In SILVER SCREEN CLASSICS’ blogathon, participants are asked:
“In 150 – 200 words, what was the first classic horror film that you can remember seeing?”
“It could be that first horror film that left a lasting impression, rather than the very first one you remember seeing. The good news is that there are no limitations to write about as there are so many to choose from. Keeping a short word limit should hopefully make it an easier task as well.”
~ ( Click the above poster for a directory of participants ) ~
With MY journey in classic films starting 60 years ago, I can barely remember my first time for ANYthing. What I can say is that in my recent sojourns with horror movies, my sympathy has come to lie with ‘The Monster.’ Lord knows in these troubling times, I wouldn’t give a hill of beans or a plug nickel for human beings.
Now, I don’t remember my first time seeing Karl Freund’s 1932 classic “THE MUMMY.” I’m sure when I first saw the movie, I was probably scared to death of this 3000 year-old corpse come to Life. One of the last times I saw it on the big screen, was actually at the TCM Classic Film Festival . . . in Grauman’s Egyptian theater . . . at a midnight show . . . introduced by actor Ron Perlman. The whole atmosphere walking through the courtyard to see this movie, and now almost 2 in the morning walking OUT through the darkened courtyard freaked me out.
There’s so much I like about this movie:
◊ The creakiness and quietness of it being from 1932; closer to Silents than Talkies. Not a big musical score throughout the film, hence the quiet
◊ The atmosphere ~ lighting, art direction,
◊ The Acting:
♠ The two older men ( Arthur Byron and Edward Van Sloan ) play Sir Joseph Whemple and Dr. Muller, debating between Science and Occult Myths.
Sir Joseph Whemple: “An execution for treason I suppose.”
Dr. Muller: “Sacrilege more likely. So Imhotep was sentenced to death not only in this world, but in the next. The gods of Egypt still live in these hills. These are ruined temples. The ancient spells are weaker, but some of them are still potent. And I believe you have in your hut the Scroll of Thoth itself, which contains the great spell of which Isis raised Osiris from the dead.”
♠ Bramwell Fletcher, eager beaver, tousled haired blonde archaeologist, from his cavalier remark . . .
“Now what COULD you have done to make them treat you like that.”
. . . to opening up Pandora’s box and his scream when he sees the Mummy is standing next to him:
Frank Whemple: “Queer story that Oxford chap he had with him going mad.”
Man #2: “He was laughing when your father found him. He died laughing. In a strait-jacket.”
♠ That’s young David Manners on the left playing Frank Whemple, archaeologist ~ ( I’m always a sucker for the clean-cut, collegiate type ) ~ he played many a stalwart hero in a lot of early 30’s movies.
An archaeological find is placed in his lap ~ by a man with first–hand experience ~ when Ardath Bey ( Karloff ) tells Frank where exactly to dig up the Princess Anck-es-on Amon.
I like actor David Manners from the way he says “And was it hot! Whew! That tomb.” . . .
. . . to how he pitches woo in his stiff upper lip way. Fast worker:
He’s not believing the mumbo jumbo his father or his Dad’s dear old friend is dishing out. He just wants the girl.
“Don’t try and make ME believe that this Ardath fellow is a mummy come to life. It was that idea and the horror of it that killed my father.”
♠ Zita Johann is good as the young woman torn between two worlds. She does not look typical of the time. There’s an other worldly look about the actress. She’s good when she slips INTO the persona of Princess Anck-es-on Amon near the end of the movie.
♠ But it’s KARLOFF the Magnificent driving that bus . . . totally selling the idea of a thing come to “life” after 3000 years. He is absolutely and utterly compelling to watch ~ ( his voice, his eyes, he’s in love ) ~ and NOT merely the majesty of Jack Pierce’s make-up.
As I revisit “THE MUMMY” for this blogathon, I was totally struck and frankly blindsided by the fact that there are scenes in this movie echoed in Hitchcock’s look into obsession with “VERTIGO.”
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Wait wait wait. I take that back, a little bit. I find the word “OBSESSION” such a loaded word. It leans towards negativity. It conjures up visions of voyeurism . . . trying to make a person over . . . taking their free will . . .
Uhhmmmm…maybe that IS just what these two men do. But I moreso see them as just wanting to get their love back.
Please bear with me as I expositionally lay down some breadcrumbs for you as to why I see the mirroring between these two movies, if only in certain scenes, not themes. I’ve got to back track and trace down plot points.
