Blu-ray
4 stars
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
2.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0.5 Stars

The Mummy (1932) - Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection

Street Date:
October 2nd, 2012
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
September 30th, 2012
Movie Release Year:
1932
Studio:
Universal Studios
Length:
73 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

This review is part of our extensive coverage of 'Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection.'

Introduction

One aspect Universal Studios is best remembered and remains highly regarded for is their collection of monster features. Their immense impact and influence in the horror film genre is virtually irrefutable. More than any other movie production company, the studio has left an indelible mark in the cinema of horror, pretty much becoming synonymous with the genre and creating some of the most iconic figures in all the history of film. Who can deny the faces of Dracula, Frankenstein's monster or his Bride are not permanently etched into our collective memories when thinking of a scary movie or every year Halloween season rolls around. Even if you've never watched a single one of these films, you're already familiar with the names of the characters, their haunting images or the actors who portrayed them.

Universal's legacy dates are far back as the silent era when Carl Laemmle first founded the company, initially producing a variety of melodramas, westerns and serials. Thanks to the amazing work done by character actor Lon Chaney, the studio starting making a name for itself with horror hits 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' (1923) and 'The Phantom of the Opera' (1925). Three years later, Carl passed the business down to his son Carl Laemmle Jr. on his 21st birthday, who quickly went to work on converting future production to include sound. He proved himself to nervous shareholders when the massively expensive war epic 'All Quiet on the Western Front' went on to become an Academy Award winner. It's during these years that company produced many prominent motion pictures which continue to be admired and are affectionately known as Universal Horror.

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Carl Laemmle Jr.'s next venture into the supernatural was one with no literary source as the basis, unlike his previous two productions. Inspired by stories of Tutankhamun's tomb and the belief that one is cursed when the mummy of an ancient pharaoh is disturbed, he hired Richard Shayer and Nina Wilcox Putnam to develop a treatment that eventually lead to John L. Balderston's screenplay.

Interestingly, the plot has more of a mystery thriller feel to it than a typical horror, as there is only mention of a curse but no ill-will befalls those responsible for unearthing the mummy. Unless, of course, we count Ralph's (Bramwell Fletcher) sudden fit of madness after foolishly reading from the Scroll of Thoth, which unwittingly awakens the mummy from its eerie slumber, but that is only one of a few characters that included the wonderful Edward Van Sloan.

In either case, the story remains a suspenseful tale of Imhotep's obsessive quest to resurrect his 3,000-year-old love, Princess Ankh-es-en-amon, and the mystery surrounds his hypnotizing pursuit of the beautiful Helen (superbly played Zita Johann). Boris Karloff delivers another unforgettable performance as the revived ancient Egyptian prince and disguised by yet another treasured mask by legendary make-up artist Jack Pierce.

The film doesn't carry the sort of gloomily gothic atmosphere of the other two, which is rather funny since cinematographer Karl Freund ('Dracula,' 'Metropolis') serves as director here. Still, the film's different style makes it a unique feature that has left a lasting impression, inspiring a host of sequels that have little relation to Laemmle's production, which endures today as memorably entertaining horror classic.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings the 'Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection' to Blu-ray in an attractive and elegantly sturdy eight-disc box set. The package is a familiar one which opens much like a book with each shiny page showing poster artwork, a brief entry on the film and disc contents. Those same pages also serve as sleeves for each disc which slide out by placing some slight pressure to the top and bottom, widening the mouth only a little. The inside is smooth and glossy to prevent the discs from scratching.

