The Mummy’s Curse

Mummy_1932Have you seen the new Mummy movie?  If not, don’t bother.  You’ve escaped the Mummy’s Curse.  Are you familiar with the Mummy’s Curse?  Don’t open that tomb, or Great Evil will befall you.  That’s what seemed to happen to the archaeological party that dug up Tutankhamun’s tomb.  Then there’s the cinematic version.  Movies about mummies carry a two-fold curse: A. Shame on the studios that make them and B. Brain cell damage on the people who watch them.

Only two Mummy movies have escaped this curse: The Mummy (1932) starring Frankenstein actor Boris Karloff who underwent eight-hour makeup sessions that included baking and The Mummy (1959) starring British actor Christopher Lee.  These movies had credible plots.  They were well-cast, well-acted, and well-produced.  All other mummy movies have fallen to the curse.

Titles are enough to make the point.  Here are some samples: The Mummy’s Hand, The Mummy’s Ghost, The Mummy’s Tomb, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Dawn of the Mummy, Bubba Ho-Tep (No, that isn’t a joke), Wrestling Women Meet the Aztec Mummy, The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy, and The Mummy’s Kiss .  How about two more curse-bearers: We Want Our Mummy with the Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.  See what I mean?

The Mummy movies ground out by Universal Studios during the 1940’s are as low in creativity as they are in budget.  Typically, the Mummy is a zombie-like killing machine that drags one foot and strangles with his left hand.  Victims of this Mummy usually have to stand in place for several minutes, waiting for him to make his laborious way across the room to put the choke on them. In the same time span, they could calmly walk to their cars and drive away.  These movies are stupefying, and anyone who dares watch invites part B of the Curse.

Lon Chaney Mummy

(The Speed-Challenged Mummy of the 1940’s: Hiow lng did she have to stand there, waiting  for him to reach her?)

Now Universal has tried to break the cycle with a gender change.  Were the makers of this movie thinking of what Kipling wrote about the female of the species being more deadly than the male?  Probably not.  This Mummy is a former Egyptian princess named Ahmanet.  The princess seems to have had two major faults.  One was a Macbeth-type, power grab by slashing everyone in her way with a special knife – until she was reigned in and buried alive.  Live burial is standard Mummy origin fare; the new movie submerges the sarcophagus in a pool of mercury.  The other flaw is an apparent weakness for intricate facial tattoos (perhaps a worse flaw than the first).

A and C Meet Mummy

(When a movie monster meets Abbott and Costello, he knows it’s the end of the line. Ironically, this intended comedy couldn’t match the unintentional humor of the supposedly serious Mummy films.)

Naturally, modern discoverers of Ahmanet’s tomb haul her up and out, unleashing a horrific torrent of special effects on an unsuspecting world.  (This is one of the movie’s many insanities.  Why would people who wanted this particular princess to stay buried forever put her in a sarcophagus-shaped tomb the size of the Empire State Building? Aren’t people going to be interested in that?  Why not make it a small box labeled “Egyptian Poop Samples” ?)

Tom Cruise is given a chance to die early and perhaps go make a good movie.  But instead he comes back to life and rejoins the misguided action.  Later he adds to the absurdity by merging himself with the Egyptian god who originally empowered Ahmanet.  And just when you think it can’t get any zanier, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde show up.  Maybe as a supporting monster in case the title monster doesn’t cut it? (too bad Abbott and Costello weren’t available). The Rotten Tomatoes rating on this release is 15%.  Need more be said?

So the Mummy’s Curse continues.  Perhaps this latest cinematic debacle will serve as a warning to future movie makers.  The next time that tomb appears, rebury it!

Mummy 2917

(Equality:  The Glass Ceiling is finally broken in Mummy movies, proving that a female mummy can be just as brain-deadening to watch as the traditional male version)

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In the Wake of the Latest Fourth

Declaration of Independence“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

John Adams, July 3, 1776

This post is not late.  It’s timed to hit when the latest Fourth of July is already fading from memory.  There were brats and beers and fireworks as usual.  The family and friends get-togethers happened as they always do.  Everything was as it always is.  And that may be the problem.  The form has replaced the substance behind it.  We celebrate because we’re supposed to celebrate.  Children aren’t being taught what this is all about anymore.  Adults aren’t generally reflecting on “the blessings of liberty.”  The main focus is on food and festivity for its own sake.  We’re going through the motions like automatons, without questioning why.  So it is that a holiday designed to be rich in meaning has turned out to be relatively meaningless.

The Fourth of July is supposed to be a celebration of freedom and independence on two levels.  Our nation is free and independent, and our citizens possess personal freedom and independence as well.   I have witnessed what happens in many modern classrooms when students are given the option not to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.  Sitting it out becomes culturally cool.  America doesn’t deserve that much of their attention.  Many athletes and celebrities also choose to sit it out.

But isn’t the freedom not to say the Pledge what should get everybody on his or her feet to say it?  In totalitarian countries, that choice isn’t available.  You salute or you suffer.  Nazis made people “Heil Hitler” whether they wanted to or not.  Nobody was allowed to sit that out.  Communist Russia was another regime that did not allow criticism or non-participation.  Neither did Communist China under Chairman Mao.  In fact, modern China does not permit dissent either. Show up in public with a protest poster, and you disappear.  Maybe the sit-outs would benefit from a vacation to North Korea where a single comment against the Leader could win them a twenty year stretch of regular beatings and hard labor.

America does have problems, and it always has had problems.  There has been discrimination.  There has been inequality. People have suffered needlessly.  But the difference between America and Iran is that this country was founded with a built-in mechanism for change.  Most nations in world history haven’t had that mechanism.  Their constitutions haven’t been amendable the way ours is.  Their people haven’t had the power to elect their leaders the way Americans can.  Their social systems have not allowed individuals to rise from nothing to high positions.  America has been unique in the power it gives average people to change the way things are.  And the course of American history has been the story of people making those changes, often through heroic self-sacrifice.

So in the wake of the latest grill-and-go Fourth, perhaps we should start preparing ourselves for next year.  Maybe we can connect again with the best of what America was founded to be.   John Adams was one of the founders.  He sacrificed years and years away from his home and family to do the work of building a nation.  During the Revolution, the British government wanted him dead.  In his later years, Adams wrote a message to us, to the future.  He said, “You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom.  I hope you will make good use of it.”  Let’s do that.  Let’s put some substance back into the celebration.