Mummy films are unique among classic monster movies in that they're neither primarily based upon myths or literature. Only Isaac Henderson's 1902 play, The Mummy and the Hummingbird and Bram Stoker's 1903 novel, Jewel of the Seven Stars, have inspired cinematic adaptations (the latter spawning four to date) with its subject of an archaeologist attempting to revive a mummy. There were a few examples of the mummy in literature, as with Edgar Allan Poe's "Some Words with a Mummy," Théophile Gautier's The Romance of a Mummy, Ambrose Pratt's The Living Mummy, Louisa May Alcott's "Lost in a Pyramid or, The Mummy’s Curse" and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Lot No. 249" and "The Ring of Thoth" all deal with mummies, albeit not always in a horror setting, and have never even loosely been adapted into film.
The rise of mummy films seem to be directly related to a then-widespread interest in archaeology and, more specifically, an enduring western vogue for Orientalism and fascination with the Near East. Several major discoveries in the field of Egyptology occurred in the 20th century and helped renew and increase interest in one the the planet's oldest, most complex and enduring civilizations. Yet fascination with Egyptian mummies, with their tantalizing ties to the ancient past, never really translated into a healthy monster subgenre, only sporadically rising to the level of more continually popular monsters like vampires and ghosts.
Been thinking about Karen Carpenter today. Isn't this just the best?
Poor Karen, the submissive misfit in a controlling, perfectionistic family. Here's a frail looking Karen playing a huge drum solo on the Carpenters' 1976 TV special:
In the typically dull world of easy listening, Karen Carpenter really stands out as someone with great talent and passion for music, inserting both pathos and intensity into her singing and playing. She also appears to have been someone who never quite fit into that rigid, clean cut and repressed world and who was emotionally damaged in part by that realization. The sadness and the difficulties she faced seem to have been channeled into her creative endeavors, which no doubt added to her capability and appeal, but anorexia withered her away to the bone and she finally passed away due to its complications in 1983.
There's an interesting documentary about the Carpenters that's available on DVD, Close To You: Remembering the Carpenters, which in my memory is notable for Richard Carpenters' closed-offedness, constant creepy smiling and refusal to admit or recognize much of anything that might have been tragic or difficult throughout the career he and his sister had.
Today marks the birthdate of legendary blues singer Bessie Smith, who was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on April 15th, 1894 according to the 1910 census. (Note that Smith's D.O.B. has been contested, but this one is the commonly agreed on date.)
Life was tough for the young Smith, who would go on to great success and become widely known as the “Empress of the Blues” (initially she was dubbed "Queen of the Blues").
After both Smith's father and mother died by the time she was only nine, she and her siblings teamed up to earn money to make ends meet in their impoverished household and assist her older sister, Viola, who had taken over the role as parent for her and her brothers and sisters.
At a young age music became a way to make money. Around the turn of the century, along with her brother Andrew, Bessie would do a song and dance routine on the streets of Chattanooga for spare change. Andrew played guitar while she sang and danced.
By age 18 Bessie Smith joined the Stokes troupe, a company that also included Ma Rainey, as a dancer initially. Smith's singing career would later be given a chance to blossom via stage productions and when Columbia Records began releasing her recordings in the early 1920's.
She would make over 150 recordings for the label before splitting from them in 1931. Smith soon beacame a major star and was the highest paid black performer in her heyday, when she became the biggest headliner on the black Theater Owners Booking Association circuit. Her stage shows, during which she was known to wear a variety of eye-catching costumes, were legendary. Smith's signing with Columbia Records in 1923 coincided with the label expanding its target audience to include blacks by forming a "race records" series and Smith's earlist hits for the label included "Gulf Coast Blues" and "Downhearted Blues."
Coming up this Saturday, April 18, is that ultra-cool, ultra-fresh international holiday Record Store Day! It's a whole day designed to celebrate the independent record store! So, all three Amoeba Music stores plan to celebrate in our classic, over the top Amoeba fashion!
To see what the Hollywood store will be up to, from a DJ set by the enduringly hip Wendy and Lisa to exclusive on site T-shirt screening, click here!
You can also check out what Berkeley has planned, including a DJ set by Jonathan "Yoni" Wolf of Why?, by clicking here!
Here in San Francisco, our very special DJs this Saturday will be:
- Kylee of Loquat (Talking House): 2-3pm
- Kelley Stoltz (Sub Pop): 3-4pm
- John Vanderslice (Dead Oceans): 4-5pm
- Aesop Rock (Definitive Jux): 5-6pm