"The Eyes of the Mummy" (1918)

also known as "Die Angen Der Mummie Ma"

and "Die Mumie MA"

Produced in Germany by Projektions A.G. Union at the UFA (Union Film Alliance) Tempelhof studio in Berlin
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Scenario by Hans Kraly and Emil Rameau
Six reels, running time of 55 minutes when it opened in Berlin On October 3, 1918. It was released in New York by the Hamilton Company (Paramount).

Starring Pola Negri, Emil Jannings, Harry Liedtke, and Max Lawrence.

A tale of revenge.
A young English painter Albert Wendland (Harry Liedtke) is on a student trip to Egypt. While strolling through the desert outside of Cairo, he comes upon a young woman drawing water at a well. When the young woman notices him, she runs away, and Albert chases after her, but she loses him among the sand dunes.

The next day Albert is on the terrace of the Palace Hotel, and he hears a Prince Hohenfels asking a guide to take him to visit the Burial Chamber of Queen Ma. The guide tells the prince, "All previous visits to Queen Ma have ended in disaster." The guide points out a visibly shaken man on the terrace who is being attended by a nurse. He had been a recent visitor to the burial chamber.

Albert overhears the conversation, and when the nurse leaves, he approaches the terrified man and asks him to tell him about his experience at the burial chamber. Before the terrified man passes out he shouts, "THE EYES LIVE! THE EYES LIVE!"

The next morning at the market place in Cairo, Albert looks for a guide to take him to the burial site of Queen Ma. None of the guides will accept his offer until he shows a bundle of money to a seedy looking character who agrees to take him.

As Albert approaches the burial tomb, he is noticed by a scruffy looking man and a woman. The woman hurries into the tomb, and, upon reaching the burial tomb, Albert is greeted by the scruffy looking Radu, (Emil Jannings) the shrine's keeper, who leads him into the tomb. Against a wall in the burial site is a sarcophagus. When Albert stares at the sarcophagus, the eyes suddenly flutter. "Albert rushes towards the sarcophagus, and Radu attempts to stop him. Pushing him down, Albert looks around the sarcophagus and discovers a door leading to a chamber. Cowering in the corner is the young woman Albert had seen at the well just a few days before, Mara (Pola Negri). She throws herself at his feet. She tells him that Radu had abducted her a few years before and kept her at the tomb. Albert says he will take her away with him.

As Albert rides away towards Cairo with Mara, Radu awakens and starts trekking across the desert seeking vengeance. He passes out and is found by another group of tourists, among whom is Prince Hohenfels.

The next day as Albert and Mara are on the high seas. Radu awakens in a hospital and swears to find Mara. He thanks the Prince for saving his life, and Radu tells the prince he will serve him if he takes him to Europe

In London Albert hires a tutor to teach Mara and a milliner to dress her in the European manner. At the same time Radu is in London with Prince Hohenfels. Radu has but one thought in his mind and that is revenge. Albert decides to hold a party to introduce Mara to his friends, and among the guests is a theatrical agent who signs Mara to a contract. A few months later she is a great success, and Prince Hohenfels attends one of her performances with Radu!
Radu recognizes Mara, and, as he stares at her, she faints!

The Reviews
Variety had this to say, "Another of those labored dime novel dramatic stories from the U.U.F.A. plant. The situations are an affront to adult intelligence, but might make a thriller for juvenile audiences . . . Pola Negri discloses unsuspected skill in dancing, and her stage performance was interesting . . . Emil Jannings is always absurd as the terrifying bogey man."

I found Variety's review rather quaint. The critic compliments Pola Negri's dancing, and I can assume that he was unfamiliar with her ballet and stage background. He also comments on a scene where there is an elegant ballroom scene and compares the costumes to those at a GREEN POINT chowder party. The Green Point area of New York City was the home of many immigrants of different ethnic backgrounds.

Harrison's Reports, June 25, 1922." Just like any other Pola Negri picture excepting "Passion" -- it is poor. While it is not gruesome or offensive like some of those that have been released in the past, nevertheless it is indifferent; the action is illogical, and the characters hardly do anything that would arouse interest or sympathy."

