Karl Freund

In 1931 Carl Laemmle’s son decided to start a series of horror films based on classic horror stories . He had been trying to convince his father to do this but his father thought it would not work. So when Jr. made a version of Dracula which was a gib success, his father admitted the kid was right.

Dracula, of course, is the famous story by Bram Stroker which had been previously filmed as Nosferatu by Murnau. The film was done without permission from the Stoker estate and ordered destroyed but some copies were missed. There are some interesting legal problems with this as to how close the film was to the book to claim it is the same story.

None the less, Dracula became a play and then became a film directed by Tod Browning who had done Freaks. The film was, except for the opening, very stagy. They hired cinematographer Karl Freud, a German, who had worked with Ufa and done such films as early Hound of the Baskervilles (1914) Der Januskopf (1920), Der Golem (1920) Der letzte Mann (1824), Metropolis (1927) and pioneered the moving camera and was also responsible for the last sequence in All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) Dracula (1931) and Key Largo (1948). Later he went into television and pioneered the use of the three camera approach used in broadcasting. He worked on Our Miss Brooks, and I Love Lucy

Bela Lugosi who was from the Hungarian/Roumanian area, found his way to America where he was hired to play Dracula on the stage. He campaigned for and finally got the film role (he was basically unknown). The play had been a success and used the idea of having a nurse stand by. Women fainted during the play when Dracula came into the bed room (they may have been planted there). Lugosi’s failure to learn English well and his use of drugs clearly inhibited his appearances and his career went nowhere. His last performance is in Ed Wood's fiasco Plan Nine From Outer Space.

John L. Balderston rewrote the script for the film from the Garrett Fort play

Dracula was filmed in the day time in Englsh, and a Spanish version was shot at might and is generally consider the better of rhe two. George Melford directed and George Robinson filmed the Spanish version

Dracula was followed by Frankenstein (also rewritten from the play by Balderston and this time directed by James Whale, This film did even better than Dracula and Lugosi’s refusal to play the monster ("a part any stupid stunt man could play").led to the part going to a relatively unknown actor named Boris Karloff who is listed only as “Karloff” in the closing credits (and a ? in the opening ones. Lugosi maintains it was the biggest mistake of his life. Karloff who is the son of an British diplomat Edward John Pratt Jr. Eliza Sara Millard. His PATERNAL GRANDPARENTS were Edward John Pratt and Eliza Julia Edwards whose sister, Anna Leonowens whose writings about the Royal Court in Siam became the basis of Anna and the Kinf of Siam which is he basis of the musical The King and I. Karloff’s family were diplomats but he deliberately failed the exam and ran away to Canada to become and actor.

Whale met Karloff through a friend they had in common who had seen him In The Criminal Code and thought he fit the image Whale had for the monster (rather cadeveous)

The film was a huge success and Universal continued in its making fo horror films. The Murders in the Rue Morgue with Lugosi followed – directed by Roert Florey who had done a Marx Brothers film Coconuts but went on to do a good deal of TV

J.B.’s Priestly’s The Old Dark House followed with Karloff. This was directed by Kames Whals

The last two did not produce a non real “monster” that had the impact of Dracula and Frankenstein

In 1932 the last of Universal's major monsters of the 30’s appeared in The Mummy . This time Karloff returned and Freund was promoted to director and Charles Stumar was the camera operator (doubtless terrified working under such a famous one as Freund. This is also the first horror film that did come from an earlier famous work. It was written as a vehicle called Cagliostro Nina Wilcox Putnam and Richard Schayer. Cagliostro (Giuseppe (Joseph) Balsamo) Balsamo was involved in mysticism and seems to have been involved with a diamond necklace theft involving a Marie Antoinette necklace. He is also credited with the Egyptian Rite in Freemasonry

He had claimed to have lived through the centuries. In the original story, people are killed by the use of radio and TV waves and there is a telescreen on which Cagliostro watched

The story underwent many changes and was in part rewritten by John Balderston and the story took a turn. There are many parallels with the Dracula story

Clearly the story was influenced by the finding of the tomb of King Tut in 1922. Howard Carter (9 May 1874 – 2 March 1939) and the concomitant “Curse” which got a lot of play in the press. Lord Carnarvan (26 June 1866 – 5 April 1923)

Freund, it is claimed was looking for a scape goat in case the film went badly and chose Zita Johann as the person because she was newly arrived from a stage career in NY. Didn’t work. He worked endlessly often not stopping til dawn. The film came in under budget (less than 200,000).

