The Mummy (1932)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 3-Oct-2002

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Paul M. Jensen (Film Historian)
Featurette-Mummy Dearest
Gallery-Posters And Stills
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1932
Running Time 70:06
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (52:46) Cast & Crew
Start Up 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 $19.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Arabic
Czech
Greek
Hungarian
Turkish
Romanian
English Audio Commentary
Arabic Audio Commentary
Czech Audio Commentary
Greek Audio Commentary
Hungarian Audio Commentary
Turkish Audio Commentary
Romanian Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     Mention the word “Mummy” and people instantly think of Egypt, the Pyramids and dead people wrapped in bandages. Even as kids, the quintessential image of a mummy is implanted early on by such innocent shows as Scooby-Doo. How many times were the gang chased by mummies staggering around with bandages hanging off their arms while shouting “whhhhooooooo”?

    Here we have what is often credited as the first version of The Mummy, made in 1932 and released the same year. Universal Studio’s version spurred a mass of films of a similar nature over the years. Just look at the recent 1999 release of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns in 2001.

    Screenwriter and Journalist Nina Wilcox Putnam actually concocted a character called Cagliostro which was based on the legend of a historical figure who claimed to live for centuries. This story was later substantially revised by John L. Balderston, a playwright who had collaborated on both the Dracula and Frankenstein movies. Balderston was a journalist by day and was one of many journalists at the time that were sent to Egypt to cover the groundbreaking story of the opening of King Tutankhamen's tomb. It was Balderston who renamed the mummy to its current name of Imhoteph, which is even used in films to this day and is the name of the real Egyptian architect who built the first pyramid. This film's working title was initially both King of the Dead and Imhoteph until it was changed to the more succinct The Mummy before its release.

    As far as the storyline goes, it differs significantly from our more recent versions. Sure, Imhoteph and Anck-es-en-Amon are still the main characters and Imhoteph wants to bring the love of his life back, but that is where the two versions start to head in different directions. It is clear to see that this release has a strong link with live theatre as the number of scene locations is very limited and a great deal takes place in only a handful of rooms. There are no boat or train rides to reach the destination - in fact, Imhoteph comes to life in the first few minutes and the other main characters are introduced as the story progresses.

    The movie is set in 1921 (King Tut's tomb was found in 1922) and begins with staff from the British Museum field expedition examining their latest finds of Imhoteph (Boris Karloff) and a sealed container, which holds the Scroll of Thoth. Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) and his assistant Norton (Bramwell Fletcher) are examining the mummy’s features and the hieroglyphs on the box when they are warned by Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan) that terrible things will happen if the container is ever opened. You guessed it...the container is opened and the scroll is read thereby bringing the mummy to life and unleashing his powers on the world.

    The film now progresses 10 years to the “present day” and the living Imhoteph goes under the name of Ardath Bey (Boris Karloff). He sets out to have his love Anck-es-en-Amon resurrected and brought back to life. But first he must find himself a living woman to take on the form of his beloved princess.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

     There are several problems with the video transfer, but most can be explained away as being due to the film's age. It should be noted that in most cases, the film stock from which this title was transferred fares much better than that used for the Laserdisc transfer.

    The transfer is presented in a full frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1 which is not far from its original ratio of 1.37:1.

    The transfer is far from sharp and suffers from periods of inconsistent brightness levels. A lot of scenes seem to fluctuate from an easy-to-see level to something that is quite dark, all within the blink of an eye with the worst instance around 43:54. Shadow detail is borderline in some scenes with very dark backgrounds being the problem whilst occasionally there is excessive lighting placed on the subject of the shot. There is random low level noise appearing throughout the feature.

    There were minor MPEG artefacts. The majority of the film's problems were simply film artefacts, and there are a lot of them. For the most part, none are big enough to cause a serious viewing problem but be warned that they are there and rank in the thousands. The worst section was at 11:40, and it seems to settle down, albeit slightly, after this point. Most are black in colour rather than white so this helps with how disruptive they can be on the eyes.

    There are a lot of subtitles on this disc and the English stream that I checked was close to the spoken word.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed between Chapters 13 and 14, at 52:46. It is quite well positioned to cause minimal disruption to the feature. I found that it was more of a problem during the commentary track as there was quite an obvious pause during the dialogue at this point.

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

Audio

     There are two audio tracks on this DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. There is also an English Audio Commentary track, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Neither contains any surround-encoded sound. I listened to both soundtracks.

    The dialogue was relatively clear and easy to understand. It did sound a little flat, as if either the bass was set too high or the treble was set too low during soundtrack processing. The laserdisc version suffers from more pops and hisses than the DVD version does, so that is one plus.

    Audio sync was only a problem between 34:08 and 34:12 when there was no sound at all, and the dialogue returns half-way through the sentence.

    The music ranges from the opening scene which features Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky to the traditional eerie horror music through the remainder of the film. It is typical of the film's age and suited the picture perfectly.

    There is no surround encoded audio so the surround channels are not used for this feature, nor any of the extras.

    Likewise, the subwoofer was not used by the track at all, nor was it missed by the dialogue-heavy feature.

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

Extras

     This release contains a good selection of extra content.

Menu

    The menu design is in colour, themed around the movie and in full frame. The main menu features a still image created solely for the DVD menu and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Universal's spinning globe logo (1997 version) gives a false sense of what to expect with its highly colourful and clear image. The 1930s logo with the flying plane soon brings you to the realisation that you will be watching an old feature.

Feature Commentary with Film Historian Paul M. Lensen

    This commentary track contains a lot of information for those interested in the finer details of the film. This includes background data on the script, actors and locations used during filming. The only problem is that Lensen delivers it in a monotone suited more for a telephone call centre than a commentary track. It is also very very obvious that he is reading the whole time from a pre-written script. I don’t doubt that Lensen knows his stuff, but this is one case where someone else with a more exciting and enthusiastic voice would have been a much better option.

Mummy Dearest (30:11)

    This feature is hosted by Rudy Behlmer and is a mixture of colour and black & white footage. This was a nice and informative feature providing a lot of background about the movie's origins and inception. The film footage is presented at 1.33:1 and the feature has Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Posters and Stills (9:45)

    Similar to the equivalent extra on the Creature From The Black Lagoon DVD which I reviewed earlier, this posters and stills section contains a huge collection of movie advertising posters and production photos. There is a mixture of images taken from both sides of the camera and the majority of poster slides are highly detailed scans in full colour. It is set to music and scrolls from beginning to end so you can sit back and watch the images flick by.

Theatrical Trailer (1:35)

    This is of similar quality to the main feature but the audio does suffer from some distortion or colouration during the louder sections. The dialogue does not suffer from this problem.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     The differences between the two versions are minimal, excluding the NTSC / PAL formatting difference. For this reason I would suggest the Region 4 version would be the preferred version, albeit slightly.

Summary

    Overall, The Mummy was enjoyable, but I am thankful that the storyline was expanded and made more interesting in the 1999 release from Universal. But, as classics go, this one is worth seeing at least once.

    The video contains a lot of film artefacts but is considerably better than the transfer offered on LaserDisc if that's some consolation.

    The audio is easy to understand and the half-sentence that is missing is probably insignificant anyway.

    The extras were saved by the "Mummy Dearest" feature as the commentary track was just too boring to listen to a second time.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Peter Mellor (read my bio)
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-533K, using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe 72cm. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersWhatmough Audiolabs Magnum M30 (Mains); M05 (Centre); M10 (Rears); Magnat Vector Needle Sub25A Active SubWoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Robert M
The DVD Bits - Allan H
Web Wombat - John K

Comments (Add)
A Movie - Anonymous