The Egyptian Mummy (Vitagraph, 1914)
Dick (Billy Quirk) is in love with Florence (Constance Talmadge), but her father, Professor Hicks (Lee Beggs), won’t see his daughter married to some penniless schlub. Besides, he’s too intent on his current scientific project: resurrecting the dead.
Dick doesn’t respond well. He takes the pipe — literally. He goes to his bedroom, sticks one end of a tube into the gaslight, the other end in his mouth, and he lays down to sleep, expecting never to wake up. He does wake up, though; the gas meter is coin operated and he was only paid up for a quarter’s worth.
Meanwhile, the Professor has made a breakthrough. In one of his books, he finds a formula for a drug that promises to restore life even to an ancient Egyptian mummy. Naturally, that’s just the test subject he needs. The Professor places an ad: $5,000 for whoever brings him a mummy. When Dick reads the paper, he knows exactly what to do — and it’s so simple, too: find a filthy old bum (Joel Day), bribe him with liquor to lie still, and present him to the Professor.
Dick immediately takes his newfound $5,000 to the stockbroker. The Professor begins preparing the drug. The “mummy”, starting to dry out, is getting antsy. No sooner does the Professor administer the drug than the mummy jumps to his feet and starts ransacking the office in search of booze. Terrified, the Professor flees.
Dick’s investments pay out — $5,000 has turned to $50,000 — and he returns to see the Professor as a man more suitable to marry his daughter. The Professor is busy throwing his books and experiments out the window, but takes a moment to toss Dick and Florence together with implicit approval of the match.
This was a delightful little comedy perfectly suited to Quirk’s style of acting. Beggs was no slouch, either. Vitagraph had recently acquired both from Solax, where they had worked together on great, similarly themed films like Canned Harmony (1912). At Solax, Quirk was usually paired with Blanche Cornwall, but at Vitagraph, his love interest was wet-behind-the-ears Constance Talmadge. She was still an unknown at the time — don’t quote me on it, but The Egyptian Mummy may well be her earliest surviving work — but she would soon become a major star, disdaining short comedies for serious dramatic roles and features. It was comedy’s loss. Films like The Egyptian Mummy and Billy the Bear Tamer (1915) show how adept she was at being funny.
My rating: I like it, unreservedly.