Zita johann was a famous stage actress and hated Hollywood. She was brought there by her husband, since she commanded a much greated salary than on Bway. She claimed she had more respect for prostitutes on 42nd Street than Hollywood crowd. Something of a mystic approached acting fairly religiously. Loved Karloff.

The incredible make up was done by famous Jack Pierce

Notice the moving camera work, which was pioneered by Freund. Watch the build up of tension in the opening scenes. How are they done


The Mummy is the first of the films that deal with a a previously normal human transformed into something “unnatural”

Mummies of course are best known in Egypt where they were deliberately prepared (as opposed to accidentally made by having died in an very dry climate).

The West’s interest in Egypt is long standing and the three large pyramids on the Giza Plateau near Cairo were one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world (and are the only surviving ones.

Egyptian material was not well known and the hieroglyphic writing system was lost. It was only through the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt when he found the Rosetta stone, which had the same message in three different forms. A brilliant linguist named Francois Champollion broke the system and as a result the enormous body of literature about ancient Egypt written by the Egyptians became available.

An Egyptologist, Howard Carter working for Lord Carnarvan, after searcging for years on 4 Nov, 1922 found the in tact tomb of a relatively unknown Pharaoh named King Tut. This discovery resonated throughout the Western world and much of it went “Egyptian happy”

In this film, the Mummy’s name is Imhotep and his lost love in Ankhesenamun. Imhotep is actually the name of the person who was the engineer for the pyraminds, while Ankhesenamun is the name of King Tut’s wife! In later universal films, the mummy’s name changes to Kharis and Ankhesenamun becomes Ananka which is close to the name of the Greek personification of unalterable necessity, Anake (called Fatum by the Romans)

While the opening of the tomb of King Tut is clearly involved in the mummy story, the curse associated with King Tut also plays a role.

The Mummy films made by Hammer Studios which we will discuss later this term, also called their Mummy Kharis and the princess Ananka

For Universal Studios this was the third of the big four monster movies to come out. It was preceded by Dracula and Frankenstein and would be followed by The Wolf Man (1941). There were other horror films coming out with creatures that might appear to be monsters in them (Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), The invisible Man (1933) for example) but these did not produce the same reaction about the general public as did the earlier ones who failed to produce a sequence of films. It would be many years before Universal would latch onto another “popular” monster in the form of the Creature from the Black Lagoon for who a set of sequels would follow.

The Mummy stars Boris Karloff once again (after Frankenstein and Fu Manchu), and Zita Johann an actress of some repute from the Broadway stage. She made only 8 films, The Mummy being the third. Her experiences with The Mummy caused her to leave Hollywood and resume her stage career which she did with great success. She died close to 90 in Nyack, NY

As bizarre as it may seem, the film started its life totally disconnected with mummies and ancient Egypt and was in fact a science fiction script which featured a kind of early television set. This set morphs into the pool in which the mummy shows her past lives, although only one past life appears in the released version of the film.

The story is interesting since it contains a number of Egyptian elements tied around a totally un-Egyptian idea – that a mummy would come back to life and cause murder and mayhem to the person or people who despoil its (or anyone else’s) tomb. Despite this, the film tends has a number of Egyptian references and Egyptian names which are accurate to a point. The screen writer had in fact covered the opening of King Tut’s tomb as a reporter and knew a good deal about what had happened and the layout of Cairo and so on.

In this original Mummy film, the mummy is not running around in his wrappings throughout the film as happens in later films. In this film the mummy that returns to life is that of Imhotep, who becomes the rather elderly looking Ardath Bey whose skin, thanks to some brilliant photography by Charles Sturner and remarkable make-up by Jack Pierce looks almost translucent, and on occasion and something akin to old papyrus. Imhotep is of course, a proper Egyptian name and it belongs to the architect of the pyramids, although it is unlikely that the mummy is actually supposed to represent him.

Imhotep/Ardath Bey is sufficiently “ancient Egyptian” that he correctly begins his prayer to Isis with the words “Nebet nebet”. Somebody did their research.