All eight films are contained on separate Region Free, BD50 discs and found inside one of the pages, respective of the order in which they were theatrically released. The package comes with a 46-page book that features a lengthy essay by Universal Horrors author Tom Weaver, entitled "A Legacy in Horror." The rest is a collection of photos and artwork with interesting blurbs and trivia on each film, the filmmakers, the actors, and on the special effects and make-up work. The side-sliding slipcover is made of a hard cardboard material with beautiful artwork and lightly embossed. At startup, each disc goes straight to a main menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'The Mummy' stalks Blu-ray with a fantastic and often strikingly-sharp 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. In several scenes, fine lines around hair and faces are distinct while background information is nicely detailed. Some the natural texture and intricate stitching of the costumes is made plainly visible as well. Contrast is comfortably bright with brilliant whites, and shadows are almost always deep and consistent. The age of the source is really starting to show as the picture tends to flicker and pulse in certain spots while the outer edges of the image expose some very minor decomposition. However, they are never much of a distraction, only noticeably if one looks for it, because this is the best the film has ever looked, and I can't imagine it looking any better.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Karl Freund's film arrives with a terrifically enjoyable DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack. Dialogue reproduction is crisp and clear though some scenes seem slightly lower than others, likely related to the source. Dynamics are sharp as well with audible activity in the background, giving the film as nice sense of space and a good command of the screen. The lossless mix isn't very extensive, however, with almost nothing appreciable in the upper ranges and even less in the low-end. On occasion, it feels slightly restrained while minor hissing and noise are heard constantly during several scenes. Several bits of dialogue also come with some trivial distortion, which are probably the fault of the source. It can feel a tad flat at times but overall, it's a pleasant upgrade over its legacy lossy counterpart.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

    • Audio Commentaries — Two very enjoyable tracks recorded for a previous DVD release. The first features another film historian by way of Paul M. Jensen, providing a wealth of academic information on the history and production of the film but fairly dry and dense. The second is by far the better of the two, featuring respected make-up effects artist Rick Baker, film historian Steve Haberman, filmmaker Scott Essman, sculpture artist Brent Armstrong and well-known collector of movie memorabilia Bob Burns. The group is quite chatty and amusing, offering a good amount of information while also being entertaining.

    • Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed (SD, 30 min) — Another enjoyable documentary by film historian David J. Skarl, chronicling the film's production and history while delving into its impact and uniqueness from the previous two monster features.

    • He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art of Jack Pierce (SD, 25 min) — A loving tribute to the highly-respected, well-known and legendary make-up artist Jack Pierce, exploring his career and lasting influence to horror cinema.

    • Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy (SD, 8 min) — A very brief look at the actors who have played the monster in various forms.

    • The Mummy Archives (SD) — A collection of poster artwork, marketing stills and other photos from the set.

    • Trailers (SD) — Original theatrical previews for 'The Mummy,' 'The Mummy's Hand,' 'The Mummy's Tomb,' 'The Mummy's Ghost' and 'The Mummy's Curse.'

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

This Blu-ray edition of 'The Mummy (1932)' arrives with one high-def exclusives.

    • 100 Years of Universal: The Carl Laemmle Era (HD, 9 min) — A short featurette commemorating the company's 100th anniversary by briefly discussing Universal founder Carl Laemmle's personal life, career and his influential accomplishments as a filmmaker.

Final Thoughts

Universal Studios' impact and influence in the cinema of horror is virtually irrefutable, responsible for popularizing the genre and for creating some of the most iconic figures in film history. Their indelible mark is fairly obvious and most felt every year around the Halloween season, and the faces of these monsters are permanently etched into our collective cultural memories when thinking of horror. They are a part of our lives, yet many have probably never even seen these classics all the way through. Now, they can be enjoyed on Blu-ray for the first time in this elegant eight-disc box set, featuring the main creatures often associated with Universal Horror. Each comes with excellent audio and video presentations, bringing these icons of the genre as close as possible to their former glory. And they have never looked as beautiful as they do here. Many of the supplements from previous special edition DVDs are preserved here as well, making this an exhaustive must-own for horror fans and cinephiles everywhere.

You can read more about the complete set and order it here!

Technical Specs

  • BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.33:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
  • French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • Spanish

Supplements

  • Audio Commentaries
  • Featurettes
  • Still Gallery
  • Trailers

Exclusive HD Content

  • Featurette

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

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