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Universal Monsters in Review: The Invisible Woman (1940)

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Have you ever had one of those moments when you question precisely what it is you’re watching? I had one of those during the screening for The Invisible Woman. Now, to be fair, the “Invisible” films have had a rather rough go at it as far as quality, in fact, the only movies from the “Invisible” production line I like are the original, The Invisible Man, and Invisible Agent, and you can thank Peter Lorre for that one. And I guess that gives you a bit of a spoiler on my thoughts for this rendition. While watching, I was really wanting to like the movie, I really did try. The major problem with The Invisible Woman, for me at least, was that it was trying to do one thing while simultaneously circumventing those attempts. The Invisible Woman started out as a comedy, Shemp Howard from The Three Stooges was in the film for Christ’s sake, and the movie was, at first, calling attention, through comedy, certain discriminations/sexism against women. The volunteer for the “invisible” project was after all a working gal whose boss was a certifiable pig. And I feel, at the beginning, the film achieved its goal of making light of a rather dark subject. But as the film progresses, the plot unspools into a heap of intangible wool. It made no sense…the woman was strong and could save the day, but couldn’t control herself and needed a man to save her? The message the movie is presenting is confusing. Does making a movie that semi resembles some sort of pro- women’s right as a comedy mean the subject is laughable? Then again, we need to remember the era in which the film was made and not interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts. Anyhow, that’s the beans on how I feel regarding the movie, let’s see what our honored guest has to say about The Invisible Woman.

The Invisible Woman

By: Matt Shaw

‘Hiya Matt.’

‘Hi.’

‘I was just wondering if you fancied doing a film review for me?’

‘Hey? What do you mean – I mean, I know what you mean but… What do you need?’

‘I’m doing a series of blogs about Universal Monsters and just wondered if you wanted to review one of the films…’

‘Erm. Can do. Not really my strength but – sure. Which one?’

‘You can choose from these.’ <List given>

‘Oh, I’ll have The Invisible Woman.’

‘You’re on!’

And then I forget about the conversation only to be reminded months later. Panicked, with the review due shortly, I go off to download the film Bride of Frankenstein. Not sure how my brain went from one to the other but – meh – a lucky conversation on Facebook and I realized my mistake and soon found myself watching the correct film on YouTube. And – you know what – I wish I hadn’t bothered. Still… I did bother so I might as well review the turd. I mean “film”. Try and guess what I thought about it before you get to my verdict at the end of this review and – remember – I’m a horror author, not a film critic.

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The Invisible Woman was released in the 1940s. It has that “old film” charm with the black and white footage and grainy specks here and there which normally trick you into thinking you’re watching an intelligent movie classic – you know, the type of pretentious shite you were forced to endure at school as part of life lessons. Unfortunately there is nothing intelligent about this film, nor – in fact – are there any lessons to be learned. It is also lacking any charm. In fact, how the studio survived with the release of this festering cesspit is beyond me, but – there you go.

Starring Virginia Bruce (The Wicked Witch no less) as the Invisible Woman (Kitty Carroll) and John Barrymore (as the eccentric Professor Gibbs), it also stars John Howard as Richard Russell, the millionaire playboy character on the verge of bankruptcy after years of living life to the full and paying towards Gibbs’ inventions. But none of these characters, or performances, will stand out compared to one of the other characters and – no – I’m not referring to Shemp Howard (one of the Three Stooges). I’m referring to Charlie Ruggles who played George, the butler to Richard Russell – a character who stands out for the wrong reasons. In fact – Charlie Ruggles deserved to never work again and – quite frankly – I am too irritated to check to see if he even did. The character was a bumbling idiot, given most of the “slapstick” scenes and delivering them a bull in a china shop. No… Not a bull. What’s bigger than a bull? Ah. An elephant. His oafish “acting” and over the top mannerisms doing nothing more than to fuel my hatred for the film and all involved.

‘George! Call for an airport!’

‘AIIIIIIRPORT!’

‘No, George… Call for an airport on the telephone.’

Oh, how I rolled around the living room laughing my quite frankly massive bollocks off.

Or…

George and Richard are in heated debate. Richard goes up the stairs and George goes up the ladder next to the stairs, only to do a somersault when he reaches the top, landing in a heap on the floor.

Someone call 999! I’m dying from laughter.

Now I know what a farce when I see one. I studied it at school with the likes of Dario Fo. I enjoy a good farce when they are done correctly but – here – there are so few scenes of comedy that when it does happen (poorly) it does nothing to serve the film and just feels painfully out of place. Anyway, fuck off, I’m watching Universal Monsters. I want horror. I’ve been duped. I don’t want some piss poor attempt at comedy. If I wanted something funny – I’d watch something by Seth Rogen…

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Oh, the irony.

