Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Going Sane, 1994


Inspired by Jokers-Circus's brilliant post on the same subject here. My scans in this post aren't as nice, sorry.

So, comic books and me: we have but a passing acquaintance. I like the idea of most superheroes, and in fact actively love a select few of them. But for some reason, there are only a handful of comic books (fine, fine, graphic novels, you nerds) that I love in the same way.

Going Sane is one of them.

Written by J.M. DeMatteis with art by Joe Staton and Steve Mitchell, Going Sane is a Batman tale centered around The Joker, and explores the question as to whether or not, if Batman dies, The Joker would die with him, simply from lack of that stalwart opposing force.

Joker is a fascinating creature, and one that draws an ol' timey film nerd like me to him automatically. Look at his character's history: inspired by Conrad Veidt's Gwynplaine in the 1928 version of Victor Hugo's The Man Who Laughs, Joker combines the horror of grand guignol silent films with the psychotic spark of the Marx Brothers. Despite the dark, dark, very dark and edgy evolution of his character--growing more and more twisted and manic with each new generation, from crippling Barbara Gordon to Heath Ledger's darkest film take--old-fashioned comedy is what shapes and defines Joker. The Chaplins, Keatons, and Lloyds of years past are the eternal backdrop to his crimes, his framing device. Batman, of course, is the audience.

So when the audience is gone?



You get Joseph Kerr, mild-mannered amnesiac, who must take pills in order to control his "skin condition."


Of course many comics, including The Dark Knight, have toyed with the age-old idea of Joker and Batman serving as two sides to the same coin, unable to exist without the other. But DeMatteis was the first to literally spell this theory out on paper, stating loud and clear that The Joker would have no point, no purpose without the dude in the cape n' cowl. Creating a whole story arc around this could have come across as too obvious, almost to the point of ruining the argument. However, DeMatteis brings in a shocking new side to the argument, an idea that many would shy away from even today: what if The Joker is only evil because of Batman? When Batman dies, would Joker's evil die? Leaving behind...a good man?

On the surface, according to this book, the answer appears to be yes. But once you go a little bit deeper...it's, um, deeper than that.

In his recent review of the last Harry Potter movie in The New Yorker, David Denby wonders if children will "understand Rowling's suggestion that none of us are purely good or purely evil."  It's obvious DeMatteis understands, and illustrates just how this dichotomy is not only personified by the good Batman and the evil Joker, but by The Joker and Joseph Kerr: one body, two different personalities fighting for dominance.

Once Joker morphs into Joseph Kerr (which includes an operation to un-bleach his white skin), we start seeing the world through innocent Joseph's eyes. And because I'm an icky girl, this leads to my favorite part, my favorite romance I've read in a graphic novel: the reformed Joker's tender, understanding relationship with his equally mild-mannered neighbor Rebecca Brown.


 Their dynamic is especially appealing to classic film bloggers like myself, because if it wasn't 1994, the pair would totally be blogging their little hearts out about Fred and Ginger and Fibber McGee and Molly. They're quiet characters who create a fantasy world inhabited by Jack Benny's gang, George and Gracie, Baby Snooks, and all the radio serial classics.  DeMatteis remembers that comedy is always Joker's backdrop, no matter what incarnation or what level his insanity--and the fact that classic comedy is what Joker/Joseph takes shelter in illustrates how just outside contemporary society the man is. With Joker, his idealization of classics symbolizes his inability to relate to those around him save for violence. With Joseph, the inability to relate period.

But then he meets Rebecca. He now has someone to share this with. We learn little about Rebecca's background, except that she's 35, is on speaking terms with her mother, and has little experience with men. She makes little allusions throughout that maybe she, this introverted woman bordering on middle age, has likewise done things she's not proud of. At one point, referring to the love Joseph has brought to her life, she says in her narrative box, "In six weeks he'd transformed my entire life. Brought me more happiness than I'd ever dreamed was possible. More happiness, certainly, than I ever deserved." Later, once they're engaged, she says the rain pouring down is like "God's just washing away everything that's come before--so that tomorrow morning when I say 'I do'--it'll be a beautiful new beginning for both of us."

