[Podcast] The Mummy (1932) – Episode 11 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“’Death… eternal punishment… for… anyone… who… opens… this… casket. In the name… of Amon-Ra… the king of the gods.’ Good heavens, what a terrible curse!” intones Sir Joseph Whemple as he translates the inscription found within the tomb of Imhotep in The Mummy (1932), one of Universal’s classic monster films. Join the Decades of Horror: The Classic Era’s Grue Crew – Chad Hunt, Erin Miskell, Jeff Mohr, and Joseph Perry – as we conduct our own “dig,” dusting off the artifacts we discover, inspecting them from every angle, and discussing what we find.

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 11 – The Mummy (1932)

Directed by famed cinematographer Karl Freund, The Mummy was Universal Studio’s response to the public’s apparent thirst for horror films while simultaneously taking advantage of the free marketing created by the discovery and archeological excavation of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. There had even been a story in the New York Times sensationalizing the tomb’s alleged curse by counting off fourteen associated deaths. Universal’s Carl Laemmle Jr. knew the foundation for a film legend when he saw one and he set writers Richard Shayer, Nina Wilcox Putnam, and John Balderston to work. Laemmle next paired Boris Karloff, fresh off Frankenstein (1931) and The Old Dark House (1932), with legendary Universal Studios makeup artist Jack Pierce; added the talented stage actor Zita Johann as the female lead; and rounded off the cast with supporting regulars Edward Van Sloan, David Manners, Noble Johnson, Arthur Byron, and Bramwell Fletcher. Thus a film icon was born.

Listen as we discuss the answers to these questions: How did Zita Johann and Karl Freund get along? How did the story morph from Putnam’s and Shayer’s vision of Allesandro Cagliostro to Balderston’s Imhotep? Why take a chance on first time director Karl Freund? What does Dracula (1931) have to do with The Mummy? For that matter, what does The Mummy have to do with 150 episodes of I Love Lucy (1951-56)?  Or Red Planet Mars (1952)? Or the 1961-64 seasons of Mister Ed? How does The Mummy’s classic poster rank historically?

If you’re paying attention, you’ll also hear which of us makes these comments:

  • “The voices and speech patterns of some of the other actors struck me as just this side of the helium tank at times.”
  • “Even without the mummified makeup he’s still a creepy-looking dude.”
  • “I’m not sure what you’re asking.” “Neither am I. You’re just supposed to come up with an answer.”
  • “He gives birth to one of the most unrealistic man-screams in the history of Hollywood.”

For What It’s Worth Dept.:

  • Hear our second reference to The Honeymooners and our second reference to Iron Maiden.
  • Hear Chad say Ankh-es-en-amon at least 6 times without stumbling once.

We plan to release a new episode every other week. Our upcoming and very flexible schedule includes Village of the Damned (1960), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), and Jû jin yuki otoko (original 1955 Japanese version, aka Half Human),

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era and what films you’d like to hear us cover! We want to hear from you! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about thefilms we love. Send us an email  (chadhunt@gruesomemagazine.com, erinmiskell@gruesomemagazine.com, jeffmohr@gruesomemagazine.com, or josephperry@gruesomemagazine.com) or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, the Horror News Radio App, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you for listening!

Jeff Mohr

Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an “Old Boy.” Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk. Jeff has written for Horrornews.net and SQ Horror Magazine and co-hosted the SQ Bloodlines podcast. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is co-host of the Decades of Horror The Classic Era and 1970s podcasts.


  • Hi folks,

    How’s about a list of possible movies for future podcasts. (I went in and pulled a few pre-1970 titles from my media server that I’ve enjoyed for one reason or another.) And *speaking* of pre-1970 titles from my media server I’ve enjoyed, I was excited to hear you announce Half Human as an upcoming episode! That particular movie happens to reside on said server, and will be well worth your time, I think. I thought it was an interesting (and unexpected) follow up to Godzilla by Ishiro Honda. (Actually, what resides on my server is the original Japanese version of the movie, Jūjin Yuki Otoko. I’ve never seen the American mash up released as Half Human. Comparing differing versions of movies is a favorite pastime of mine, so I’d like to take a look at the American version some time as well.)

    Anyway, here’s the list:

    Devil Doll 1964
    Cat People 1942 (brilliant!)
    Catacombs 1965 (interesting little British horror thriller)
    The Uninvited 1944 (I love this movie–so atmospheric and genuinely creepy at times)
    Dead of Night 1946
    The Witch Returns 1952 (wonderfully shot Finnish film)
    Tarantula 1955
    The Abominable Snowman 1957 (interesting early Peter Cushing role, I think)
    Night of the Demon 1957 (also with an American counterpart, as I’m sure you know)
    She Devil 1957 (interesting b-movie, based on a short story “The Adaptive Ultimate”)
    Santos vs. the Vampire Women 1962 (can’t go wrong here!)
    Reptilicus 1963 (Danish version is my favorite, but fun to compare with the American)
    Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors 1965 (or any of the pre-70s Amicus films)
    Planet of the Vampires 1965 (a sci-fi setting, but very creepy and atmospheric in my opinion)

    The Invisible Man Appears 1949
    The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly 1957

    (these two are a couple of Japanese takes on the invisible man theme, interesting if for no other reason than they’re a couple of Japanese takes on the invisible man theme)

    (And of course it’s hard to go wrong with any of the classic Hammer takes on Universal’s monsters. Plenty of pre-1970 stuff to pull from there)
    The Curse of Frankenstein 1957
    The Curse of the Werewolf 1961
    Dracula 1958
    The Mummy 1959
    The Reptile 1966

    etc. etc.

