EYES OF THE MUMMY, THE (Augen der Mumie Ma, Die)(director: Ernst Lubitsch; screenwriters: Hanns Kräly/ Emil Rameau; cinematographer: Alfred Hansen; music: Douglas M. Protsik, reissued; cast: Emil Jannings (Radu), Pola Negri (Mâ), Max Laurence (Prince Hohenfels), Harry Liedtke (Albert Wendland); Runtime: 66; MPAA Rating: NR; Grapevine Video; 1918-Silent-Germany/in English subtitles)
“I enjoyed it as a spooky melodramaticadventure tale.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A creepy supernatural tale produced by Germany’s famous UFA studio. This unwatchable film was restored by the National Film Museum and shown on TCM. It’s directed by Ernst Lubitsch before he came to Hollywood and was known for sophisticated comedies with “the Lubitsch touch” such as “Ninotchka.” In “The Eyes of the Mummy” the former actor playing ethnic Jewish comedy parts made his mark as a serious director. The studio hired noted actors Harry Liedtke and Emil Jannings for 35 marks per day to star, and brought in the Polish vamp and former dancer Pola Negri to be the lead actress. Jannings later on became the first to win Hollywood’s Best Actor award. Negri became infamous as the love interest for Rudolph Valentino.
Albert Wendland (Harry Liedtke) is a young English society painter who sojourns to Egypt to brush up on his art studies. While staying in Cairo’s posh Palace hotel he overhears the hotel director tell Prince Hohenfels (Max Laurence) not to visit the Tomb of Queen Ma because every visitor has been cursed. As proof he points to a hotel guest who is seen attended by a nurse while in a trance-like state of paralysis, who can only say when asked what caused this “Those eyes… .” Daringly Wendland goes on his own armed with a pistol, after all the guides he approaches turn him down. The Arab keeper Radu (Emil Jannings) attacks him when he tries to enter the mummy’s tomb after seeing living “eyes” on the mummy. Wendland overcomes Radu and learns from the young woman inside that Radu took her captive a few years ago and cast a spell over her that makes her do whatever he commands. After freeing her and riding back to Cairo on horseback, he falls madly in love with the sultry woman and takes her back in style by ocean liner to Europe. In the homeland, he introduces her to his society friends at a home party. After she dances an exotic Oriental dance, a guest who is a talent agent signs her to a contract to appear as a dancer in a variety show. By this time many months have passed and Wendland has married her.
Radu tried to chase after Ma in the desert but falls unconscious, where he’s rescued by Prince Hohenfels and his party. Radu when he’s nursed back to health in the Prince’s hotel suite, swears undying allegiance to him for saving his life and asks to be taken to Europe to be his servant. He has also sworn to Osiris to get revenge on the woman who betrayed him. Once in Europe, Radu spots Ma dancing on the stage at a performance attended by the Prince and casts a spell that causes her to faint. Before Radu could get to her dressing room, Wendland has taken her by car back to his house. Later at an art gallery showing of Wendland’s Egyptian paintings, the Prince attends and buys the painting of Ma. The Prince also invites the artist and his model wife to his home, where Radu again casts a spell causing Ma to faint. It then becomes a matter if Wendland can save Ma again from her nemesis.
If judged by today’s standards this horror film doesn’t cut it for scares, but if seen as film history and how the art has evolved over the years this film looks a whole lot better. It kept my attention and I enjoyed it as a spooky melodramatic adventure tale.
REVIEWED ON 10/30/2003 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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