Released in 1932, The Mummy was another horror hit from Universal, shocking audiences with the unforgettable sight of Boris Karloff clad in wrappings as the mummy Imhotep. At the same time, it took horror cinema away from the Gothic Europe of Dracula and Frankenstein and into a land of deserts, pyramids and long-lost tombs. The film was inspired initially by the discovery of Tutankhamun’s resting place and sensationalistic rumours of a curse, but during its development it also drew upon an established tradition of horror literature, one almost as old as the Western pursuit of Egyptology.
In this Devil’s Advocate, Doris V. Sutherland analyses the roots of The Mummy. Her book discusses the film in relation to the work of writers such as Bram Stoker, Arthur Conan Doyle and H. Rider Haggard; authors whose tales of living mummies, immortal sorcerers and Egyptian mysticism bear strong resemblances to Universal’s movie. Offering an overview of the contemporary cinematic landscape, the book looks at how The Mummy was informed not only by horror pictures but also by filmic depictions of a ancient Egypt. Finally, Sutherland examines The Mummy‘s status as the starting point of a cinematic subgenre, with an array of sequels, remakes and imitations attempting to recapture its appeal for subsequent generations.
This is the story of what happened when Hollywood horror went to Egypt.