Universal Pictures had the feather in its cap as creating some of the classic golden age horror movies of American cinema. Having seen both versions it’s amazing though that they not only changed the story with of the remake but altered characters to make the new one more of a display of special effects of the time.
The first version of “The Mummy” came out in 1932 and stared Boris Karloff. Despite what you would think he hardly walks around in his bandages. In fact he only does that at the very beginning of the movie. It starts with some archeologist digging out Im-ho-tep’s sarcophagus. They read the curse on the inscription that says he was buried alive for sacrilege but open it anyway and read from the scroll of Thoth. This brings him back to life. Only one man sees this happen though and he is goes mad after seeing a mummified human shamble away.
Ten years later Im-ho-tep is disguised as a regular Egyptian named Ardath Bey. He doesn’t care about destroying the world or causing pain to untold thousands he basically wants to steal the scroll of Thoth back to resurrect his dead girlfriend. But he finds out his girlfriend’s soul is trapped in the body of a socialite, Helen, played by Zita Johann, and must be sacrificed for the ritual to work. She eventually summons the aid of Isis who fires out a beam destroying the scroll and causing Im-ho-tep to crumble into a skeleton.
It’s a creepy love story from beyond the grave. It was definitely a good one but as anyone who as seen the 1999 version with Brendan Fraser will know these movies are different as night and day. First let’s talk about the cast. In the original the leading male, Frank Whemple, played by David Manners sort of took a back seat. Meanwhile the lead we get in the 1999 version is the Encino Man himself Brendan Fraser. An American in the French Foreign Legion stationed in Egypt built as a poor man’s Indiana Jones, Rick O’Connell.
The Helen has gone from the classy socialite who can pretty much take care of herself to the librarian damsel in distress, Evy Carnahan, played by Rachel Weisz. When she isn’t getting herself kidnapped she is making laughably goofy faces with the hero as if to say “As if you can do better out here.” So because O’Connell knows the location of a secret city they hire him to help uncover it. The expedition helps reveal a book which some dupes read from this bringing Imotep to life.
In this version he has to go around draining the folks that read from the book and have his canopic jars to gain strength and look human. It’s actually kind of a cool effect. The heroes are followed by a guy named ARDETH BEY. Played by Oded Fehr, but I just think of him as the man whore in “Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo”. They have to content with the fact this Mummy wants Evy to sacrifice for the same reason as the old version. But for some reason this one also can magically cause the ten plagues of Egypt and has more magical ability than Gandalf the Grey.
I know this is nitpicking but that is REALLY stupid. He was cursed with this horrible death that involved death by being mummified alive and for some reason having scarab beetles poured on him (which shouldn’t do anything to him unless he is made of vegetation or poop). So what was the brilliant plan of the Egyptian leaders there? If he comes back he’ll have all the powers of a god? So why bury the book that makes him an immortal badass with him? Anyway it’s a plot hole in the original as well. If you are going to put someone to death just make sure you don’t put the key to immortality buried next to them to resurrect them.
So the heroes tangle with him in various forms so the producers can show their CGI prowess. Then during the ritual to resurrect his girlfriend it turns out there is another book that will kill him. So they read form that book and his soul gets taken by a ghostly chariot. O’Connell runs him through and he falls in some sort of ghostly water and dies. Then heroes get rich on the gold of the temple.
Yes I have left a lot out. It’s a cheesy movie to say the least but it can be enjoyable in the right mood. They are both so wildly different that saying both are even in the same league is pretty wrong. I do prefer the original mostly because I like the simplicity and the fact that it doesn’t seem to insult the audience’s intelligence by throwing more CGI to make up for a lack of story and some really BAD comic relief. I recommend seeing them both just to compare the two. It is a strange what 67 years difference will do.