Pola Negri

Pola Negri (1894-1987) born Pola Barbara Apollonia Chalupic in Poland, attended The Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg, then stage training at Warsaw Konservatorium and made her stage debut during the Tzarist regime in 1913. Max Reinhardt, one of the great German impresarios, had seen Pola dance at the Maly Theater in Warsaw in 1913, and he was struck by her temperament and brought her to Berlin to appear in his pantomime, "Sumurun," in 1917. Paul Davidson, a theater owner, had decided to enter the film producing end of the business, and he broached the subject of her appearing in films. He then approached Lubitsch to do a serious film with her. The Davidson Union Company became part of UFA in 1918 and UFA then acquired Ernst Lubitsch, Paul Wegener, Asta Nielson, Pola Negri, Harry Liedtke, Emil Jannings, Ossi Oswalda, and many other prominent film stars. Ufa cataloged its stars with descriptions such as "Ossi's legs, Pola's gleaming eyes, and Astra's slim figure," which were the "assets" available at UFA's founding. Pola's first film, "Vendetta," was not an artistic masterpiece, but it was a commercial success. The next film was "The Eyes Of The Mummy." She soon advanced to stardom in Ernst Lubitsch's films portraying vamps and virgins.

Many of her German films are available, and her range of emotions can be seen in "Carmen," "Passion," and "Sumurun." She was one of the first German actresses to be offered a Hollywood contract, and many of her silent and sound Hollywood films are still available.

Pola Negri enjoyed working with Lubitsch, and in her memoirs mentions an incident while filming the climatic scene of "The Eyes Of The Mummy." Emil Jannings was to stab Pola Negri as they stood at the top of a steep flight of stairs. Lubitsch wanted her to stagger backwards, and when Pola suggested that she fall down the stairs, Lubitsch was horrified. "And break your neck? No! I might need you for the retakes." Pola explained that dancers practice falls, but Lubitsch was adamant and would not risk her life or his career. When everything was in place Lubitsch yelled, "Camera!" With the mood music playing, Jannings pulled out his dagger and stabbed. Pola threw up her arms in horror and tumbled backwards. Her heel caught in the hem of her dress, and she lost control of the fall and tumbled down the entire flight of stairs. As Pola lay dazed on the floor, Lubitsch was swearing wildly at her and then took his anger out on Jannings for not having caught her. Jannings bleated, "How was I to know what she was going to do? Did I ask you to hire this crazy Pole?"

Emil Jannings

Emil Jannings, 1884-1950, was born Theodor Friedrich Emil Janenz, A.K.A. Theodore Emil Janenzin Rorschach, in Switzerland into a middle-class home. He ran away from home at age 16 to become a sailor and ended up working as an assistant cook on an ocean liner.

He returned home disillusioned, but soon took up the theater. At 18 he made his professional stage debut, going on to tour with several companies in numerous provincial towns. In 1906 he was invited to join Max Reinhardt's theater in Berlin, then considered to be the finest stage troupe in the world.

Over the following decade, he established himself as a significant stage actor. Jannings debuted on screen in 1914, but the first five years of his film career were routine. In 1919 he began appearing in a string of Germanic-slanted historical dramas, portraying imposing historical figures such as Louis XV, Henry VIII, and Peter the Great. Next he starred in a series of literary adaptations. By the mid-'20s he had an international reputation, and many considered him one of the world's greatest screen actor.

In 1927 Paramount signed him, and he moved to Hollywood, appearing in a number of films designed to showcase his gift for tragedy. Jannings won the very first Best Actor Academy Award for his first two American films, "The Last Command" (1928) and "The Way of All Flesh" (1927). Because of his thick German accent, the advent of sound ended his American career. He returned to Germany in 1929.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Jannings, who was a man of action and a natural leader, satisfied his ambitions by adapting to the National Socialists' master race cliche and was enlisted to participate in the state's propaganda machine, an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis.

Jannings' had risen to stardom in potentate roles, and in the mid-twenties he had portrayed with great sensitivity the feelings of society's failures. Now he had the opportunity to star in roles of tyrannical authoritarian figures, fully conscious of his own authority and the aura of the roles he enacted. He spent the next decade-plus making films that supported Nazi ideology. Propaganda Minister Goebbels awarded him in 1938 with a medal and an appointment to head Tobis, the company that produced his films, and he was honored as "Artist of the State" in 1941. At the end of the war Jannings was blacklisted by the Allied authorities, and he never made another film. He died five years later, lonely and bitter.

Many of his feature films are available including "The Last Command," "Tartueff," "Faust," "Variety," "Waxworks," "The Last Laugh," "The Eyes of the Mummy," "The Loves of Pharaoh," "Anne Boleyn," "Fortune's Fool," and "Passion."

Carl Sandburg in the Chicago Daily News on September 15, 1927, summed up Emil Jannings. "They say that when Emil Jannings is working on a screen role, his loving wife leaves him for the time, remaining away until such time as the picture is done, and Emil his own amiable self again. Night and day, the story goes, he lives his role, brooding, thinking, holding his mind to the limits of his dramatic character. He wears the kind of clothes the character would wear, talks like him, eats like him, thinks like him, goes to the studio in his costume ready for work."

