Today is the 90th anniversary of 1932's The Mummy

Originally published at: Today is the 90th anniversary of 1932's The Mummy | Boing Boing


Until I misread this headline it never occurred to me that when you turn 90 it is your goth birthday


Sarah Chavez, the executive director of The Order of the Good Death, had some good links about other Capital M "Mummy"s back in October of 2019 on Twitter.

Mummies have been around for a long, long time. Only in relatively recent history, though, have they been something to fear.

And of course, I use the term “fear” extremely lightly.

And sure enough, back in the Middle Ages, this type of desiccated body was a well-known natural resource — something that came from the ground just like oils or clay. But before around the 16th century, these bodies weren’t used to study history… and actually the truth is kind of amazing: mummies were ground up and ingested as medicine. Mmm.

Prior to about 1750, “Mummy” (capitalized) was associated primarily with the medicinal powder, but after the treatment became debunked, the hundred-or-so years between about 1800 and 1900 were a stable environment for the mummy (lowercase)—at least culturally. It was an era when, after the term was solidified in Western language, the corpses were perceived as rare archeological resources to be displayed alongside other natural oddities, or quite frequently a centerpiece to be unraveled at parties. So, you know, everyday mummy stuff.

A number of scholars, notably Jasmine Day, have been investigating the role of mummies in 19th-century fiction, and one interesting aspect is the number of female writers of these tales.

One of, if not the earliest, mummy story, was Jane Webb (Loudon)’s The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty Second Century (1827), which charts the revival of Cheops in the year 2126. Other female writers provided an interesting subtext and perspective.

The tombs of real Egyptian mummies had been violated and exploited by looters, and a rape analogy is clear within the earlier curse fiction of female writers. In contrast, male writers like Gautier often presented more romanticised or eroticised views of the dead.

The movie, in which a Shakespearian-style saga between good and evil emerges through the story of a confused young man trapped in a struggle with his uncle, has an unusual sluggishness. It is set in 1881, when artifacts from a secret ancient tomb inside a cave at Al-Deir Al-Bahari in old Thebes, containing 40 mummies, appeared on the black market.

It opens with Wanis (Ahmed Marei) and his older brother (Ahmed Hegazy) standing in reverence watching the body of their father Selim being laid to rest. It’s a long, morbid scene dominated by black, the ominous sound of harsh desert winds combined with at times almost deafening wails of grieving women.

The brothers are now the masters of the mountain-dwelling Horabaat tribe, and are let in on its dark secret. They come from a long line of scavengers living off the treasures of their ancestors buried in the heart of the mountain. They are both appalled at the sight of their uncle beheading a mummy to free a golden necklace.


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