Don’t think I’ve watched a mummy movie since I was eight, because that’s the last time a living mummy seemed scary or interesting (I’m not counting the 1990’s Mummy series, since those were more about poor computer effects than mummies). But for some reason I watched this instead of The Curse of Frankenstein as my annual Hammer horror. And it wasn’t scary or interesting. Not a terrible movie, a classy-looking production but, well, it’s about a mummy. What can you do with that?

Same writer and director as Hammer’s Dracula and Frankenstein movies, starring Creature/Count Christopher Lee as the mummy and Doctors Frankenstein & Van Helsing Peter Cushing as the wimpy archaeologist who defeats it. Lee appears unbandaged in flashback scenes, a high priest with a forbidden love for a princess (Yvonne Furneaux, title character in something called Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie). He tries to resurrect her after her burial and is caught, mummified alive and buried behind a secret panel in her tomb.

John FrankenHelsing Banning:

However-many years later in 1895, archaeologist Felix Aylmer (of Olivier’s Henry V) digs up the tomb despite warnings about curses. An Egyptian local (George Pastell, actually from Cyprus) who still believes in the ancient gods swears revenge and a couple years later carts the Lee-mummy to Britain and has it assassinate Felix and his buddy. Felix’s son Peter Cushing escapes due to the lucky fact that his wife is the same actress who played the Egyptian princess, and she’s able to override the mummy’s commands.

Christopher Lee, before:

… and after:

Cushing figures out the plot, manages to convince the local police of the facts (it’s rare in a supernatural movie that the police believe the hero’s story), then saunters over to the vengeful Egyptian’s house, introduces himself and insults the man’s silly religion. This of course draws another mummy visit, but this time Cushing is armed – which should lead to the terrific poster artwork with a beam of light passing through a hole in the mummy’s midsection, but sadly doesn’t. Good wins out over evil, assuming Cushing is good – the movie doesn’t mind his participation in the looting of Egypt’s sacred history for the benefit of British museums.

Kind of a slow movie, with flashbacks that repeat whole scenes we just watched 45 minutes earlier. All the IMDB trivia articles are about the various ways Christopher Lee got hurt during the production, but he still stayed with Hammer through the early 70’s.

I had to interrupt this movie the first night I watched it, and I finished it the next night. In between, I was at Acapella and picked up the book on K.K. by Jerry White and flipped to the back, where he calls this movie an utter failure of storytelling. I didn’t read any more, wanted no spoilers, but I hope White at least found something to like about this one, if not the story, because I liked it quite a lot, and thought it was better than Kurosawa’s follow-up Retribution.

Starring Miki Nakatani of the Ring series and Chaos, title star of Memories of Matsuko

It’s similar to Retribution… a ghost-revenge story with only a few characters set in old, run-down buildings with sudden shocks and supernatural occurrences in broad daylight. Atmosphere and cinematography (by the same guy as Retribution) are ace. Movie is horror, but it doesn’t seem to know that it’s horror. As with all of Kurosawa’s movies, the genre cliches aren’t there, the music and camera and lighting and characters don’t do what you’d expect. They do get panicked and frightened, but they’ll also walk knowingly into danger and stare at the ghosts, looking slightly sad or tired, not necessarily afraid. Very cool movie, not one of Kurosawa’s very best but it’s got me looking forward to Tokyo Sonata again.

At right, Reiko’s book editor Hidetoshi Nishijima, star of License to Live, Bug House and Kitano’s Dolls

The story is a little baffling, but KK also wrote Charisma, so baffling ain’t unusual. Reiko’s editor gets her a quiet place in the country where she can write her next book. She meets her neighbor Yoshioka, a university professor with a 1000-year-old mummy (which moves by itself occasionally) in his room. The professor isn’t sure if this is the same mummy that was dug up 80 years ago, but he watches a time-lapse film of that previous mummy just to confuse us a little more. We’re not sure if he’s dangerous or just a crappy professor, but he seems nice enough to Reiko.

The anthropologist is Etsushi Toyokawa of The Great Yokai War and Boiling Point

Besides the mummy moving about, Reiko is being haunted by the ghost of a young girl. Graves are dug, bodies are carried around, a foggy pier is discovered, Reiko is vomiting black mud (this was happening before she even moved into the house) and somehow Reiko gets her book written. Her editor shows up and terrorizes her for no clear purpose until it turns out he rented the same place to a previous writer (the young ghost-girl) and murdered her. Reiko would be next but the cops bust him just in time. She burns her book and Yoshioka burns the mummy. Then they go for a walk to the foggy pier, where the ghost knocks Yoshioka into the swampy water for some reason!

Spooky loft

The ghost/girl isn’t in every scene, she’s just somehow in all of my captures