Is she simply modest, one of those self-effacing religious types who spurns joy as an undeserving treat? Or does Rebecca Brown have her own smirking hellbeast, locked away more securely than Joseph's? Is that why she's so drawn to him? Is this where their deep connection stems from outside of their love of Tommy Dorsey and screwball comedy? Is this why she's so deeply troubled about his "episodes"--is she scared not because she doesn't understand, but because she understands all too well the struggle to keep back the bile?

We don't know, and if that was DeMatteis's intention, he doesn't call undue attention to it. Still, with the little information we have, we get to know Rebecca far better than the usual one-off love interest. He truly cares about developing this character. The fact that he shirks comic book convention by making her mousy instead of sensual, soft-spoken instead of kickass, dressed in sweaters and long skirts instead of tights and a cape, makes her stand out even more in this genre.

As I mention on Jokers-Circus, her lack of glamor and pretense is what most likely draws the recovering Joker to her. In Alan Moore's The Killing Joke (1988), considered the definitive Joker book, we see hints of a possible past for the Joker, one he reaches out for in his unreliable memory: a funny, understanding, pregnant wife named Jeannie. The two of them live in a run-down apartment thanks to his fledgling career as a nervous standup comic. Jeannie's described in Moore's original script as average looking, sickly, but "happy in her grim little apartment," supportive of her husband without being submissive.


There's speculation that Going Sane is meant to take place before the events of Killing Joke, leading to theories that the Jeannie we see here is actually Rebecca, distorted in Joker's memory--as he says in Killing Joke, his memories shift and transform as quickly as his manic moods. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I like Jeannie and I like Rebecca, so combining both characters feels like short-changing them both. But from a thematic perspective, Joker's softening expression in the panel above eerily echoes his expression in Going Sane here, when Rebecca's face appears to him while threatening Councilwoman Kenner, portending that maybe this is the case.


 Yes, surprising spoiler, Joker reverts. Batman is alive after all; in another subplot of the book, we see him recuperating with the assistance of a lovely doctor in an idyllic little town. He's ready to abandon his Batman persona forever, just as Joseph has abandoned Joker, when his doctor tells him how an encounter with Batman in Gotham helped restore her faith in humanity after she was raped. So he returns, hoping to inspire more people like her. 

This is a well-written part of the book, but fails to get me like Joker's struggle. See, Bruce Wayne is fully aware of his identity throughout, and is calmly mulling over the possibilities with all the gravity sanity brings. Joseph Kerr does not have this luxury. He's unsure what force is drawing him back to a life of crime in Gotham, only vague, terrifying shapes in his nightmares. It isn't until he sees that Bat again that he snaps, and Joseph disappears.


But then there's that shot of Joker weakening when confronted with the vision of Rebecca in Kenner's place. Like Moore's Joker, briefly reaching out for Jeannie, DeMatteis's creation is not a cardboard psychopathic cutout. Many graphic novelists, desperate to escape the campy '60s TV show depiction of Joker as a harmless mischief maker, went too far in the other direction, making him far darker and far more violent, but still lacking in depth.

Harley Quinn is a tragic and fascinating character because even if there is a small, tiny, measly little spark in Joker that's capable of love, she'll never earn it, in my incredibly unpopular opinion. Love, even in a wildly fictional setting like comic books, requires a foundation of respect, and there is no respect for Harley in Joker. How could there be, god bless 'er? 

With Rebecca and Jeannie, that respect is there and that love is there, regardless of whether or not Jeannie is even real. Something makes him reach out in that picture in Killing Joke, and something stops him in that panel with Kenner. Does that mean twoo wuv could redeem Joker forever? Obviously not, since the specter of Batman is able to lure him back to his evil-doin' ways and away from Rebecca's side. 


 But that his love for her is enough to temporarily disturb and disorient him, distract him from the vision of Batman punching him to justice, widens the scope of his character. He's closer than ever to the original Gwynnplaine comparison, though with a far more conscious awareness of the corruption he's sunk into. The downward spiral of their relationship that Batman perpetually laments is not one-sided here; Joker, deep down, may want to get out of their sick dynamic too, but the sickness is too malignant now, too inescapable. Just like Mr. Freeze or Two-Face, Joker has his tragic edge.

Going Sane is not without its flaws. Well, it has at least one, from my point of v: the art. Man, I do not like the art. My admittedly untrained eye finds the drawings clumsy, half-assed, and uneven. In the first half of the book, Rebecca's hair is light brown, but by the end, it's blonde; Joker looks far boxier and meatier than he should, his hair bushier, and it's impossible to tell who's supposed to be good-looking and who's not, since everyone just looks sort of awful. My ideal graphic novel? This story drawn by the ingenious Brian Bolland, who drew The Killing Joke. 