The plot of the film itself is fairly bog standard. An inventor who invents a machine that turns people invisible. The investor gets excited because he thinks it will solve his money problems. After putting an advert in the paper – a woman (Kitty) gets in touch to be the test subject. But – wait for it – three crooks also hear of the machine and want to steal it for their boss! So – Kitty goes invisible and seeks revenge on her boss (she works as a model) who learns the error of his ways after getting literally spanked by Kitty. She then goes with Gibbs to Russell’s lodge to prove the machine works (and hear we discover how sexist films were back then) and they end up falling for each other and – boom – the crooks show up and kidnap the professor and the girl having already stolen the machine from back at the lab. Everything is wrapped up nicely with the Invisible Woman teaching them lessons in the space of about four minutes and the credits roll. That’s all there is to it and I’m sorry for the spoilers but – seriously – you’ll thank me. This film is a crock of shit with it’s dire “comedy”, flat acting, so-so music and… Fuck me… I’ve got something good to say… Hold your pants, this is big…

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The effects, given this, was made in the 40s are actually pretty good. With regards to the invisible effects anyway. Don’t mention the lightening towards the end of the movie. So – yeah – there you go – a positive in this shit pie. Good effects. But, if you’ve read my books, you’ll know I don’t like happy endings so… Remember when I said was sexist? Sexist and degrading to women. Check out these lines, babycakes:

‘It’s me, Mrs. Jackson.’

‘You can’t possibly be Mrs. Jackson! She’s in the kitchen where she belongs!’

Or…

‘Any girl insisting on becoming invisible can’t be easy on the eyes!’

‘Hiding your stout figure…’

It’s okay, though. The rumor is Hollywood is remaking the film and casting an all-female cast with the exception of the invisible man.

‘Of course, you chose to go invisible… With a penis that small, why wouldn’t you?’

‘He didn’t need the machine for us to not be able to see that!’

<Women laugh>

Anyway, I’m not sorry for this negative review. The film portrayed women to be either thick or deranged. This isn’t a hero piece. The male characters – with the exception of the Playboy – don’t fare any better on the stupidity scale and, quite frankly, the screenwriters should have been blacklisted just to fuck them off from the scene before they could do any more damage to the brains of those foolish enough to try their work out.

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This is not a good film and it’s no surprise I struggled to find a torrent with which to view it…

Thanks for reading now, if you’ll forgive me, I’m off to pour bleach in my eyes and drill a hole in my head – into which I shall be pouring sulphuric acid.

Peace out, homies.

Matt, The.

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Matt Shaw is the published author of over 100 titles – all readily available on AMAZON. He is one of the United Kingdom’s leading – and most prolific – horror authors, regularly breaking the top ten in the chart for Amazon’s Most Popular Horror Authors. With work sometimes compared to Stephen King, Richard Laymon, and Edward Lee, Shaw is best known for his extreme horror novels (The infamous Black Cover Range), Shaw has also dabbled in other genres with much success; including romance, thrillers, erotica and dramas. Despite primarily being a horror author, Shaw is a huge fan of Roald Dahl – even having a tattoo of the man on his arm; something he looks to whenever he needs a kick up the bum or inspiration to continue working! As well as pushing to release a book a month, Shaw’s work is currently being translated for the Korean market and he is currently working hard to produce his own feature length film. And speaking of films… Several film options have been sold with features in the very early stages of development. Watch this space. Matt Shaw lives in Southampton (United Kingdom) with his wife Marie, his bastard cat Nellie and three rats – Roland, Splinter and Spike. He used to live with Joey the Chinchilla and Larry the Bearded Dragon but they died. At least he hoped they did because he buried them. You can follow Matt and delve into his work by following his site at www.mattshawpublications.co.uk AND on the altar of Facebook at  www.facebook.com/mattshawpublications.co.uk

 

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Universal Monsters in Review: The Invisible Man Returns (1940)