Dagnabit, I’m not going to make that 250-word threshold our blogathon host set. 😦
Ardath Bey and Scottie Ferguson . . . addicted to love?
Ardath Bey is his own ‘Gavin Elster.’ Meaning, the same way Gavin cannot follow his own wife around town to see what she’s up to ~ which is why he hires ‘Scottie Ferguson’ ~ Ardath Bey cannot dig up his own Princess.
( Egyptians are not permitted to dig up their own dead – foreign museums must do that ).
“Your pardon, I dislike to be touched. An Eastern prejudice?”
says Ardath Bey to Sir Joseph Whemple, but will accept an invitation to visit Sir Joseph’s home at a future date.
Once Princess Anck-es-on Amon’s body is out of the ground and on display at the exhibition in the Musee d’Antiquite, Ardath Bey goes to the Museum after-hours to read the Scroll of Thoth over her shrouded body in order to raise her from the dead. When he’s interrupted by the guard, kills him and must hurriedly leave the scroll behind, he pays a visit to Sir Joseph’s place to get that scroll back.
Here’s the thing ~ when Ardath Bey calls out to Anck-es-on Amon over her dead body, a young half-Egyptian woman at a party miles away is actually hearing his call. That’s what brings her to the Museum, and . . .
. . . into the Whemples’ sphere in the first place, speaking a foreign language, and surrounded by eggheads:
Frank Whemple: “What language is that?”
Joseph Whemple: “The language of ancient Egypt, not heard on this earth for 2000 years. And the name of a man unspoken since before the siege of Troy.”
Gawd, I love the drama of this dialogue.
When he goes to the house to try and get that scroll it’s HERE Ardath Bey sees Zita Johannn, for the first time. You know the funny thing is I never picked up on this before; when he calls out to her at the Museum, he does not know that Helen Grosvenor ( Johann ) exists. He has no idea she’s heard his call. When he sees her in the living room, he’s seeing her for the first time and sees that she looks like his Princess Anck-es-on Amon. And what it is is not merely she’s just a look–a–like. She IS her, centuries removed as we’ll see.
It’s something about waking up this Sleeping Beauty that made me think of “VERTIGO.”
These men are hooked . . . not just on the idea of her, but she’s there ~ in the flesh. They get to interact with her. Admittedly, Ardath Bey has history with the Princess from centuries ago. Scottie is the new kid on Cupid’s block, just now meeting his ‘dream girl’ up close . . . unclothed . . . and personal.
But no one will stand in Ardath Bey’s way. He wants that scroll and he wants that girl:
Ardath Bey: “You have studied our ancient arts and you know you cannot harm me. You also know that you must return that scroll to me, or die. Now tell that weak fool to get that scroll wherever it is and he’s to hand it to his Nubian servant.”
Doctor Muller: “If I could get my hands on you I’d break your dried flesh to pieces. But your power is too strong.”
( Looks like the Doc didn’t learn his lesson playing Dr. Van Helsing ).
Dr. Muller realizes this whole ‘Mummy thing’ is bigger than both their Science and Cultural Myths. He gives his old friend Whemple sound advice:
“Burn this scroll man, burn it. It’s through you this horror came into existence.”
“It’s true,” says Sir Joseph, not fighting this any more. “It’s true.”
But it’s really too late for Sir Joseph. When he tries to destroy the Scroll, Ardath Bey has him in a death grip . . . without laying a glove on him.
Remember, his power is too strong.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
If you want to be an ol’ meanie, and look at this in a cold, hard, logical, unadorned, common-sense, facts kinda way, then Midge ~ the other woman in “VERTIGO” played by Barbara Bel Geddes ~ is your girl. She doesn’t exactly pour cold water on Scottie’s reverie, but tries to get at ‘just the facts, man.’ Maybe if he hears it out loud, he’s see how nuts it all sounds:
It doesn’t work.
Helen is really struggling to come to terms with her duality; her being her current 20th century self and this Princess of ancient Egypt. Ardath Bey is also Imhotep. Remember, at first Ardath Bey’s talking to her dead body, but later when he realizes a real live woman is responding to his incantations, and the real life woman who looks like his ex love…IS his ex, it’s on now Toots!
He lures her to the Museum again, and lets her look into his pool of the past to see what they both went through centuries ago:
Ardath Bey / Imhotep: “You will not remember what I show you now. And yet I shall awaken memories of love and crime and death.”
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SAVE ME! SAVE ME!