Still, DeMatteis's story is so strong that I even prefer Going Sane to Killing Joke overall (sorry, y'all, you can map out for me all sorts of excellent arguments as to why Barbara's paralysis is necessary, but I'm going with my classic knee-jerk take on this one: BOO). Even if you're not a Batman fan or a fan of comic books in general, the countless allusions to classic comedies and big-band music would most definitely appeal to this audience, and the story's depth should stay with you beyond that. The way it's structured is fragmented beautifully, providing the four central characters' perspectives in multi-colored narrative boxes--unfamiliar as I am with graphic novels, I'm not sure if that's a common structural strategy, but it's very effective here.

Joseph Kerr is a mostly good man with a hidden room of demons festering inside him. And DeMatteis argues that Joker is mostly a demon with a hidden sanctuary of good inside him, a corner consisting of a small, quiet man in love--in love with both a woman and with a past that he perceives as a simpler, better time. The Joker in his mind is merely a reaction to the moral decay he believes is around him. He soaks it in while also mocking it: he kills what he sees as inescapably corrupted and devoid of humor, and revels in that destruction. However, by his shaky definition, everything is corrupt, no one has a sense of humor, so everything is fair game to kill. Joker's tragedy is that unlike Joseph, he's better at keeping the good in him at bay than Joseph is at stamping down the evil.

Monday, July 11, 2011

In Which 1930s Disney Breaks My Brain

Let's stare into the dark, fantastic abyss of the human soul, shall we?



My favorite comment on the video: "she agreed to go back to Hades because the music was better, much better."

How long do you think it'd take me to learn her dance moves at around 0:54? I'd probably have to remove my spine and the bones from my arms, huh?

It's like they wanted to capture the edgy Cab Calloway vibe from Max Fleischer cartoons, but couldn't resist the pull of Disney's traditional delicate sappiness. Glorious.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Cockney Scarlett: Vivien Leigh as Libby in St. Martin's Lane (1938)


Or Sidewalks of London, if that's the way you roll. Many thanks to Rachel at The Girl with the White Parasol for alerting me to the Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Appreciation Blogathon over at Viv and Larry.com. I thought I'd look at one of my favorite and less well-known of Vivien's performances. It's from one of her last films in England before heading to California for that one big picture about the Civil War.

St. Martin's Lane was made in 1938, a quirky but heartfelt little film--but not quirky and heartfelt in that appalling sticky way that happens sometimes--about the dying art of busking in late '30s Britain. It's co-written, co-produced, and co-starring Charles Laughton. He plays the gentle-hearted, wily, but fundamentally bombastic Charles Staggers, who fancies himself a Sir John Gielgud of the London streets. On some level, he knows he's not as classically refined in his talents as those onstage, but he's happy with his mediocre living and his eccentric streetwise pals.

It's not until he meets Leigh's stagestruck Libby, a sort of theatrical but homeless prodigy, that he even becomes aware that there's anything to be dissatisfied about in his meager and gypsy-like career. Really, I'm not sure why Vivien didn't send Selznick this movie instead of Fire Over England to showcase why she'd make the perfect Scarlett O'Hara. Not only does she portray the same feisty, fiery temper and irrational desires that, like Scarlett, gives her the air of a volcano just waiting to erupt in a black cloud of crazy, but she maintains throughout that adorable likability that keeps the audience from totally condemning her character.

Because really, save for a few fine moments (that I'll talk about in a bit), the script gives us very little reason to like Libby. She starts out as a pickpocket more concerned with getting a permanent wave and manicure like everyone else than earning an honest living, and Charles is just about ready to haul her in for stealing his sixpence and a famous songwriter's cigarette case, when in a magical sequence, he comes upon her dancing to a little tune she's humming, and discovers that the stuck-up little thief moves like an acrobatic swan (I'm unsure how much of the dancing is Vivien's and the rest a double's, but in the close-ups, her upper-body movements are at least very believable).

Recognizing her innate talent, Charles recruits her for his act, and, inevitably, falls for the "silly coot." And despite the fact she tears up his room in a fit, smacks him a couple of times, looks down on his act once that dashing songwriter (Rex Harrison) enters the scene again, and more or less acts the thoughtless little ditz much of the time, we can see where the infatuation comes from.