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Taking a cue from the original The Invisible Man, the Return seems to keep with that same breakneck speedy opening, forcing the audience to catch up as the story progresses rather rapidly. I’m not sure if I was just totally exhausted before watching this movie last night, but it took me a while to figure out what was going on and who was who. Sure. It doesnt take Sir Sherlock Holmes to figure what the scientist is doing, or when the guards in the prison discover the remnants of Mr. Griffin’s clothes on the floor.  It did take me though almost half the move to realize who Cedric Hardwicke was playing as. Was this intentional or just the style of classic Invisible Man tropes? Who knows. What I did enjoy, other than the superb acting on all fronts, was the overall deeper theme of the movie, much like the predecessor, The Invisible Man Returns discusses the ugliness of people when they’ve shed their masks, or keeping to the movie, when the masks become invisible. Who are we when our actions are no longer accountable? Similar, one might say, to the even more classic story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in which the abominable Mr. Hyde glares into the mirror and howls, “Free! I’m free at last!” Well, before I start rambling off topic, let me close my statements by saying that I did enjoy The Invisible Man Returns, the acting was a pleasure watching, both the voice acting of Vincent Price and the always impressive Sir Cedric Hardwicke, who would go on to play in another Invisible Man tale in Invisible Agent, and in The Ghost of Frankenstein. But the movie did drag on a bit, especially in the middle, and it didn’t have the same bite as the original. Okay, I’ve said my peace, and without further delay…let us see what our special guest has to say. 

 

 

The Invisible Man Returns (1940)

By Patrick Loveland

 

[CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR A 76 YEAR OLD FILM, AN 83 YEAR OLD FILM, AND A 119 YEAR OLD NOVEL]

 

 

I’ll start spoiling right out of the gate by clearing up something I’d  wondered myself when Thomas allowed me to choose this film—how could The Invisible Man return? He’d died at the end of the novel and the 1933 film based on it that this film was made to be a sequel to. So, I’ll explain it sooner than the film does—Jack Griffin, The Invisible Man from the first film did indeed die at the end. Griffin’s brother Dr. Frank Griffin (John Sutton) has been hand-waved into existence—having worked on the invisibility experiments with Jack (named John when referenced in this film), of course—and uses his matching knowledge of invisibility to help a lovely young woman and friend named Helen Manson (Nan Grey) free her fiancé, Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe (Vincent Price), from death row for a crime he didn’t commit (the murder of his brother). There, now we’re on the same page. I actually enjoyed the vagueness of the situation in the film’s early parts, but found it was a bit too vague about the character relationships as it went on, until about—

Actually, I’m getting ahead of myself. Alright, so…

The Invisible Man Returns was written by Curt Siodmak and Lester Cole, and directed by Joe May as a sequel to Universal’s popular earlier film, The Invisible Man, which was based on the novel by H.G. Wells. One thing that’s interesting to me about this sequel is that instead of the Invisible Man in this story being mostly concerned with curing himself of his invisible state, this character has been convinced by Griffin that the process can be easily reversed after his escape. That allows him to focus on clearing his name and getting revenge for his wrongful imprisonment.

 

SUMMARY:

The film begins in Radcliffe Manor’s kitchen with the servants looking morose as they bicker over the possible guilt and approaching state-implemented death of Sir Radcliffe.

Then we transition to Richard Cobb (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) resting his chin on his hand atop a high chair back, watching something with obvious fascination. Helen Manson sits across the room from him on a couch, almost catatonic from worrying about Sir Radcliffe, her fiancé—as Cobb practically ogles her.

Helen rises from the couch and opens the room’s curtains in a shot that seems (to me) to be a visual nod to the intro scene in the first film, wherein Griffin closes the blinds and curtains in a deliberate fashion in the parlor he’s just begun renting.

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Dr. Griffin arrives and he and Helen convince Cobb to call one last influential friend in hopes of stopping Radcliffe’s execution. The friend is away, Cobb says after hanging up.

Having failed to stop the execution of his friend, Griffin visits him in his cell. Radcliffe is given the invisibility agent and escapes his cell, probably as the guard who was in it with him opens to door to yell that he’s disappeared.

Radcliffe escapes the prison through the countryside and after some travel naked and on foot, reaches Dr. Griffin’s cabin in the woods and the waiting Helen. They meet and talk. The caretaker brings some food and catches Radcliffe with his dark glasses removed, eye holes in his bandage wrappings gaping and empty. After being rushed out, the caretaker calls the police and one policeman arrives. Radcliffe argues with him and closes the door. Radcliffe quickly gets undressed, causing a turned away Helen to faint when she peeks at him, seeing the strangeness of his invisibility herself for the first time. Radcliffe escapes.

Griffin experiments in his lab above the Radcliffe mining operation, turning an invisible guinea pig visible again. Shortly after turning, it dies painfully. Radcliffe arrives and they talk. Then a man comes by to harass Griffin and Radcliffe watches this, hidden in plain sight as he is.

I’m going to stop there because this film really is worth watching yourself, no question.

What follows is an investigation by Radcliffe/The (new) Invisible Man into who actually killed his brother, complicated by the horrible side effect of the invisibility agent—madness. Dr. Griffin is in a race against time and Radcliffe’s ever-growing madness—and escalating violence—to cure the invisibility he knowingly “saved” him with.

