Beyond the Aristocracy
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The blue-blooded Baron and the Count may have been the Trojan horses for Hammer’s inexorable ascendancy, but soon it became necessary to plunder other sources for material, both literary and filmic. Universal Studios continued to be a lodestone, and Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were once again opponents in a new version of the Karl Freund/Boris Karloff classic, The Mummy (1959), helmed by Terence Fisher. Lee is once again at the centre of an erotic obsession, but on this occasion it is him who lives in thrall to another person. Lee’s Egyptian high priest has become obsessed with the Queen — a passion which results in him having his tongue severed with a knife; he is then mummified to be buried with her in her sarcophagus. As so often in Hammer films, grotesque physical mutilation (while carrying sufficiently grim dramatic force within its own terms) has a secondary significance, sometimes involving the suggestion of emasculation, something that occurs in both in this film and in the little-seen The Stranglers of Bombay (directed by Fisher in 1959), another film which explicitly linked violence and torture with sexuality. A famous still from the film shows the actor Guy Rolfe spread-eagled on the ground, staked out by members of the Thuggee cult, while the actress Marie Devereux (whose generous cleavage was often utilised by directors in this era) displays her embonpoint while tantalisingly pouring away water within the sight of the tormented Rolfe.
KeywordsScreen Time Trojan Horse Generous Cleavage Horror Film Atmospheric Lighting
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