But the one I want to single out as exemplary in its completely Britishness and gutsy approach to monsterness is Hammer's THE MUMMY (1959), expanded from the 1932 original to include the Victorian equivalent of a Middle Eastern terrorist, an Egyptian Egyptologist (the nerve!) named Mehemet Bay (George Pastell) who dares suggest that ancient burial relics should stay where they are, undisturbed, or the very least stay in Egypt and not become mere curiosities for the swaths of unwashed gawkers at the British Museum. How dare this fez-wearing heathen even suggest such a thing?! But the even-keeled screenplay lets this Mehemet Bay off with plenty of sympathy; he even prays to Karnak, the god of said mummy, to release said mummy's spirit at the end of his vengeance spree. And his house is pretty nice-looking. I'd rather live there than in Cushing's wearily formal mansion. The two actors play well of each other, and their climactic battle of wits--- with Cushing blithely baiting the Egyptian into a confession by dismissing Karnak as a second-rate deity-- is truly a unique sociologically ambiguous moment in horror.
Feminist-wise the film fares little better: the beautiful, cat-eyed Yvonne Furneaux (Carole's sister in REPULSION, Marcello's clingy girlfriend in LA DOLCE VITA) is the 'living image' of the dead high priestess, the point where if Cushing had a brain he'd just ask his wife to tell the mummy to go back and kill Mehemet. Instead, even after she saves her fey and disinterested husband's life once already, Cushing sends her upstairs, "like a good little girl." Even more brainlessly, at the climax, he has her wait out in the bushes with the inspector so "she'll be safe." And of course, the cops stationed outside fall like dominoes and she's spirited off, as we all know she must. Then again, we don't watch these films to see how to smartly deal with the undead, we watch them to see heavy-breathing beauties walk down dark corridors in their foxy Victorian era negligees, and then get carried into bogs by lovesick corpses.
I love Cushing! I love this mummy more than all the Universal sequels to the Karl Freund original combined. Which says exactly nothing. Is there anyone in monster fandom who loves the mummy over other monsters? Who is like a 'mummy' fan? To me, the mummy is right at the level of the Wolfman, who leaves me kind of nonplussed, though WEREWOLF OF LONDON has great atmosphere. I love DRACULA (1931) the most, and the Hammer vampire films--with a few tedious exceptions--are my favorites. Still, Hammer's MUMMY is a mummy to be reckoned with, a juggernaut that wastes little time in moving from the door to your throat. Even the lengthy flashback to Egypt is creepy, with long ceremonies of death, death and more death, the strange props that make it associatively linked with Kenneth Anger's unforgettable LUCIFER RISING (1972).
And lastly, one can't ignore the vein of rich critique to be found in exploring the fey way Brits claim Egyptology as their own little playground in these films, seeing Egyptians themselves as having little to no right to their own artifacts, and also even after it's clear Karnak is a badass god who can help mummies live through untold centuries, he's still considered a pagan superstition compared to the god of these fey British scientists, and Mehemet Bey's way cooler and sexier than Cushing in the film. (coming off the best, actually is the American accented Eddie Byrne as the inspector). When the white patriarchal reps see this giant mummy resist bullets and crush larynxes with ease, they still refuse to believe in him, even when he walks off with their girl! I root for the mummy every time! Go mummy! This time you shall be free, shall be free. Even if freedom means a mucky swamp grave, there to float and dream until Jimmy Sangster writes you into life once more. Kharis, you magnificent bastard, I read your scroll!