The Graves of Egypt

Seems I’ve spent the better part of my life amongst the dead.

– John Banning

For Day 18, I decided to hit up an old standby – the 1959 Hammer horror feature, The Mummy. It’s one of my favourites, and I tend to default to it on those occasions I want to watch something but can’t decide what. It’s another Peter Cushing – Christopher Lee joint, with Lee playing yet another mute antagonist to Cushing’s voluble hero.

That’s not to say it’s not a good film, however. As in Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Lee does a lot of acting with his eyes and body language, wonderfully conveying the immortal Kharis’ anguish and rage. He makes for a lean, loping mummy in contrast to the slow-moving sorts seen in other films. Kharis gets to smash through a lot of doors and throttle a lot of Englishmen, showing off his demonic power in well-lit parlours and entry-halls.

Cushing’s John Banning isn’t as memorable as his Victor Frankenstein, or his Van Helsing, but he holds his own against the rampaging Kharis well enough. Like Lee, Cushing had a talent for taking a relatively shallow role and imbuing it with some vitality. His Banning is quick to accept the existence of the mummy, and even quicker to formulate strategies to combat it.

The film is a slick, pulpy rehash of two of the Universal mummy films, The Mummy’s Hand (1940) and The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), with a climax reminiscent of the final film in that franchise, The Mummy’s Ghost (1944). It moves at a fair clip, taking us from an unimpressive Egypt set to the more familiar environs of England, where Kharis engages in some picturesque murders until being dispatched by the combination of a firing squad and a handy bog.

If it’s not as memorable as either Curse of Frankenstein (1957) or Dracula (1958), it’s still an entertaining film and one I can watch again and again. If you’ve never seen it, I suggest you give it a try.