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Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

The Mummy's Tomb (1942)


Plot

Egyptian high priest Mehemet Bay takes Kharis, the living mummy, to America to kill the survivors of the original expedition which desecrated the tomb of Princess Ananka many years earlier.

 

It's pretty impossible to find a mummy film which doesn't stick to the same rigid plot about desecrating tombs and extracting revenge. After all, it's like having a Frankenstein film without the scientist creating some form of monster. These are problems that Universal's script writers were facing back in the late 30s and early 40s. The studio wanted to increase its film output and so churned out a number of reboots, sequels and follow-ups to their classic monster hits. But with each extra film being made, writers were finding it difficult to keep things fresh and so the films become repetitive rehashes. No finer example can be found than that of The Mummy sequels. Each of them was virtually identical in appearance and it’s almost impossible to distinguish one from the other - I mean there were only so many Egyptian tombs that archaeologists could stumble upon before it got boring, right?



The Mummy's Tomb is no exception to the all-too-familiar story of a mummy taking revenge upon an expedition for desecrating the tomb of a princess, only this time they've shifted the bulk of the action back to America. If you think you're going to see anything different here than you did in The Mummy's Hand, then you're in for a shock because the film is by-the-book to the letter. There's no tension or suspense as the film quickly shifts into a lumbering routine of stalk and kill. There's no real build-up to anything, it just happens. With a short running time of seventy one minutes you'd think this would get straight into the thick of it and it almost does but we're given a gratuitous amount of flashback footage from the previous film to explain what is going on. This lasts for about a quarter of an hour and therefore you're not left with a lot of remaining time for fresh material.


What does make this feel like more of a sequel than most is it's inclusion of the surviving cast from The Mummy's Hand. Watching the two films back-to-back adds continuity to the series (and even by adding the two films, you'd still only get a film a little more than two hours long). Here, the survivors are made-up to look thirty years older which is the length of time between the events in this fictional world even though in real life, the gap was only two. The survivors don't do much except pass the baton to the new characters and then meet their demises (some would say they get what they deserve for their desecration). It's a nice tactic that a lot of modern legacy sequels have done (Jason killing off Alice in the opening scene to Friday the 13th Part 2, survivors from Scream sequels being killed off in the next instalment, hell even Han Solo taking one in Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and informing the audience that no one will be safe. But the latest additions are all too thinly characterised to warrant any real audience attention once the mainstays have departed.


Horror legend Lon Chaney Jr. puts on the costume of bandages to portray Kharis. Hardly a monster for any actor to really shine through the layers of make-up, Chaney Jr. doesn't make much of an impression. The mummy has turned into a characterless cliché devoid of personality or traits. It's now simply a screen monster, not a tragic character full of secret love for his princess. The mummy doesn't do anything but slowly and aimlessly mill it's away around the town looking for its next victim. Even when it tracks down the next target, the characters just stand there and wait for this monster to slowly shuffle over to them and then let it strangle them to death. Why not get the hell out there? A man with no legs could out run this fiend.


There are a couple of effective shots of the mummy traipsing through the forest but the cinematographer doesn't do the mummy any justice whatsoever, constantly thrusting it into well-lit sets where all of it's shabby attire is evident. The more you see of it, the worse it looks. Funnily enough out of the three mummy films that Chaney Jr. made, the make-up in this one is the most impressive and still has that stereotypical mummy-look. He'd eventually look like a man in jeans and a white t-shirt by the time the budgets were cut for The Mummy's Ghost.

 

Final Verdict

The Mummy's Tomb is one of the weaker mummy films from the Universal stable but when they're all basically the same film anyway, that's a good thing or a bad thing depending on your taste for the living mummies. At just over an hour long, it outstays its welcome long before the final credit rolls.



 

The Mummy's Tomb


Director(s): Harold Young


Writer(s): Griffin Jay (screenplay), Henry Sucher (screenplay), Neil P. Varnick (original story)


Actor(s): Lon Chaney Jr., Dick Foran, John Hubbard, Elyse Knox, George Zucco, Wallace Ford, Turhan Bey, Virginia Brissac


Duration: 61 mins




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