She is, after all, Vivien Leigh. And where there's Vivien Leigh, there's charm. A while back I was discussing with someone online about how Paulette Goddard would have done as Scarlett. We both agreed she probably would have done a fine job, but I argued that she was too much the hardboiled '30s dame to make us properly sympathize with her Scarlett. In Goddard's screentests, she lacks the childlike manner bordering on pert naivete that Vivien brought to not only Scarlett but most of her roles, including Blanche, Myra, and of course Libby.

We as an audience can forgive Libby a lot because instead of a tart tease, she comes across more like a damaged child, orphaned and lost, who's had to act tough to get through life at all. It's not that she's going for the handwringing, big-eyed childwoman of D.W. Griffiths movies--that would be totally out of place in this light British comedy. Libby is certainly a spoiled child, but not one without a heart.

Let's go back to those few fine scenes I mentioned, or at least one in particular. After she tears up the room and Charles lightly jokes about it, you see her face crumple in shame, and she turns away to cry. In one of the most quietly sweet moments I've ever seen, she half-heartedly snaps, "go away!" when Charles pats her shoulder. An instant later, she hugs him. Watching Laughton's face shift from numb surprise to numb softness is melting enough, but then in-between childish gulps of breath, Libby apologizes for all the wretched stuff she's done to Charles in the one day they've known each other--stolen his sixpence, made fun of him, torn up his room-- "I'm sorry, you silly fool! I'm sorry!" And she buries her face in his shoulder.

I could be wrong--I've actually had no experience being a man--but I think most guys would have no problem forgiving her there.

The other fine scene appears at the end, and I won't spoil anything except to say it does involve a very sweet kiss. Unfortunately, one of the reasons Vivien probably didn't send this flick to Selznick was because she apparently didn't have the best time working on it. Her relationship with Laughton was chilly at best, and as this was made at the height of her love affair with that Olivier person, she was quite distracted with the relationship, and Laughton was less than sympathetic (you really can't blame him. But then again, it's Vivien, so I at least forgive her, even if he couldn't).

Whatever tensions were on on-set, Laughton and Leigh did not let it show in their performances. They both had wonderful chemistry, and made the audience feel for both of them. No small feat, since both characters want different things: Libby wants fame, Charles wants Libby. Turns out both desires are incompatible, but the sweetness these characters share can't be ignored, either.

Neither can Vivien's rare star quality. She doesn't so much act the role of Libby as she does throw herself aggressively at it, and while I'm sure the same Method devotees who sneer at her Blanche might have the same problems with her Libby (she can be a bit shrill at times, her Cockney accent wavers every once in a while), there's no denying she makes her character come alive in a way that can't be taught in an acting school, not really. Like Scarlett, Libby stands for all the ruthless ambition that survives because of that unshakable spark, that childlike conviction that she has no other choice but to make it--in Libby's case, to the stage and the tantalizing promise of Hollywood in the near future. Hm, that's promising.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Mummy: Most Romantic Movie Character Ever?


You thought I was going to say merely the most romantic movie monster, weren't you? Nope. Character. Ever.

See, here's the thing about romantic movies and me. The spookier, the better. When I go to a movie that's marketed as a romance, I go in with that expectation, and, well, big surprise: I get a romance. The filmmakers know their target audiences, and supply directly to them. I'm not saying romantic movies are inherently insincere; it's just that I feel less breathtaken by a product that provides the bare bones of what it promises: a love movie that gives me love scenes.

But romance in monster movies is the best. Granted, I've been on a bit of a monster movie kick lately (partly why I've stumbled across such excellent blogs as Matthew Conian's Carfax Abbey and Vulnavia Morbius's Krell Laboratories), but this has always been an opinion I've stuck by.

The expectations for a monster movie are pretty basic: thrills, chills, blood and/or guts, wowing makeup and/or special effects (depending on what era the film was made in), and maybe a few sadistic giggles here and there from audience members who enjoy on some primitive level watching innocent citizens get chowed by Mothra. You expect screaming, not murmuring sweet nothings in one's undead ear.

So when love does come along in a horror film, the emotion comes from a more genuine place, since the filmmakers thought the element so perfect for the story they defied genre to get it in. True, that may be a subjective opinion of mine, but you should subscribe to it, too. It's my blog, my kingdom, adhere!

