Movie Mixtape: 6 Movies To Watch With Tom Cruise's 'The Mummy'

(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what's in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: The Mummy.)

It's difficult to overstate how popular mummy movies have been over the years. From 1932 to today, every few decades, a new mummy craze would lift its ragged head from the tomb to shock and amaze before slinking back off into the shadows.

Boris Karloff and Universal definitely capitalized on it, but they have Nefertiti to thank. The discovery of her bust in 1912 kicked off modern Egyptomania, which was sustained by the further discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922. Tabloids fabricated and twisted a "Mummy's Curse" into existence, which became the basis for the first wildly popular film, as well as the foothold for dozens of films over the next century. Tom Cruise leads the next installment, which promises to be the first in an extended Dark Universe when it hits theaters this Friday. Tough luck, Brendan Fraser. There's a new kid in town. Who's pretty old.

While we see if Universal can bring mummies back to life, let's look at some other movies to bring out of the crypt.

The Mummy (1932)

Ah, the original. Not a speck of dust on it. Even though there were mummy movies before director Karl Freund put Boris Karloff through 8 hours of make-up (most notably Georges Méilès robbing Cleopatra's tomb), this has been the definitive take on the character for decades. It utilized a public's fascination with all things ancient Egypt to craft a terrifying story of a priest (Karloff) buried alive for loving the wrong woman resurrected by foolish archaeologists who accidentally sets him loose on an Art Deco world looking for a deadly new romance.

It follows the same kind of formula nailed down by King Kong a few years prior: adventurers stepping into the unknown for ego and/or profit, unearthing something from a different time beyond their control, which then wreaks havoc on modern civilization. It's a gorgeous movie, and Karloff's Frankenstein eyes stare straight through the screen and into your soul.

Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)

The Mummy launched a franchise that would be imitated over and over again for decades. Drafting off the same Egyptology craze, Republic Pictures crafted a 12-part serial that blended pyramids, cursed tombs, and comic book superheroes. Why not smash two fads together to maximize ticket sales, right?

While exploring the Valley of Tombs in a very Egypt-looking Thailand, spry expedition teammate Billy Batson (Frank Coghlan Jr.) actually heeds the warning to stay out of a tomb lest he be cursed. In doing so, he earns the respect of the wizard Shazam, who grants him super abilities when he says the wizard's name. Captain Marvel is basically Superman with spell-casting, but he can only use his abilities to help those in danger from the curse of the tomb's Golden Scorpion artifact. So, pretty limited range there. This may seem hopelessly dated to most, but the serial is a fun, pulpy example of old timey genre goodness.

The Mummy (1959)

Part of the first resurrection of the character after Universal's success through the 1940s, it's no exaggeration to say that this B-horror love fest is just three Mummy sequel plots shoved together, then run through the Hammer Films grinder. The pitch then (and now) was: if you loved Universal's Mummy but wished it had more Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, here you go. You can guess the full plot because nothing about it is new, but you get Cushing as the intrepid hero and Lee as the mummified horror. The other obvious alteration was the shift from black-and-white to color, and Hammer made great use of a vibrant palette which accentuated the dread of the ashy papier-mâché look to the monster.

Mexican filmmakers also rejuvenated the character around the same time to mixed results, transplating the same genre tropes into Aztec ruins.

Monster Squad (1987)

Hundreds of mummy movies later, we get a glorious send-up courtesy of Fred Dekker and Shane Black. Part Goonies, part classic creature feature, it's the epitome of cult. It's also the movie that proved Wolfman's got nards, a vital bit of progress for lycanthropic biology.

The Mummy teams up with Wolfman, Gill-man, Frankenstein's Monster, and Dracula to fight Van Helsing and a ragtag bunch of kids as they all vie for a magic amulet that can either plunge the world into darkness or banish the monsters into Limbo. It's a silly, fart-humor-spewing live action cartoon with enough memorable lines to fill a coffin.

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

As audacious as it is absurd, Don Coscarelli's singular vision of Elvis (or an impersonator) played by Bruce Campbell and JFK (or a confused old man) played by Ossie Davis pits the elderly against the linen-wrapped villain. It's one of those movies that shouldn't work, but does. It's undeniably quirky, but Coscarelli and company manage to transplant the core fear that the mummy represents – that we aren't done with the past – into a common plague for an aging population who has far too much empty time on its hands and little ability to run away, even from a slow-shuffling horror. It is the most meditative of all mummy movies, and they still saved room for a flamethrower.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010)

The comic book adaptation most have never heard of, Adèle Blanc-Sec is also one of several Luc Besson movies that people don't know about. It's also a ton of fun if you can get over the rubbery CGI. Based on the comic adventures of the Tardi character, the film follows the shrewd and daring Adèle as she attempts to resurrect Ramses II's mummified physician to help her cure her comatose sister. There's also a 136 million-year-old pterosaur egg that hatches, an Inspector Clouseau-esque detective, a deadly nemesis, a tennis accident, hypnotism, and stray bits of snark among the beautiful set designs. Obviously, Besson's style is in full force here, elevating a clear love for Art Deco B-movies with a healthy budget and the appropriate silliness.

The Mummy Clips

The Mix

I'm fully prepared for the comments section to be filled with "What about..." entries because there are so damned many mummy movies out there. Hundreds. From the original pre-code Universal thrills to the Hammer second wave to scores of low budget horror flicks to the Millennial big budget adventures.

You know what you'll have trouble finding, though? Egyptian movies featuring mummies. The trend, especially the lumbering monster version of it, is almost solely a product of Western exoticism.

For a true change of pace, check out Shadi Abdel Salam's 1969 The Mummy (aka The Night of Counting the Years), a grave-robbing masterpiece of Egyptian national identity that should break the spell of antique b-horror scares.