Mummy, The (1932) (Blu-ray)

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Released 10-May-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Audio Commentary-Rick Baker (Make-up Effects) and others
Audio Commentary-Paul M. Jensen (Film Historian)
Featurette-Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed (30:11)
Featurette-He Who Made Monsters: The Life & Art of Jack Pierce (24:56)
Featurette-Unravelling the Legacy of The Mummy (8:07)
Gallery-The Mummy Archives (9:46)
Theatrical Trailer-Trailers of all the Mummy films (6:29)
Featurette-100 Years of Universal: The Carl Laemmle Years (8:41)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1932
Running Time 73:07
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Karl Freund
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Boris Karloff
Zita Johann
David Manners
Arthur Byron
Edward Van Sloan
Bramwell Fletcher
Case ?
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
French dts 2.0 mono
Italian dts 2.0 mono
German dts 2.0 mono
Spanish dts 2.0 mono
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
German
Spanish
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In the 1930s Universal hit the jackpot with their monster / horror pictures starting with Dracula and Frankenstein (both 1931). These were not the first horror films of course; there was a silent Frankenstein as early as 1910, the Dracula story had been filmed as Nosferatu in 1922 and Universal themselves had produced The Werewolf in 1913. However it was Universal in the 1930s that put monsters into the mainstream. After the huge success of Dracula and Frankenstein it was no surprise, given the sensational opening of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 that put Egypt into the public imagination, that for their next monster Universal turned to Egypt and The Mummy.

     Egypt, 1921; the British Museum expedition led by Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) has discovered the mummy of a man who had been buried alive 3,700 years previously. The mummy is identified as that of the High Priest Imhotep and buried with him is a box with a curse inscribed on it promising death to those who open the box. When Sir Joseph is out of the room his assistant (Bramwell Fletcher) cannot resist opening the box; inside is a scroll on which is an incantation to raise the dead. As the assistant reads the scroll, the mummy comes to life, takes the scroll and departs, trailing its bandages. Fast forward to 1932. Sir Joseph has refused to return to Egypt after the events of 1921; instead his son Frank (David Manners) is digging. David has had little success until a wizened Egyptian, Ardath Bey (Boris Karloff), arrives at his camp and indicates an area nearby where the expedition should dig. When they do they discover the undisturbed tomb of the princess Ankh-es-en-Amon. With this triumph Sir Joseph returns to Egypt and the mummy of the princess and her grave goods are moved into the Cairo Museum.

     Ardath Bey, of course, is the resurrected Imhotep; he had been buried alive because of his love for the princess and now he intends to use the scroll to bring his beloved Ankh-es-en-Amon back from the dead. At this time Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann), who is half Egyptian, is visiting Cairo and staying with her doctor, Doctor Muller (Edward van Sloan), who is an old friend of Sir Joseph. When Ardath Bey sees Helen he realises that she is the reincarnation of Ankh-es-en-Amon and he resolves to make her a living mummy so that they can be together for all eternity. Can Doctor Muller, who has come to realise the evil that is Ardath Bey, and Frank, who has fallen in love with Helen, save her before she becomes the mummy of Ankh-es-en-Amon?

     The Mummy is as much a story of love throughout the ages as a monster film. Karloff, in those iconic bandages as the mummy, only appears briefly and, indeed, is never seen in full mummy garb. For the rest of the picture he is the wizened Ardath Bey. There is no doubt, however, that The Mummy is his picture. Karloff had become a star after his performance as the monster in Frankenstein the previous year and the posters advertising The Mummy merely had the name “Karloff” above the film’s title. He is indeed superb; his movements are deliberate and his voice and piercing eyes project pure menace, aided by the film’s impressive use of light in the black and white photography that obviously draws on earlier German expressionist cinema. The Mummy was directed by European Karl Freund, who was born in what is now Czechoslovakia. This was Freund’s first feature as a director, and he directed only a handful of films afterwards. He was, however, much more prolific as a cinematographer; he had lensed Metropolis (1927) in Germany before coming to the US and had shot Dracula the year before; his credits as a cinematographer later included Key Largo (1948) and The Good Earth (1937), for which he won an Oscar. His grounding in German expressionism helps to explain why The Mummy looks so fabulous and impressionist, but in trying to make his mark as a first time director Freund had running battles with Zita Johann, who was rather temperamental anyway, throughout the shoot.

     The Mummy is a film that has had a profound legacy. To mention only a few, this includes five Universal spin-offs made between 1940 and 1955, a makeover by Hammer in the late 1950 and 1960, a reboot by Universal themselves in 1999, which itself added two sequels, and another version with Tom Cruise due out later this year. While the more recent of these films can be good fun, they are also a triumph of CGI effects, thrills and fast editing rather than horror. Made 85 years ago, this original The Mummy is a different beast. It is slow moving and atmospheric and if you can forgo a need for fast paced thrills it is very much worth seeing, featuring as it does the make-up effects of the maestro Jack Pierce, the impressive direction of Karl Freund and a fine performance by the one and only Boris Karloff.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Mummy is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     This is a great print for a film going on 85 years old. There is heavy grain in some sequences but otherwise this is a very clean restored print without obvious marks or artefacts. Blacks, greyscale and shadow detail are excellent, the close-ups of the beautiful Zita Johann are luminous while Karloff’s piercing eyes glint.