But I'm not talking about the standard love story between the frightened ingenue and lame-brained hero. They always throw that sappy crap into the mix for the ladies, since we'd all rather hook up with Norman Kerry or David Manners than Lon Chaney or Boris Karloff, apparently--scoff scoff, as if. No, I'm talking about when the monsters get the love joneses. That's when shit gets real.

It'd be too easy, not to mention overdone, to analyze a character like the Phantom. I think it's safe to say that these days, taking into account the musical and its overindulgent sequel, Phantom of the Opera has unfortunately surpassed its early Grand Guignol horror days of the early twentieth century and is known mostly as a love story now. With, y'know, the Heathcliff character deformed in the facial region. And hell, if you look at the 2004 movie, not even that, really.

No, I'd rather focus on the Mummy.


The two versions I'm going to look at are the 1932 version starring Boris Karloff and the 1959 Hammer version starring Christopher Lee. I could look at the 1999 version, but frankly...I don't wanna. It's too recent for me to really wanna do, I think. Not under the radar enough. One thing I'll say is that Rachel Weisz was very charming. I liked her character better than either Zita Johann from the 1932 version or Yvonne Furneaux from 1959.


The 1932 film is stronger on a structural, cinematographic, and narrative level than the 1959 offering. True, it has the minor flaws of most early sound films, such as uneasy jump cuts and random music placement. But there's no denying the power of the story it tells. Boris Karloff, of course, is the main attraction. What's really striking is that Karl Freund (in his directorial debut) took the most enticing qualities of the reigning Universal Horror Monsters--the Frankenstein Creature's isolated loneliness and Dracula's seductive aura--and stirred them up to create Imhotep, the high priest played by Karloff, who becomes mummified after trying to resurrect his love.

I watched the 1959 one before this, so I was surprised by the presentation of Imhotep as, for the most part, a wrinkly guy dressed in Egyptian garb. The more popular image of the mummy in the collective consciousness--dude staggering around wrapped in bandages--is only in one scene, when he's first awoken by a soon loony Bramwell Fletcher (who I am so relieved wasn't actually the hero like I feared, not that David Manners was much more appealing). It's arguably one of the film's best scenes.

Fletcher's irritating petulance quickly shifts into chilling hysterical laughter, and becomes for that brief scene a fantastic performance. Karloff is similar to Creature from the Black Lagoon here, his grimy paw fondling the ancient scrolls, and his bandages trailing behind him like seaweed as "he goes out for a little walk," Fletcher titters madly (far and away the movie's best line and delivered with just the right amount of camp and sincere, hopeless terror.)


I could go on and on about the coolness of that scene and many others, but again, I want to focus primarily on the romantic nature of Karloff's Imhotep. I wonder: is this the first time on film we see the now standard romantic/horror movie trope of the heroine serving as the reincarnation/lookalike of the monster's long-lost love? As a Dark Shadows fan, I detected echoes in Ihmotep's interactions with Zita Johann's Helen Grosvenor (reincarnation of his long lost Princess Anck-es-en-Amon) similar to the early, menacing Barnabas Collins and Maggie Evans' dynamics.

Like Frid with Barnabas, Karloff masters dual emotions, such as the mesmerized infatuation and icy self-control he maintains when interacting with Johann. He wants to do minor horrible things to her, but like he says, he's been mummified, buried alive for more than 3,700 years in order to be with her. Surely, can't she sacrifice a few moments of torment to spend an eternity of bliss with him? Isn't that essentially the same question Barnabas asks Maggie?

It's just that tantalizing edge of dark, morbid obsession and mysticism that makes horror movie romances more compelling to me than ordinary love stories. Particularly touching is Imhotep's motivation for wanting to resurrect Anck-es-en-Amon in the "proper way"-- "It was not only this body I loved, it was thy soul. I destroy this lifeless thing!" A pure love, twisted and fouled by the torture Imhotep has endured, is demonstrated in the only way Imhotep finds plausible, through destruction.

On paper, this is a bit overblown, what. But through Karloff's subtle performance, he sells it. He doesn't wring the words for their romantic floweriness. He states them as fact--hard, dark fact, and that keeps him from turning into a full-on Byronic hero. Karloff's quiet dignity keeps him aloft amongst stuffy old archelogists and doctors, and whiny, pompous love interests.

