As Hammer started having massive successes with horror films like The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula, they struck up an agreement with Universal Studios to remake several of their monster movies. The first on the list was 1959’s The Mummy.
Instead of remaking Universal’s classic 1932 movie starring Boris Karloff, this version was closer to remaking Universal’s The Mummy’s Hand from 1940.
Young John Banning (Peter Cushing) is on an archaeology dig in Egypt with his father and his uncle. They are searching for the tomb of Princess Ananka and they have just discovered it. Unfortunately, Banning injured his leg and can’t join his father and his uncle in opening the tomb. A local named Mehemet Bey (George Pastell) warns them not to open the tomb but they do anyway. While Banning’s uncle runs to tell him that they have discovered the tomb, Banning’s father Steve (Felix Aylmer) is left alone in the tomb and discovers the Scroll of Life which he reads and it drives him mad.
Three years later, Steve is at home, catatonic, when he finally starts to speak. Banning visits his father and finds him ranting about an unkillable mummy. Meanwhile Mehemet Bey has arrived in England with the coffin of Kharis (Christopher Lee), Princess Ananka’s lover and protector. Bey uses the scroll to resurrect Kharis and seeks revenge against the Bannings for defiling Princess Ananka’s tomb. Kharis first kills Steve and then attacks Banning’s uncle. With them out of the way Banning himself is next on the list. Fortunately his wife (Yvonne Furneaux) is the spitting image of the late princess.
While not quite on par with Hammer’s Frankenstein and Dracula, The Mummy is still pretty damn good. Lee is sufficiently menacing as the mummy Kharis and Cushing is solid as the archaeologist hero fighting against vengeful corpse. Hammer would make three mummy movies but they would all be unrelated to this first feature. The movie was a huge hit for Hammer and Universal in England. In the U.S., Hammer was becoming unstoppable masters of horror.