Mercy, the Mummy Mumbled: the 1918 African American Silent Film

With Halloween approaching, here’s a shoutout to an early mummy movie. Mercy, the Mummy Mumbled, is an all-black silent film from 1918. Several silent movies featured mummies as plot devices; The Egyptian Mummy, for example, was released in 1914 but Mercy is likely the only one made by African-American filmmakers for African-American audiences.

The plots of the two films are very similar: a mad scientist is willing to pay big bucks for a mummy to experiment on; a young man needs money to marry his girlfriend; a fake mummy is created. Mercy adds two Egyptian secret agents tracking down their country’s stolen artifacts to the story, all within an 11 minute run time.

Mercy, the Mummy Mumbled was released by the short-lived Ebony Film Corporation  of Chicago and is included in Pioneers of African-American Cinema box set (but Mercy is only on the Blu-ray collection, not on the DVD collection) by Kino Lorber. The five discs include movies from as early as 1915 and as late as 1946.  See the New York Times review for more details: Black Filmmaking Aborning. Much of the film can also be viewed on YouTube, and stills from Mercy can be seen at the DAARAC site. The Egyptian Mummy, released by the much larger Vitagraph company, can be streamed on Amazon Prime.

“It takes a monster from outer space, to make my baby want my embrace”

The Diamonds sing about the positive effect of monster movies. The Canadian quartet recorded Batman, Wolfman, Frankenstein or Dracula in 1959. The song was written by Roy Alfred, who also wrote the lyrics for The Hucklebuck, as well as several songs that tried to hop on the rock and roll craze for singers like Kay Starr (The Rock and Roll Waltz), Tennessee Ernie Ford (Rock, Roll, Boogie), and Nat “King” Cole (When Rock and Roll Come to Trinidad).