Instead of getting wrapped up in all the new movie’s problems, dig into these much better selections.
There’s a potential joke in the headline. The Mummy is supposed to be the start of a big new mega-franchise, and I’ll be surprised if it leads to as many as eight more installments. But this isn’t about all those planned Dark Universe remakes (which so far include Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame). It’s about older movies, chosen as further essential viewing.
I don’t need to tell you to go back and watch the 1932 original version of The Mummy, since I already assigned it in my list of movies to see in anticipation of the releases of 2017. Plus, it’s kind of a given. You can also just follow through with the others — the sequels and remakes and other full reboots (check out our ranking of the Mummies of the whole lot of these films). They’re all better than the latest one.
Instead, here are eight other picks I think are relevant recommendations.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)
The new version of The Mummy turns out to have a lot more Henry Jekyll and Eddie Hyde than I expected, so since I hadn’t also assigned any homework to prepare for him/them, now’s the time. The dual-sided character originates in the 1886 novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson, and the book has been adapted many times, starting with a lost one-reeler by Otis Turner in 1908. Other shorts from 1912 and 1913 are in the public domain and available to watch online.
As with The Mummy, most early screen versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are worth your time. Paramount’s 1931 feature earned star Fredric March his first Oscar for Best Actor (albeit in a tie). Victor Fleming’s 1941 remake for MGM (there was actually an attempt for it to completely supplant the one a decade prior, as in destroy all copies), while arguably miscast with Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman (not that they’re not always watchable) is significant for its makeup effects.
Then there’s Paramount’s 1920 silent feature, not to be confused with two other adaptations from the same year (including F. W. Murnau’s unauthorized The Head of Janus). Starring John Barrymore in a dual performance so good he didn’t even need much in the way of makeup or camera effects to achieve his transformation from Jekyll to Hyde, this movie is more faithful to Stevenson’s work than most adaptations and features the better, darker ending. But as became the norm for the property, it also features changes originating from Thomas Russell Sullivan’s 1887 stage version, including the addition of a fiancee for Hyde.
This movie, too, is in the public domain, but getting a hard copy rather than watching on YouTube is encouraged.
Mad Monster Party? (1967)
The interesting thing about Jekyll/Hyde in the Dark Universe franchise is he/they weren’t originally a part of the Universal Monsters canon, despite the fact that the 1913 two-reeler was co-directed and produced by Universal founder Carl Laemmle and put out by the then-fledgling Universal Film Manufacturing Company.
Rights to their use went all over Hollywood before the character(s) landed back at the studio for Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, their only other Universal involvement until now.
But while the latest Mummy reboot is the first time Jekyll/Hyde interacts with the other Universal Monsters in a Universal release, he/they did join up with Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, his Bride, the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Mummy, and the Wolf Man (many of them renamed knockoffs) in this Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated feature — yeah, it’s by the people who made all your favorite old holiday specials. A legitimate tie to the Universal classics can be found in the voice of Boris Karloff, who plays “Baron Boris von Frankenstein,” whose party the rest attend.
It’s an underrated or at least under-known gem of animation of that style and era, and you can’t go wrong with Phyllis Diller voicing the fake Bride of Frankenstein. Speaking of which, Rankin/Bass also produced a prequel five years later titled Mad Mad Mad Monsters about the wedding of the Monster and his “Mate.” That one isn’t quite as necessary. It’s traditional hand-drawn animation, and nothing special at that, plus while all the same characters are on board, Karloff and Diller are not — instead they have vocal impersonators.
Three Kings (1999)
At the start of The Mummy, Tom Cruise and Jake Johnson are US soldiers on their own in the Iraq desert looking for treasure. If that sounds familiar, you might have heard of David O. Russell’s best movie, Three Kings. George Clooney stars alongside Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg, and Spike Jonze, all soldiers in the US Army who wander off from base at the end of the Gulf War in search of a cache of stolen gold bullion. Also of note in the cast is Wonder Woman‘s Said Taghmaoui as an Iraqi soldier and a very young Alia Shawkat as a little Shi’ite girl.
Not only does Russell manage to make an unlikely plot seem plausible and grounded, but that’s all the situation that’s needed for a terrific and often very funny (post-) war satire. The Mummy is basically Three Kings meets Indiana Jones for a few minutes until its treasure, an Egyptian burial site, is uncovered during a battle against insurgents, then it’s on to whatever other things the movie does (it does many other very different things). But unlike the characters in Three Kings, the military personnel depicted in The Mummy never seem based in any sort of reality, not even within the fantastical world of the Dark Universe.
Reign of Fire (2002)
Another movie with more conviction while still also being a fantastical monster movie, Reign of Fire similarly opens with a construction crew working on the London Underground who accidentally uncover something buried long ago. Instead of a tomb of Crusaders, here it’s the home of a bunch of hibernating dragons. They’re more like the Mummy, though, in that they’re unleashed and go on a killing spree. Unlike the Mummy, they’re not consumed in a quest to bring about pure evil. They instead just kill off most of humanity.
Years later, enough time to go by that there’s no way to show kids the real Star Wars and so it’s acted out live for their entertainment, Christian Bale leads a group of survivors who encounter an American militia headed by Matthew McConaughey. That’s a dream duo no matter what the movie, but they’re dudes teaming up to kill dragons, which is as awesome as anyone could hope for. It’s a shame that The Mummy is what’s expected to start a mega-franchise while this movie actually deserved to be the start of a series. It could have even been a cinematic universe for all I care. Part two would have them fighting trolls or evil mermaids or man-eating unicorns.