The name of the ancient Egyptian princess Anckesen-Amon, (reincarnated as Helen Grosvenor and beautifully played by Zita Johann) is also an actual Egyptian name, generally spelled Ankhsenamun (which is closer to what is actually said in the film). Ankhsenamun (changed from Ankhsenpaaten) is the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. Ankhsenamun became the wife of King Tutankhamun (who had changed his name from Tutankhaten – the Egyptians seem to like to change names). By the Mummy’s Curse (1944) the Princess is now Anaka. Ardeth Bey is a double joke. Karloff has a slight list and pronounces Boris, Borith. In pig Latin this becomes orith bey

The mummy’s name is changed for some unknown reason for Imhotep in this film to Kharis in the films that follow. The result is that the cycle of mummy films which follow (The Mummy’s Hand (1940) (Tom Tylor), The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), the Mummy’s Curse (1944) The Mummy’s Ghost (1944) ) is often referred to as the Kharis cycle. It is not clear if this is the same mummy (having changed his name) or another mummy altogether. Kharis remains Kharis thereafter although the person inside varies between Tim Tyler, Lon Chaney Jr.. The priest who keeps him alive (so to speak) is named Andoheb (possibly based on Imhotep).

Kharis and Anaka are not Egyptian names, but may come from ancient Greek. Kharis (χάρις) means “grace, favor or gratitude”. Ananke ( ανακε???) is the Greek personification of of necessity which can not be changed by Gods or people. Of course it is equally possible that Ananka is simply a variant constructed on the Egyptian “ankh”.

Ardeth Bay is a double joke. Boris Karloff had a slight lisp and a British accent which often turns “r” into something akin to “d”.As a result he often pronounced his first name as Bahdith. In pig Latin this becomes Ahdith Bay or Ardeth Bay. Ardeth Bay is also an anagram for “death by Ra”

Ancient Egyptian Film Site Mummy and Sequels

The Mummy 1932 Boris Karloff – The original
The Mummy’s Hand 1940) Tom Tyler (eyes removed)
The Mummy’s Tomb 1942 (Chaney)
The Mummy’s Ghost (1944) (Actually reunites with Anaka as old woman)
The Mummys Curse (1944)
The Mummy’s Tomb- Lon Chaney, Jr - What happens with sequels - Classic version – the mummy remains wrapped
Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1938)
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy 1955 - Edwin Parker - The final blow – parody
The Mummy 1959 Christopher Lee – The Mummy goes physically powerful
The Mummy 1999 Arnold Vosloo - The Mummy goes computer graphic
The Mummy has been a staple in films since the 1932 version appeared with Boris Karloff. Earlier mummy films had been made, but they were comedies. The discovery of the tomb of King Tutankkamen by Howard Carter on Nov. 4th 1922, only 10 years before the film was made, caused a sensation. The death of his patron Lord Carnarvon added just the right amount of ghoulishness to the proceedings to start to the idea of a curse.

Since the 1932, the Mummy has been appearing regularly in the horror genre, and engenders questions about the nature of sequels, remakes, citation and quotations”. In the 1932 film, Im-ho-tep/Ardath Bey (Karloff) spends most of his time “out of bandages”. The Universal films which followed generally depict the mummy as swathed in bandages as he rampages throughout the film.

By 1959, Hammer Studios (sometimes known as the house that dripped blood), revived itself by producing a series of horror films based on the earlier Universal films. Christopher Lee’s Mummy, like his Dracula was far more physically powerful and the nature of the beast (so to speak) was altered.
By 1999 a new Mummy appeared looking for all the world like a video game gone amok. Arnold Vosloo now playing Im-ho-tep is assisted dramatically by the new field of computer graphics and the Mummy’s appearance has changes dramatically.
The films, of course, play fast and loose with ancient Egyptian culture, as one might expect. Interestingly enough the earlier films are more accurate. Im-ho-tep is the name of the architect of the first pyramids. Near the end of the film Ardath Bey prays to Isis and starts his prayer Nebet, nebet, the correct opening of ancient Egyptian prayers. For reasons that are unclear, Im-ho-tep become Kharis and continues in this vein until resurrected in the 1999 version which has innumerable errors in it (there are 4 canopic jars, not five; officers in the foreign legion had to be French; hieroglyphs are read into the face of the animal glyphs, not left to right or right to left, etc.)

Undead creatures in a romantic relation with a live womn
Isis + cross
Hypnotic power
There is in the film a movement through time and space - reflected in part by the pan in the film from museum across Cairo to Helen at dance. (What is her malady?)

The complexities of the shift from a kind of sci fi film to the mummy necessitates changes such the sci fi video screen becomes the pool into which Ardeth Bey and Helen look

Original form had many scenes involving much reincarnation in which Anckesen-Amon is reincarnated in various time periods before becoming Helen. These were shot but were not used. Note credit for SAXON WARRIOR.

Interesting questions about relationship between culture and genetics – attachment to old culture (many in Hollywood from European to American cultures)