Far be it from me to step on the toes of the pioneers of the horror genre, but it is my opinion that a great many of these films haven't aged too well since their initial releases back in the 30's and 40's. Some of them have, like The Wolf Man, but some of them end up like Dracula. For me, The Mummy is near the latter end of the spectrum. It stands up entirely thanks to Boris Karloff's intimidating and memorable performance as Imhotep. Apart from that, though, the plot is almost nonexistent and the pace is really uneven due to some poor and choppy editing. Still, horror fans owe it to themselves to give this one a chance as it is still one of the original Universal monster movies.
The story begins with the discovery of the tomb of Imhotep, a disgraced priest who was condemned to be buried alive due to his defiance of the gods. Buried with him is the Scroll of Thoth, which can resurrect the dead. When the archaeologists who make the discovery accidentally bring Imhotep back, the mummy makes a break for it and hides among the living as an Egyptian named Ardath Bey. From there, the story changes focus on a group of Americans living in Egypt, including the young woman that Imhotep believes is his beloved Ankh-es-an-amon reincarnated. Apart from Karloff, the rest of the cast is either boring or over-the-top, particularly the shoehorned-in love affair between the girl mentioned above and the archaeologist's son. I mention this because this love affair occurs within five minutes of these two meeting each other and is then treated like true love. It's annoying, unnecessary, and takes away from the rest of the movie.
With an abrupt ending and a serious lack of focus, The Mummy is on the bottom rung of Universal's iconic originals. Having said that, Karloff's performance is timeless and deserves its own spot in film history. It's a shame that, like Lugosi in Dracula, his performance is stuck inside a movie that, among other things, is dull as dishwater. With one excellent remake in 1999 and another questionable one on the way soon, its clear that his film has influenced horror in a big way. Maybe that's the lot in life for these films now; to influence the next generation of movie monsters and keep the legendary performances of Karloff, Lugosi, and Lon Chaney Jr. alive.