Universal Monsters in Review: The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)
Shambling from the tombs of Cairo comes our next monster in our series reviewing Universal’s classic monster movies. Hard to believe we’re almost already six months since this adventure began. Most of the monster pillars were knocked out within the first two months, and now…well, now we’ve been slowly working our way through the sequels of those lovable legendary baddies, such as Dracula, The Wolfman, Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Mummy. Some of the sequels have been extraordinarily good, others interesting enough to be okay, some only reaching the level of meh, and there have been a few that were just plain awful. I’m not going to pussyfoot around, The Mummy’s Tomb does not sit on my top ten list of Universal Monster Movies. There are some lows with how the movie was made, and I mean some really low-lows, but there are also some highs notes as well, perhaps not entirely about the film itself, maybe the stories the movie eventually inspired down the road, however, they are positive reflections of the movie nevertheless. Yours truly will be your host for this evenings event. So join me as we discuss, The Mummy’s Tomb!
Here’s a synopsis to jog your memory of the movie we’re about to discuss:
The Mummy’s Tomb picks up the story thirty years after the conclusion of the previous last film. It begins with Steve Banning (Dick Foran) reciting the story of Kharis to his family and evening guests in his Mapleton, Massachusetts home. Footage from The Mummy’s Hand appears as Banning tells his tale. As he concludes his tale of the successful destruction of the creature, the scene switches back to the tombs of Egypt. Surviving their supposed demise, Andoheb (George Zucco) explains the legend of Kharis (Lon Chaney, Jr.) to his follower, Mehemet Bey (Turhan Bey). After passing on the instructions for the use of the tana leaves and assigning the task of terminating the remaining members of the Banning Expedition and their descendants, Andoheb expires. Bey and Kharis leave Egypt for the journey to the United States. Bey takes the caretaker’s job at the local cemetery, sets up shop and administers the tana brew to Kharis. The monster sets out to avenge the desecration of Ananka’s tomb. His first victim is Stephen Banning, whom the creature kills as the aging archaeologist prepares for bed. As the Sheriff (Cliff Clark) and Coroner (Emmett Vogan) can’t come up with a lead, newspapermen converge on Mapleton to learn more about the murder. Babe Hanson (Wallace Ford) arrives on the scene after learning of his friend’s death. When Jane Banning (Mary Gordon), Steve’s sister, is killed, Hanson is convinced it is the work of a mummy.
Meeting with the Sheriff and Coroner, Hanson is unable to convince them of the identity of the culprit. He tells his story to a newspaperman at the local bar, but is himself dispatched by Kharis almost immediately afterwards. John Banning enlists the help of Professor Norman (Frank Reicher) to solve the puzzle of the “grayish mark” found on the victims. Norman’s test results prove that Hanson was right, the substance was indeed mold from a mummy. Meanwhile, Bey has plans of his own. Knowing that Banning and his girlfriend, Isobel Evans (Elyse Knox) are planning to marry, he sets out to disrupt their nuptials. Bey himself has become smitten with Isobel, and sends Kharis on a mission to bring her to him. Kharis initially balks, but finally adheres to Bey’s command.
In an effective sequence, the monster stealthily enters the Evans’ home and abducts the girl. At the cemetery, Bey unveils his plan to the reluctant Isobel, explaining that she is to become the bride of a High Priest of Karnak, and bear him an heir to the royal line. Banning and the rest of the townspeople have become convinced that their recent Egyptian transplant may be involved in the crimes. Arriving in force, they confront Bey at the cemetery. Kharis slips away with Isobel unbeknownst to the horde, and Bey attempts to shoot Banning, but is himself gunned down by the Sheriff. The creature is observed heading toward the Banning estate, and the group begins pursuit. Inside the home, Banning manages to rescue Isobel from Kharis with the aid of the Sheriff and Coroner. The townspeople set fire to the house, and the monster perishes in the flames. Banning and Isobel wed, and the curse is brought to an end. –Brought to you by Wikipedia.
Okay, for starters, I included a much longer synopsis than I typically do with my reviews. I did this to highlight one particular aspect of the movie I wanted to make mention of. While reading the synopsis, did you feel in any way that there was some measure of excitement going on? Did you grasp an action paced story of revenge and loss? Well, I certainly did, which is why I included this synopsis. The story seemed to have had every intention of being an action packed thriller. HOWEVER, sad to say, any action intended was left in the editors booth. The first ten minutes of the movie was nothing more than a cut and paste of the predecessor film, The Mummy’s Hand. Having reviewed The Mummy’s Hand personally, I walked into The Mummy’s Tomb with little to no expectations. I’d learned my lesson from before, let me tell you. But even with no expectations, the movie failed to captivate the imagination. The pace was never realized, the movie simple went from scene to scene. And don’t tell me I’m not giving Mummy’s Tomb a fair shot, I sat through this sucker twice, just to make sure I wasn’t just having a “case of the Monday’s” or whatever. Thankfully, the film was mercifully only a little more than an hour long.
The only noteworthy casting was of course with Mr. Lon Chaney Jr. Though, you’d be hard pressed to recognize him. And apparently, according to many sources, Mr. Chaney did not care very much for the heavy makeup and hated the role of Kharis. And I believe it showed on screen. Covered almost completely and unable to speak, Chaney bumbled his way from scene to scene just as painfully as the script would allow. Looking at most of the actors and actresses, it didn’t seem as if any of them wanted to be on the set. On a positive note, there were a few scenes in which you could tell the mummy did not want to have any part in Bey’s diabolical plan to kidnap Isobel. In fact, he reaches for Bey’s throat, struggling against (and I’m assuming a lot here) the tana potion that is controlling his actions. Had they capitalized on that notion the story was somewhat implying towards, perhaps something could have been salvaged, it would have, could have been a better movie, making much better use of a talent such as Lon Chaney, who given his sad-tragic portrayal as Larry Talbot in The Wolfman and Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men (1939), should have been perfect for the role of lost-loved Kharis.
The one great positive I can take away, having seen the Hammer production of The Mummy (1959) first, The Mummy’s Tomb seems to be the source material. And let me tell you, The Hammer production is amazingly wonderful, if you haven’t seen that one, you ought to. Like today. Right now. GO! Okay, I don’t want to talk it up too much, but what Terence Fisher was able to do with that mummy movie…wow, it almost makes me want to judge Harold Young much more harshly. And so I shall….
My Rating: 1/5 stars
Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of terror. He grew up in the small town of Vinton, Virginia, but in 2001, left home to enlist in the U.S. Army. Following his third tour in Iraq, Thomas moved to Houston, Texas where he now lives with his beautiful bride and amazing daughter. Thomas attended night school, with a focus on creative writing and history. In 2014, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from UHCL. Thomas blogs at machinemean[dot]org where he reviews movies, books, and other horror related topics.