Madeleine does not really have that same struggle; as Madeleine, her ‘pretense’ is to show Scottie she struggles between herself and the Carlotta character Elster has cooked up. She will later struggle with the duality of being not only Elster’s Madeleine, but her own Judy Barton. In any event, both women implore the men they love, NOT to let them go, though one is really not telling the truth.
Harkening back to the past and then the present, Ardath Bey and Helen have a conversation about what it will take to get back together. But see, in their talk, she is no longer Helen, but the Princess. She’s remembering what the Princess remembers:
Princess Anck-es-on Amon: “I was afraid. When you were kneeling beside my bed, a veil came over my eyes. Darkness.”
Ardath Bey: “Your last memories of me in the hour of your death, as I knelt by your bed 3,700 years ago.”
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
COMING TO GRIPS . . . DO I STAY OR DO I GO?
These two moments are pivotal for our heroines comes to grips with their duality and whether they stay or go.
Helen’s Princess persona is evident here until Ardath Bey touches her and she snaps her out of it. She realizes she IS both people and begs to stay in this world.
“I loved you once, but now you belong with the Dead. I am Ancke-es-on Amon. But I, I’m somebody else too. I want to live in this strange new world.”
Madeleine’s story is similar…but different. She, too, is at a crossroad. She, too, has to leave him behind. Yes, she is duplicitous, but she has a struggle too. It’s not to meet her destiny as Carlotta, though. ‘Madeleine’ is struggling with her real identity: Judy Barton. Kim Novak is truly doing some fine acting in this scene. The struggle continues as Madeleine looks out toward the courtyard, but still succumbs to Scottie’s kisses.
Check out how her vocal intonation changes slightly. We won’t know why yet unless you’ve seen the movie ( several thousand times as I’ve done ) already. It is Judy who comes out for that moment when she struggles to pull away from Scottie. It’s Judy who says: “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. It shouldn’t have happened…Let me go! Please let me go.” And then her voice slightly changes back. It’s a subtle change but it happens.
LAST DITCH ATTEMPT:
They each struggle with their two personas. Here is their last ditch attempt to be saved, Are they asking the wrong person?
You might think these two men are ghoulish and creepy. You may not buy my case that they are trying to reclaim the love they lost. You may think it is a stretch for me comparing certain scenes together. At least you’ve given me a fair hearing if you’ve read my whole post. And for that, I thank you.
Again, click on the Silver Screen Classics banner to read the other entries.
π ξ δ Σ ζ λ θ = Where’ve you guys been?? 😉
I have to mangle a quote from that delightful Matchmaker Benjamin Dingle here, from a movie with which I’m sure you’re familiar–“Damn the 250 word threshold and full speed ahead!” Dagnabit, very fun to read this essay! (had to steal your interjection) I was so intrigued at seeing “dagnabit” I had to look up the origin, sending me on an interesting journey into the world of Yosemite Sam and taboo deformation. Thanks for your insightful comparison between characters, complete with audio visual aids. Looking forward to the next essay!
“THE MORE, THE MERRIER.” Hahaaaaa!! Yes, perfect mangled quote.And I’m sooo happy I sent you down the rabbit hole.
Thank you so much for reading my work. I’m glad you liked it. I don’t know how I got the brainstorm, but I can’t let it go now. I just showed two friends “VERTIGO” for the first time. They liked it, but was disturbed by it. I’m really grateful for your compliment.
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You’re welcome! I took another turn in the rabbit hole and looked up Mel Blanc, the voice of Yosemite Sam. Hilarious!
After all of your hard work inserting the stills and video clips, take a laugh break if you get a chance.🙂
Ha, so good to see your 250 words added to big time.. I kinda lost count too.. High 5! And I am so in the wrong country, Ron Perlman introducing a movie sounds amazing ..
Perlman…yeah, that was a thrill he was there. But the movie in that setting was great.Thanks so much for stopping by here. I hope I have the discipline to get my writing my started again.
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Hope you do too… Perhaps a blogathon is in order.. on your favourite topic.? Then you have the perfect incentive…
THAT…is an idea.
Yay, I always love your blogathons.. now choose your favourite topic of all time…
I love doing blogahtons, hosting them. I love organizing them. But I am having a problem with writing ~stll love movies. Am having a difficult time concentrating. Having a difficult writing. That’s why folks haven’t seen me much. That’s why I haven’t participated much.
Can you talk about them on the mic on your phone and have it type it up for you??. I tried this recently and it kinda helped me even knew actors names etc as I said them.
DM me on Twitter if you want…