     Large white English subtitles for the hearing impaired follow the dialogue closely in the section I sampled. Also available are French, Italian, German, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles for the film and both audio commentaries.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio choices are English DTS-HD MA 2.0 (mono), Italian, French, German and Spanish dubs in DTS 2.0, plus English audio commentaries (Dolby Digital 2.0).

     Dialogue was always easy to understand with Karloff’s distinctive voice nicely rendered. There was little by way of other effects and obviously no surround or subwoofer use. There is no credit for the score given; it featured a bit of Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky and other music by James Dietrich.

     In some sections without music I noticed occasional slight hiss.

     Lip synchronisation was fine (although in one scene where Arthur Byron answers the telephone and says “hello” his lips clearly do not move!)

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

100 Years of Universal (2:28)

     This promotion for Universal Pictures, which was founded in 1912, plays on start-up.

Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed (30:11)

     Made in 1999 and hosted by Rudy Behlmer, this featurette has been on previous releases of The Mummy but remains worth a look. It features still photographs, footage from a range of Universal pictures and comments by various of film historians, Boris Karloff’s daughter, the screenwriter’s son and the make-up artist Rick Baker and covers the finding of the tomb of Tutankhamen and the “curse”, the original ideas for the screenplay, Karloff and the make-up, the strong willed Zita Johann, her interest in the occult and her battles with director Karl Freund, and the subsequent Mummy films made by Universal.

He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art of Jack Pierce (24:56)

     Made in 2008 this fascinating featurette uses still photographs, film footage and interviews, with lots of stories and anecdotes, to chart the work and legacy of make-up artist Jack Pierce, the man who created the iconic make-up effects for the Universal monsters including Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Bride of Frankenstein and The Wolfman. Interviewees include current make-up effect artists Rick Baker, Nick Dudman, Bill Corso, Kevin Haney, Michelle Burke, authors Scott Essman, Steve Haberman, Stephen Jones, Christopher Frayling, Kim Newman and film historian Bob Burns. For a pioneer of special make-up effects with such a legacy it is sad to learn that Pierce died in 1968, alone and almost destitute.

Unravelling the Legacy of The Mummy (8:07)

     This partly consists of a number of people, including authors Steve Haberman and Christopher Frayling, talking about the impact the original The Mummy and/ or Boris Karloff had on them but the majority of the running time is an extended promotion for The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001) with comments by director Steven Sommers and various cast members.

The Mummy Archives (9:46)

     7 colour film posters and about 105 black and white film stills. They advance automatically, with music.

Feature Audio Commentary

     This commentary features author Steve Haberman (Silent Screams: The Chronicles of Terror), Scott Essman (biographer of Jack Pierce), film historian Bob Burns and Brent Armstrong (who runs a sculpture studio). They sit together and watch the film, with additional comments by Rick Baker (special make-up artist, winner of an incredible seven Oscars including for An American Werewolf in London (1981) and The Wolfman (2010), so he does know a bit about creature make-ups) spliced in. This is a chatty and informative discussion by fans of the film as they talk about Universal monster films, the cast, the director, the lighting and make-up, the atmosphere and the shooting style, the score, film history and the legacy of The Mummy.

Feature Audio Commentary

     Film historian Paul M Jensen talks in a monotone so this commentary is somewhat dry. He tends to describe the plot and what is on the screen a bit but he does provide a lot of information about lighting and camera techniques, the earlier and subsequent careers of various cast members, the development of the script, changes made to the shooting script, deleted and missing scenes and the sets.

Trailer Gallery (6:29)

     Trailers for five of the Universal Mummy films. There is a play all option:

100 Years of Universal: The Carl Laemmle Years (8:41)

     Using still photographs, archive footage and footage from films, this is an interesting look at Carl Laemmle who emigrated from Germany, became a Nickelodeon owner and film producer and in 1912 created Universal Pictures. He groomed his son Carl Laemmle Jr for the business and it was Jr who was responsible for the production of the Universal monster pictures.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There have been numerous releases of The Mummy over the years but this Blu-ray release is the same as is currently available in the US and UK. The same The Mummy Complete Legacy Collection (see the summary below) is also available in these other regions. Buy local.

Summary

     Made in1932, The Mummy is a timeless classic that has had a profound legacy that continues to the present day. The Mummy has never been far from popular imagination and here is your chance to check out the original film in glorious HD.

     The film looks marvellous on Blu-ray, the audio is the original mono, and the extras are extensive, interesting and informative, resulting in a fabulous Blu-ray package.

     The Mummy is available as a stand-alone Blu-ray but it is also included in Universals’ 4 disc The Mummy Complete Legacy Collection (also available in other regions) which has also The Mummy’s Hand (1940) and The Mummy’s Tomb (1942) on one Blu-ray, The Mummy’s Ghost (1944) and The Mummy’s Curse (1944) on another and Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy (1955) by itself on another Blu-ray.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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