The Mummy's Hand (1940)
"They dared the curse of the ancients... to solve the most amazing mystery ever encountered by mortal man!"
A pair of archaeologists discover a vase which they hope will lead them to find the tomb of Princess Ananka. What they don't realise is that the tomb is protected by her former high priest, Kharis, who attempted to resurrect her thousands of years ago but was caught and mummified, forced to live forever as her guardian. He will kill anyone who attempts to desecrate her tomb.
The first 'sequel' to 1932's The Mummy made by Universal, The Mummy's Hand shows why the formula for this cinematic monster has changed so little over time – there is only so much that you can actually do with it! Even in this second mummy film, the story is a basic rehash of the original with a few minor alterations. However, far from the original being the originator of many of this sub-genre's most famous tropes, it is The Mummy's Hand where all of the typical mummy clichés come from, not the Karloff original. It is here were we have the mummy in all of its bandaged glory doing the bidding of an evil high priest. He's not reincarnating himself as a normal-looking human - he's the walking toilet roll we all know and love. The Mummy's Hand is far from a typical sequel but rather a reboot of the series into the template we think of when we hear the word 'mummy.'
You can tell that The Mummy's Hand is a cheap cash-in to milk a bit of money out of one of Universal's most underappreciated monsters. The mummy has never been given the same A-list treatment as Dracula, Frankenstein or even The Wolfman and the quality of these sequels prove the point well. The whole thing reeks of cheapness, from the running time clocking in at a meagre sixty-seven minutes, right down to the cheap re-cycled sets from another Universal film. A copious amount of stock footage is used from The Mummy and close-up shots of Boris Karloff have simply been replaced by the new actor. I wonder just how much new footage was actually filmed here and rehashing old footage is a pretty shameful thing to do to pad out running time given how short it is. Even the score has been lifted from Son of Frankenstein…..and I moan on about how cheaply some films are made today. They’ve got nothing on these vintage horrors which were made for a cup of coffee and a cigarette.
Unfortunately, The Mummy’s Hand is a mummy film which makes the mistake of focusing on the two lead characters and their ‘comedic’ exploits instead of, you know, the mummy. Dick Foran and Wallace Ford play the Abbott and Costello-lite duo and their bumbling antics replace any sort of mummy action for the first half of the film. Gone is the mood and suspense of the original, replaced by daft and misguided shenanigans. The problem is that Foran and Ford do such a poor job of aping Abbott and Costello, that you wonder why Universal waited another fifteen years to square the duo off against their classic team of monsters, instead of forcing these two downgrades into the same role.
It’s just too late in the film when the mummy finally gets about doing what it does best and that only leaves around twenty minutes for a few characters to be killed off, the mummy to be defeated and everything wrapped up in a neat package. After the sluggishness of the opening forty minutes, the last twenty flies by too quickly, raising the question of why they couldn’t have spaced everything out a bit more. The mummy costume looks pretty old, tatty and crumbly - exactly the sort of image you'd expect from a decaying corpse so no complaints here. Tom Tyler, the guy behind the make-up, does an excellent job of creeping and slumbering his way around the sets and gives the mummy an intimidating presence. George Zucco plays the mummy's controlling high priest, Andoheb, with the right amount of smarmy sinister relish.
The Mummy's Hand was a cheap sequel quickie which I'm sure no one back then would have imagined the legacy it would leave on the genre, unintentionally creating the mummy template and iconography as we know it today. It's hardly classic horror so don't coming looking for something different to the countless other mummy films out there because you won't find it. But you can at least check out the origins of cinema's bandage-wearing shuffler.
The Mummy's Hand
Director(s): Christy Cabanne
Writer(s): Griffin Jay (story & screenplay), Maxwell Shane (screenplay)
Actor(s): Dick Foran, Peggy Moran, Wallace Ford, Eduardo Cianelli, George Zucco, Cecil Kelloway, Charles Trowbridge
Duration: 67 mins