In the book "How I Broke Into The Movies" by Hal C. Herman, Jannings said, "I didn't break into the movies. I was dragged in, quite literally. The man that did it dragged me off a streetcar and threatened me with every kind of legal and corporal punishment if I didn't stay in the movies. The story begins in Germany where I had been on that stage for many years, had achieved a fair measure of success, and I looked on motion pictures with contempt. I would not even look at a movie. We stage folk considered them a wretched type of cheap entertainment. Too mechanical! Too inartistic! Despite my dislike of this new form of entertainment, I still had the old wolf at the door to contend with. And the shop windows of Berlin were so fascinating. To an actor who for many seasons had played the smaller cities where opportunity to spend money was not so great, Berlin was a real trial, for I liked fine things, and in Berlin there were always before me, urging me to make more money so that I could acquire finer things of my own. A juvenile actor who was doing bits at my theater in Berlin one day and told me that if I would consent to take a part in a movie, he knew a man who would engage me and that it would be a means of making some extra money. I cringed at the thought, yet I had many uses for the money, and so I consented. The juvenile who told me was Ernst Lubitsch. He took me to a director who was going to make a comedy called 'When Four Do The Same.' I was offered $2 a day at the studio. 'Tomorrow you start,' they told me, and I had no idea what I was to do or what the story was about. After my long arduous study of my different roles and characterization on the stage, this method of making pictures seemed to me a disclosure of the depths of ignorance and tallied with my previous estimate of the types of minds and men who made movies. The director of my first picture asked me to jump from a bridge into a boat. They wanted me because I was strong and because they thought I could do athletic stunts. I was insulted. My art had never received such a blow. I disappeared from the studio, determined that even for the previous $2 a day I could not do stunts. Then the temptation to earn the extra money overcame me again. Robert Wiene, the director who made "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," asked me to play a part and this time the pay was $10. The director wanted me to look at the rushes of the picture in the making. I consented, but after I had seen a half reel I rushed out of the projection room before they could stop me, bordered a streetcar and started for home, 'I won't play in motion pictures again,' I said. 'I won't do it.' But I had to learn that I could not be so independent. My money had been tied up in the production, and the director came running after me, caught up with my streetcar, dragged me off and threatened me with arrest if I did not finish my part in the picture. I was furious, but it was my good luck to go back. The picture turned out to be a great success with the people in Germany, and the critics praised me highly. Overnight, against my will, I had been dragged into the movies.

Marlene Dietrich in "Movie Talk" by David Shipman is quoted as saying, "Oh, everyone is sick to death of that one ('The Blue Angel'). And I thought Jannings was just awful in it. Such a ham."

"In Moving Pictures" by Budd Schulberg, he mentions that when Hitler came into power and Jannings' professional status was in danger, he went to court and became a certified member of the master race by declaring that he had been born out of wedlock to an Aryan maid in the Jannings household which prompted his father B.P. Schulberg to declare, "I've known of a lot of bastards in this business, but this is the first time I ever heard of anyone going to court to make it official."

Harry Liedtke

Harry Liedtke (1882-1945) began his screen career in 1917 and appeared in numerous silent films. Many are available including "I Kiss Your Hand Madame," "Loves of Pharoah," "Gypsy Blood," "One Arabian Night," "Passion" and "The Oyster Princess." His last screen appearance was in 1944. He was killed in the spring of 1945 when the automobile he was traveling in was destroyed by Russian gunfire.

Ernst Lubitsch

Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947) was born in Berlin and was an actor, writer, editor, director and a producer in a screen careen that began in 1913 until his death. "The Eyes Of The Mummy" was the first Lubitsch feature film shown in the United States, although without his credit as the director. Many of his silent films are available including "The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg," "So This Is Paris," "Lady Windermere's Fan," "The Marriage Circle," "Rosita," "Loves of Pharaoh," "Anna Boleyn," "One Arabian Night," "Meyer from Berlin," "The Doll," "Madame DuBarry," "The Oyster Princess," "The Eyes of the Mummy" and "Gypsy Blood."

Lubitsch had been producing many successful short comedy films, and he persuaded his boss, Paul Davidson, that he wanted to realize his artistic dreams in the form of great dramas. Davidson decided to risk his money and engaged young Berlin actors such as Emil Jannings and Harry Liedtke at a salary of 35 marks per day. For the female star of his dramas he chose a young Polish woman who had recently arrived in Berlin by the name of Pola Negri

The Lubitsch Touch by H.G. Weinberg
The World Film Encyclopedia by C. Winchester
UFA by K. Kreimeier
Carl Sandburg At The Movies edited by Dale and Doug Fetherling

copyright 2003 by John DeBartolo. All rights reserved.

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