Another favorite scene is the flashback segment. I was struck at the time by how like a silent melodrama this part was, and this impression is confirmed in the trivia section at IMDb:
The flashback scenes in ancient Egypt were designed to resemble a silent film, with no dialog, exaggerated make-up and gestures, and a faster camera speed, to suggest the great antiquity of the events portrayed.
It's a testament to the power of silent movies and Freund's ingenuous talent that even in this brief homage, Freund is able to express so much emotion. We see Imhotep as he was then, handsome and distraught, kneeling by his dying princess, and the genuine way Karloff kisses her hand and presses it to his face shines as the most human moment in the film.


The terror is a necessary backdrop to his devotion, to illustrate just how far Imhotep has decayed, both physically and morally, due to his great love. That his love "has lasted longer than the temples of our gods" is what makes the character transcend the trashiness associated with the monster genre, and the monstrousness of his actions ground the film from becoming too bogged down by the love story.


That said, the characters in the 1959 Hammer film are generally more likable. Well, let me qualify that: director Terence Fisher doesn't even try to make the side characters more sympathetic than Lee's Kharis, and that paradoxically makes them easier to live with. There's no pretense to uphold. And let's face it, even at his most uncaring and superfluous, Peter Cushing, with his dry, distant delivery, is a far more palatable straight-laced hero than poor pompous Manners.

Overall, his character and the other Brits are uniformally unemotional (well, aside from the bumbling Cockney comic relief). Cushing's John Banning takes his father's mental breakdown and grim fate in abnormally stiff upper-lipped fashion, and treats the proceeding mummy business with the air of one tackling a puzzling alogorithm.

He even treats his wife, the stunning Ava Gardner-esque Furneaux, in an amusingly detached, scientific manner, whether noting her strong resemblance to a drawing of the dead princess (named Ananka in this version), to dismissing her flattered feelings at his comparing her to the most beautiful woman in the world as, "Remember, the world was smaller back then." It's a minor funny scene that nonetheless showcases the chummy, if not passionate, nature of their relationship.

All this English stoicism works to highlight Kharis as the most sympathetic character in the movie by far. This sympathy is emphasized more here than in the 1932 movie, because the conniving cunning of Imhotep is transferred instead to George Pastell's villainous Mehemet Bey. Bey is...what is he? In the early scenes he's a lurking observer, condemning Banning's search party as committing sacrilege, then later on he's a rich tourist who can afford a mansion with a mummy slave to boot. He's in charge of doling out the orders; Kharis has no choice but to obey him.

Therefore, Kharis is far more a Frankenstein Creature than a Barnabas Collins here. Which isn't particularly a bad thing, but I wish we could have seen more of him, more development. Wish they hadn't cut out his tongue and all, wish we could have heard him speak.


 In an interesting shift from the original, the flashback in this movie makes Kharis appear less sensitive than when he's a monster in bandages. Lee is excellent in both flashback and in the storyline proper. However, he's such a tall, majestic figure when he's the high priest, with his basso profondo voice valiantly affecting the Cushing mask of stoicicism to deflect his torment at losing his forbidden love, that we only really see his vulnerability when he's a disoriented mummy.

He's most touching when as the attacking mummy he sees Furneaux's Isobel for the first time, and recognizes her features as Ananka's. He stops attacking Banning and approaches her stiffly, hands held out in supplication. As my dad says, Lee is great at "eyeball acting" here, which are his only discernible features as he appeals to the frightened Furneaux. Once he registers her repulsion, his dyes dim with sadness and he lumbers away, sparing the Bannings for the time being.

 All right, so it looks like he's about to throttle her here, but I assure you, he's actually supplicating!

Unlike Karloff's Imhotep, you get the impression there's nothing on earth that could convince Kharis to hurt Isobel/Ananka even for a second. He saves her from Bey, then later respects her wishes to release her from his grip, solidifying that at his heart, this tower of strength, this imperious high-priest, is doomed to the role of the humble servant--he's tied to Bey out of necessity, Ananka out of love.

Despite the fact his character is not as well-developed or even as well done on a narrative level as Karloff's, this weakness makes Lee's Kharis the more tragic figure. In either version, though, I feel the Mummy captures what's best in a good horror movie: terror and strength combined with an unshakable foundation of doomed romance.