Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about monsters. Not the human variety monsters like Saddam Hussein or Jerry Sandusky, or even Kim Kardashian. Those are very real monsters for modern times, scarier than anything Hollywood can give us.
No, lately I’ve been fixated on the classic Universal Studios monsters from the thirties and forties, legendary monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and, my personal favorite, the Creature From The Black Lagoon.
Ever since I was a kid I’ve had a fascination with monsters. I saw all the movies multiple times and read Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine with a religious fervor. I collected all the model sets of the classic Universal monsters, carefully gluing the pieces together and painstakingly painting them, making sure to give Dracula a little trail of blood streaming from his mouth, or getting the Creature that right shade of green.
As a kid I never questioned the invincibility of my monsters. I never once doubted that, if attacked a monster, I wouldn’t stand much of a chance of survival. Fear alone would probably stop me dead in my tracks, unable to move or make decisions, rendering me easy prey. Years of familiarity wouldn’t help, either. I have a feeling that the Wolfman wouldn’t go easy on me just because I did a good job of painting his plastic model figure the perfect brown.
But as I get older I find myself asking questions, disturbing questions that directly challenge the fear factor behind some of my monster faves, questions whose frank answers threaten to expose vulnerabilities that as a youngster I wouldn’t dream possible.
For instance, could it really have been that hard to run away from the Mummy? While indeed frightening, he’s not the most mobile of monsters. He’s slow and lumbering, always dragging a foot behind him. And he’s wrapped in bandages, which I’m sure can be quite constricting.
Of course, I can excuse the Mummy if he’s a little slow in getting started. The guy’s coming out of a thousand year nap, so he’s probably a little groggy, and his energy levels are a little low; not having Red Bull in the afterlife is a bitch. But the Mummy never seems to be allowed to enjoy a little acclimation time, a quick cuppa joe before getting started.
It’s always up and at ‘em with the Mummy; they revive him and send him right out on his deadly mission of vengeance. So in any given Mummy movie you can expect a scene where the Mummy is chasing someone, usually the heroine who the Mummy believes to be the reincarnation of his ancient love, Princess Ananka.
This is particularly true in The Mummy’s Ghost (1944) when the chase takes place in a swamp, despite the fact that the film is set in Massachusetts. He’s lumbering around, she’s tripping over tree roots, nobody’s getting anywhere fast. No wonder the two of them drown in the unforgiving Massachusetts swamps.
The modern versions of the Mummy had him take on a human form, which just didn’t work for me. True, it made him much more formidable, and a lot more mobile, but a lot less frightening as well. In his human form he’s ripped, he’s got muscles on top of muscles. How you get a body like that while mouldering in a musty old sarcophagus for thousands of years is beyond me. But the fact that the human mummy looks like he’s more likely to have emerged from a gay porn video than an Egyptian tomb didn’t help with the scare factor.
No, I’m a purist. My mummies need to be old and musty, wrapped in bandages and smelling of mothballs. They need to be introspective, eerily serene and somewhat sad, not given to the theatrics of Dracula, the brute force of a Frankenstein monster or the savagery of the Wolfman. They need to have the wisdom of the years and a tragic backstory. And you can always count on the Mummy to bring all that cool Egyptology to the table.
As a purist, I don’t allow myself to linger on such questions for long, because I know that if attacked by the Mummy he would find a way to trap me and wreak his awful revenge, even though I painted his model figure the perfect shade of dusty grey with just a hint of brown.