is all its own.
Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)
The only major cinematic depiction of a female mummy until now, this 1971 saga is based on Dracula author Bram Stoker’s 1903 novel The Jewel of Seven Stars. It centers on an archaeologist obsessed with an Egyptian queen who shares a strange connection to the man’s daughter. Much insanity ensues involving murder and mixed-up identities, although it’s the film’s sumptuously evil tone that truly props up its supernatural action.
The Mummy (1999)
Stephen Sommers’ revisionist retelling of the Imhotep myth is cast in an Indiana Jones-ish mold, focusing on the efforts of a swashbuckler (Brendan Fraser) and his archaeologist love-interest (Rachel Weisz) to deal with the resurrected Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo). It remains a boisterous rollercoaster ride from the early era of CGI extravaganzas, although its two sequels (The Mummy Returns and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) and spin-offs (including the Dwayne Johnson-led The Scorpion King) are best left forgotten.
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