    I guess some of those movies stray more into science fiction territory. You all can decide what fits the podcast’s framework. Oh, I do actually have a few comments to make on the The Mummy as well, but will add them in separately in a bit.

    Cheers.

    • Jeff Mohr

      Salty,
      Excellent lists! Many of these are on our to-do list already. We might just have to bump them up. Incidentally, we will be doing Jû jin yuki otoko, the original Japanese version of Half Human. And we have to get something Hammer in soon! Thank you once again for continuing to listen AND provide feedback!
      Jeff

      • Good to hear, Jeff. I look forward to seeing what shows up in the future. You all are doing a really nice job of mixing well known classics in with interesting lower key stuff. Nice balance, in my opinion.

        • Thanks, Salty! We had fun discussing your list and, as Jeff said, we had several titles in common. You gave us some ideas for the future, as well. We always appreciate hearing from you, sir!

  • For the record, hearing “gives birth to” and “man-scream” in the same sentence spontaneously brought about a pretty bizarre visualization involving, well, giving birth to a man-scream. But it was like, a woman… actually giving birth… to a creepy, writhe-y, squeal-y little man-screaming creature. And then the woman was screaming, too (’cause of course you would)….

    And that’s just where my mind goes sometimes, due to that steady diet of horror and sci-fi during my more formative years. My wife is (mostly) used to it.

    Anyway, I greatly enjoyed your all’s take on this fine old film. It’s a favorite of mine, in spite of being so short of shambling, dustily-wrapped mummy action. It makes up for that with Karloff’s fantastic performance as Ardath Bey. While Pierce’s full-on mummy makeup is certainly amazing, I think the understatement of that parched Ardath Bey makeup is just as phenomenal. You hardly notice it most of the film, but when those close-ups come into frame, man is it effective–human but not quite human. Almost an uncanny valley effect.

    And while the movie lacks shambling-arms-outstreched-monster-ness, it treats you to a reasonably intelligent script the later Universal and Hammer mummy movies would lack (although Hammer’s first attempt did alright for itself in that department). I suppose my perfect-world mummy movie would be a combination of the two types. Watching this one, I often find myself wishing for more wrapped mummy mayhem, but watching the likes of The Mummy’s Hand or The Mummy’s Shroud generally has me pining for a little more of the story and dialogue this movie delivers on. And man, this movie just OOZES atmosphere–so well put together visually.

    I pull this one out every few years for a revisit, and it never disappoints. With all the mummy movies out there (including a few good ones), that close-up of Ardath Bey is the image that immediately pops into mind when I hear the words “The Mummy.” Unless someone says something about birthing and man-screaming and mummy. Then I get a completely different image.

    I enjoyed hearing backstory on the unsettled relationship between actress Zita and director Karl. Worth another re-watch just to take that all in and see how it shows itself.

    At any rate, great film and great podcast. I’m a mummy fan, with all the Universal and Hammer mummy films under my roof with me. (So glad the days of scouring TV Guide and setting VCR timers are behind us.) Enjoyed the Brendan Fraser films–at least the first couple, but they struck me as more adventure-fantasy than horror. Still fun though. Haven’t gotten around to Tom Cuise’s take on it yet, missed that in theaters so it’s on my Netflix list. I know it’s gotten a bad rap, but I’m willing to wait and see if it works for me the way Fraser’s did: action fantasy. We’ll see.

    Cheers.

    • Jeff Mohr

      Mr Essentials,
      Thanks again for the feedback! We always enjoy your comments!

      I think we’re all pretty much on the same page on The Mummy – an extremely atmospheric film with brilliant performances by Karloff and Johann along with Freund’s direction and Pierce’s makeup. I might have to throw it in again after reading your comments. I’m with you on the VCR timers too. Way too many things could go wrong, not the least of which in the country was our TV signal and the reliability of our power.

      Thanks again & Sweet Screams!
      Jeff

  • Hey folks, thought I’d stop in and let you know I finally got around to Tom Cruise’s take on The Mummy. It was… okay. Not bad. Decent, I guess. Not a horror film, by any stretch, but neither was Brenden Fraser’s and I liked that alright. Sigh, I don’t know. This whole “Let’s make an action movie shared universe out of the classic Universal monsters” thing is just never gonna work for me. I keep hoping someone will have an epiphany and say “Hey, you know how Peter Jackson took the beloved and revered original King Kong and carefully, lovingly created something new that understood and honored it’s source? We should do that with our classic monsters!” Is that too crazy a thing to hope for? How about a new, period mummy film that actually honors the actors and filmmakers involved in the 1932 film? THAT would be exciting. As it was, the Cruise film was fine–not The Mummy in any way shape or form, but if I just scratched the movie title from my memory and watched it as popcorn fare, it did alright. But seriously, where’s Universal’s Peter Jackson? There’s got to be some talented person out there with an obsessive love for the classic monsters, just waiting for the chance to do it right….