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Monster of the Month: The Mummy
Remind Me

The Mummy - Sundays in October

Beginning with silent films of the early 20th century and continuing through contemporary franchises, mummies have captured the imaginations of horror-movie fans everywhere. These bandage-wrapped relics of Egypt's past are not only terrifying, but often touching in their own way as lumbering symbols of destroyed civilizations and lost loves.

The earliest known film to focus on a mummy was La momie du roi, a French silent released in 1909. At least three shorts sharing the title The Mummy were released in the U.S. in 1911, with other silents on the same theme following in succeeding years. In 1932, Universal Studios launched its franchise of six horror films on the topic with The Mummy, which was said to have starred "Boris Karloff and 150 yards of gauze." Other mummy films included a popular series of four pictures by England's Hammer Films, running from 1959 to 1971, and since 1999 mummies have endured a lasting presence in film. Below are the mummy films in TCM's tribute this month.

Mummy's Boys (1936) stars the comedy team of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey as ditch-diggers who join an Egyptian expedition, headed by a man (Frank M. Thomas) who wants to restore stolen treasures to an ancient king's tomb in order to avoid a "mummy's curse."

The Mummy's Hand (1940) was the second installment in Universal's "Mummy" series, with Tom Tyler replacing Boris Karloff in the role of the marauding mummy, Kharis. Dick Foran and Peggy Moran are among the adventurers threatened by the creature, who wants to destroy the invaders of the 3,000-year-old tomb of an Egyptian princess.

The Mummy's Ghost (1944, TCM premiere), the fourth installment in the Universal series, stars Lon Chaney Jr. as Kharis. This entry has John Carradine as a high priest who travels from Egypt to America to retrieve the mummies of Kharis and his princess, Ananka. The princess is played by the beautiful Ramsey Ames, who also appears as a contemporary character who may be the reincarnation of Ananka.

The Mummy's Curse (1944, TCM premiere), the fifth of the Universal series, marked Chaney's third and final appearance as Kharis. The action is again set in America, with mysterious goings on in a swamp where the mummy and his bride (now played by Virginia Christine) were buried. Peter Coe also stars.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955) is the sixth and final "Mummy" movie in the Universal series as well as the 28th and final Abbott/Costello film produced by the studio. As part of their popular comedy/horror series, Bud and Lou play Americans in Cairo who stumble onto a plot to steal ancient treasures. Eddie Parker plays the mummy Kharis in a cast that also includes Marie Windsor, Michael Ansara and Peggy King.

Pharaoh's Curse (1957) was released through United Artists and concerns a group of archeologists in Egypt who discover one of their own has been turned into a blood-sucking mummy. The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy (1958), a Mexican horror film that incorporates elements of science fiction, focuses on a mad scientist with plans to steal Aztec treasurers from a mummy's tomb.

Rounding out our "Mummy" showcase are four productions from Hammer Films, some borrowing elements from the Universal series: The Mummy (1959), starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee; The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964), starring Terence Howard; The Mummy's Shroud (1967), starring John Phillips and Elizabeth Sellars; and Blood From the Mummy's Tomb (1971), starring Andrew Keir and Mark Edwards.

by Roger Fristoe