Sex and digs and wrap and role: orientalism, transgressive romance and the resurrection of the Mummy

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The Mummy has long been considered amongst the least impressive of movie monsters. Jeremy Dyson dismisses the Mummy’s films as ‘dross.’ David Parkinson refers to these films as forming ‘arguably, horror cinema’s least successful sub-genre,’ a view echoed by Kim Newman who calls it the ‘least rewarding’ and ‘most despised of all sub-genres.’ This paper undertakes a reassessment of one of horror cinema’s main and yet most overlooked stars. Although the common conception of the Mummy is one of a static, unchanging figure who features in repetitive, formulaic films, the Mummy is actually a highly protean figure. The Mummy cycle has always occurred in the context of a wider cycle of horror films, upon the back of a renewed interest in horror following revivals of Dracula and the Frankenstein monster. However, rather than copying these figures, the Mummy has continually distinguished itself from them by drawing upon popular genres of the period that lie outside of the horror genre in which the Mummy cycle is operating. Although hardly Chopin, the Mummy’s artistry has, like this composer, resided in variations on a theme. Its narratives of colonial invasion and romantic transgression have been constantly transformed in relation to changing notions of miscegenation and imperialism. The Mummy’s malleability rather than its stagnancy has actually ensured its continued popularity in the cinema in which it has featured in virtually every form, as hero and villain, as sickened lover and opponent of love, as comedic buffoon and tragic obsessive, as victim and avenger. Although identified as a clearly defined archetype - and a deeply flawed one - the Mummy’s protean nature has resulted in it lacking any sense of fixed personality. In many respects, this is its strength. Like the zombie it is an icon that can be easily revived and reworked without an overly limiting metanarrative.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Apr 2009
EventBeyond Life: The Undead in Global Cult Media, Cine Excess: The Third International Conference on Cult Film Traditions - Curzon Soho Cinema and Odeon Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 30 Apr 20092 May 2009

Academic conference

Academic conferenceBeyond Life: The Undead in Global Cult Media, Cine Excess
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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