Mummy’s Tomb, The (1942)

The Mummy's Tomb (1942)

BURIED FURY!…stalking to life from the depths of doom!

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. Back in the late 30s and early 40s, Universal churned out a number of sequels and follow-ups to their classic hit, The Mummy. Each of them was virtually identical in appearance and it’s almost impossible to distinguish one from the other.

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. If you think you’re going to see anything different, 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 meet their demises (some would say they get what they deserve for their desecration) and then it’s up to the newer characters to carry the film. But they’re all too thinly characterised to warrant any real audience attention.

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. Funnily enough out of the three mummy films that Chaney Jr. made, the make-up in this one is the most impressive. 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.


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.





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