The metaphor is Egypt for the Law, as in Hitchcock’s Blackmail (British Museum). The nature of evolution is explained by Paul in I Corinthians 15, Im-Ho-Tep proposes a life in the Scroll of Thoth whereby Isis raised Osiris, the goddess herself lifts her hand to spare the modern incarnation of her offered vestal.
Such a masterwork as this honors its avatars with variant readings (Terence Fisher, Gerry O’Hara). Freund is ahead of his time in the sheer incomprehension of the New York Times review, the unusual rapidity of his discourse is a complete confidence of style, he shows and never explains, therefore a grave and stately pace accommodates no hesitation. The film thrusts effortlessly, and he just has time for grand effects like the wall sliding up for the camera to dolly through and tilt down onto a steaming pool for the flashback to Ancient Egypt.
In gravity and purity of technique Freund has no rivals, not even Dreyer (Vampyr), and for invention he furthermore supplies a masterpiece of cinematographic development in his use of eye lights on Karloff in medium shot and close-up to give the fullest possible sense of realism to the revival of his Sun Temple priest as palæontologists’ guide and Cairo Museum benefactor Ardeth Bey.
The English pianist-composer Orlac with his pen and the philanthropist-surgeon Dr. Gogol with his scalpel each find the one thing missing to be Rollo the American circus-performer’s knife expertly thrown.
Mme. Orlac is “La Torturée” at Le Théâtre des Horreurs, a Duchess put upon the wheel who denies to the Duke until a two-pronged hot poker is applied that yes, yes she has a lover.
A great director like Karl Freund who is also a cinematographer may be forgiven if he abandons the chair for the camera after seeing his unutterably funny and ornate comic masterpiece taken quite seriously by the New York Times, which couldn’t figure out why Ted Healy was in it.