Universal Studios took a big step up in production quality between 1931’s “Dracula” and 1932’s “The Mummy.” The story of Imhotep, an ancient Egyptian whose punishment for sacrilege was to be buried alive and denied passage to the afterlife may be familiar from the special-effects heavy, 1999 version with Brendan Frasier. As I recall, that version was not bad, but the original is worth checking out as well.
The tale begins with a couple of archaeologists examining a mummy and an old scroll. They accidentally animate the mummy, Imhotep (Boris Karloff), and invoke an ancient curse. Ten years later, Imhotep returns disguised as an intense, wrinkly, modern Egyptian. He leads a new archaeological team to dig up the tomb of his dead lover. When he tries to re-animate her mummy, his spells instead awaken her spirit in a young, part-Egyptian westerner, Helen Grosvenor. Imhotep sets about trying to make Helen into his lost love, and the archaeologists face the ancient curse to save her.
Truth be told, “The Mummy” is thematically quite similar to “Dracula.” Both involve an ancient, undead being with intense eyes who casts his spell over a young woman. “The Mummy” feels much more modern, however, partly because the production quality is so much higher and partly because instead of being a typical damsel in distress, Helen rises up to defend herself in the end.