The Mummy

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I’ve seen very few films produced by Hammer, a British film company that thrived from the mid-50s through the 1970s, but as a fan of cinema, I’ve certainly felt their influence. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee became stars with the company, leading directly to their casting as Grand Moff Tarkin and Saruman the White, respectively. After watching The Mummy, I’m pretty much doomed to start making my way through the entire catalog. Terence Fisher’s retelling of the mummy monster story excels in its sense of place. The movie opens in Egypt, where a group of British archaeologists have uncovered the lost tomb of an ancient divine priestess, and in typical imperialistic fashion, give little thought to the ramifications of their ignorant plundering. A mummy awakes and eventually makes its way to England to seek revenge. The movie is filled with ornate sets and a legitimate sense of tension as the mummy pragmatically seeks revenge on those who disturbed the priestess’s tomb. The horror comes not from violence or gore, but from the foreboding sense of doom awaiting the characters. Peter Cushing has one of the all-time great faces of cinema, and it’s never boring to watch it twist in terror. This movie reminded me fondly of the old Val Lewton horror films of the 40s, which relied on light and shadow and implied violence to build scares in the age of strict censors. I really loved the decadent lushness this movie managed to achieve on what was surely a limited budget. This is a solid choice for those that prefer their horror movies free from gore and extreme violence.

PLACE HOLD

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Some of the best film art was created to advertise Hammer horror movies. The library owns a gorgeous oversize book digging through the archives.

Hammer horror legend Christopher Lee’s memoir is definitely worth seeking out.