(This is part one of a series on the world’s most aristocratic walking dead man–the Mummy. Information was sourced from a variety of books, articles, films, and museum resources, but all opinions and conclusions are my own. Enjoy!)
In June 2017 Universal Studios launched The Mummy, the first official film in their new “Dark Universe” cinematic series. The Dark Universe is planned to feature modern retellings of classic Universal monster film characters, including the Mummy, Frankenstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, and the Invisible Man. Producers Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan stated that they intend to “respect the legacy [of the monster characters] while bringing them into new and modern adventures.”
Indeed, as trope codifiers and intersections of myth and pop culture, the original Universal monster films have an impressive legacy. But in the ranks of classic monsters, the Mummy has always been the odd man out. Despite being undead, the Mummy blends genres and may carry elements of anything from sorcery and Satanism to good old-fashioned body horror and action-adventure drama. Unfortunately, the latest cinematic iteration of the Mummy’s story fails to explore either the fictional and historical roots of the character, or the methodology which makes a monster.
This series will explore the evolution of the Mummy in film, comparing and contrasting the creature’s various incarnations and tracking how the story changed over time. We’ll see its roots–not as an ancient legend, but as a construct of the 20th century and the British imperial tradition. We’ll see how, despite these roots, the Mummy broke away from cliche to become his own monster. And finally, we’ll follow the Mummy right up to June 2017, and discuss how and why the Dark Universe film failed to recapture the magic of ancient Egypt’s most famous curse.
For the sake of clarity, two modes of address will be used here. When speaking of mummies in general or actual historical mummies, the mummy in question will be referred to without capitalization; when referring to the monster and mythical figure as it has come to be known in Western culture, it will be capitalized, e.g. the Mummy.
Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then let’s begin! Continue reading