In our continuing series of articles 'The bloke down the pub' will tell us all about his favourite Hammer Horror films. In his fourth weekly review he's thinking about the nature of good and evil while telling us all about The Mummy from 1959. Enjoy!
How are you supposed to tell a good guy from a bad guy anyway? I mean, granted, some of them are drooling monsters who want to tear you limb from limb; but even those lads, are they really... bad?
I mean, you take The Mummy. Here’s a bloke, madly in love with some queen who he really shouldn’t be in love with. Not just because of the logistics of a high priest and his queen going at it, but because he is making Gods angry - your actual Gods. There won’t just be wagging tongues of disapproval, proper lightning bolts will be involved in his future.
Now, to not only continue being in love like this, when Gods can presumably read your thoughts when you’re a bleeding conduit, but, and this really is brass neck, when the Queen you love pops her clogs, you use the Gods’ own power to try and bring her back to life! Let’s be honest here, this is not going to end well. At best, the absolute best case scenario, is that the Gods are off somewhere busy smiting or possibly eating a week long lunch, and you get away with it and bring her back from the dead - your true love almost certainly returns as some sort of zombie who will try to eat you. But the most likely outcome, one which you’re well aware of - it taking no dummy I’m assuming to ascend to be High Priest of bloody anywhere - is that the Gods find out and do something really, really nasty.
Because these are your old fashioned sort of Gods. Ones who believe in ruling through an imaginatively brutal sort of discouragement - whips and plagues very much a part of their master plan to teach humanity their place in the cosmos. So whatever they have in store for a High Priest who disobeys them is not going to be pleasant - bearing in mind we’ve already seen them demand that everyone the Queen might conceivably need in the afterlife has been put to death right next to her. Who’d be a Royal hairdresser in Egyptian times, eh? And yet, still - still! - you go ahead and try and bring her back to life. Because you can, because you’re in love and therefore a very noble sort of idiot; but hardly bad.
So if you wake up thousands of years later, wrapped in bandages and find yourself compelled to take revenge upon some nosy parkers who dug up your Queen’s tomb - does that make you bad? Even if you do look like Christopher Lee and are definitely, definitely murdering people.
And what about these nosy parkers who wanted to bust open your Queen’s tomb? Men who dug up your true love’s resting place and, no matter what they might learn about ancient cultures or whatever, are basically going to put her dead body on display for people to gawk at. Even if you hadn’t been cursed to murder them, wouldn’t you want to a bit, anyway? And let’s not forget that Cushing is so obsessed with desecrating someone’s tomb that he won’t leave the dig site for a few days to see a bloody doctor and get his leg fixed! Everyone’s telling him - Go! Get it fixed! If you don’t you’ll be a cripple for life! Don’t you understand, you bloody mentalist?! But still he stays to be close to whatever weird sort of glory it is that he’s chasing. That sort of obsession is the sort of thing that drives scientists in Hammer films to do very, very bad things.
But I suppose in the end, it comes down to Christopher Lee lurching towards Peter Cushing intent on strangling him. And when Cushing rolls back over the desk and away from the Mummy, you cheer and root for Pete. Because we’ve all done bloody stupid things, far less noble than opening up a tomb to see what’s inside. And if when we did, a dirty great indestructible monster bent on revenge came for us, we would want to live to tell the tale. Of how we saved our woman, of how we saved ourselves, of how we stood before the will of ancient Gods and shouted ‘Not me squire!’
Well that would be a tale that would gladden the heart of good guys and bad guys alike. They might even buy you a drink if you’re lucky.