 

REVIEW:

First let me Disclose with Extreme Fullness that I’m not well-versed on Universal Monsters. Before this, I’d seen a handful of the films (including The Invisible Man), but it had been decades since I had. At this point I’ve seen more Hammer films, but both houses have their own charms. I blame growing up in the 1980s and being terrified, chilled, horrified, and thrilled by the likes of Alien, Aliens, The Thing, Predator, Terminator, the Of The Dead trilogy, An American Werewolf in London, and many other films from the heyday of practical creature and makeup effects. I got it into my head, as many other young’ns like myself seemed to, that “old” movies were just totally corny and had little to offer, horror or otherwise—something I’ve heard younger people now expressing about those same 70s and 80s films I hold as a high water mark, with their “bad special effects”… Harumph!

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It took a few friends and teachers in art/film school to open my mind to older films, one showing me things like The Lady From Shanghai and Sunset Boulevard, and another showing me one (because it was her father’s favorite film, so I had to like it (or be able to act like I did)) that would from that day on be a genuine favorite, The Third Man. Then came the film that convinced me all older horror and sci-fi films weren’t (fun but) cheesy and quaint, The Thing From Another World. Sure, I’m not fond of the actual creature effects in that one, but damn is it thick with tension and atmosphere (as it should be coming from the original novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr.—which had a better creature they probably couldn’t have done justice to anyway). I saw Carpenter’s take on the novella first as a boy and it destroyed me and will always be my preference, but I was really impressed how well everything other than the actual creature held up in this first version/“original”.

Soooo, all that leads to me saying that even with my general open-mindedness at this point for older horror and sci-fi films, I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed this one. Maybe it was its sequel-to-an-iconic-classic status, or that it had a different lead actor. Possibly my confusion as to how there could be a sequel. Something had me uneasy about it. Gladly, other than some vagueness in the early parts that I’ve covered, I was very pleasantly surprised.

 

WHAT I LIKED:

Vincent Price, starting as a man given a new lease of life, then progressing through madness and murderous rage toward his ultimate goal. All of the main actors did well, actually. Other than Price, I’d say my favorite performance was Cecil Kellaway’s, as Scotland Yard’s Inspector Sampson. I also liked Nan Grey as Helen. I wasn’t familiar with her and was quite fond by the end.

The special effects were genuinely impressive. I’m not unfamiliar with practical trickery and old school post-production image manipulation, but there are shots where I really couldn’t begin to figure out on my own how they’d pulled them off. A favorite of mine is when Inspector Sampson is trying to calm Cobb down after escaping the invisible Radcliffe in an upstairs room. Sampson’s been giving people cigars the whole movie, so he gives one to Cobb as he smokes his own.

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The inspector finishes a sentence, takes a big pull off his cigar, and blows it to the side of them—exposing the vague outline of a human form where nothing is visible, then that form turns its only-now-visible head. The smoke wafts around perfectly, suggesting the form without being too clear. I have to assume this shot and the next sequence I’ll describe were very influential on the obvious, loose Invisible Man remake, Hollow Man. More than the original film even.

My favorite chunk of the film begins with this blown smoke effect, which also touches on my favorite thing about the film—use of particles and other things to make the Invisible Man somewhat visible. After the inspector blows his cigar smoke at the invisible Radcliffe, he goes for a judo dive to grapple him into submission and make the big arrest. He misses and Radcliffe hides again, possibly in plain sight once more, but the inspector’s suspicions are confirmed—the man is actually invisible, and he can be seen with environmental tricks.

As rain pours down, Inspector Sampson receives special equipment delivery and has a team of policemen don gasmask rigs and smoke-throwers, then fill the house they’re in with fog machine-like smoke. Radcliffe had escaped out into the rainstorm apparently, because two police see his outline—from rain pelting his naked body—as he sneaks back in through a side door to the building Cobb is being held in.

Once inside again, we see the heavily geared policemen advancing down a corridor, smoke pouring from their throwers. A shot from behind them shows the smoke-outlined body of Radcliffe attack a policeman, knocking him out and disappearing into a room with him.

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We move to Helen, worried as always. One of the geared, gasmask wearing policemen approaches her in a hallway, Radcliffe using the body and head covering gear of the man he knocked out to be invisible in a different way.

I love that whole sequence and wish there was a bit more of that kind of cleverness throughout.

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Also, it’s actually pretty funny if you pay attention to the way things are phrased at certain points.

 

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

Vincent Price takes top spot here as well, but not because he isn’t good. As a man wronged and trying to make things right, he does a fine job balancing that with the madness and anger the invisibility agent causes. I think I just really loved the barely-contained rage and Claude Rains’ delivery in the first film, as I feel it captured the novel’s Griffin really well. I know this is a different character, but I also felt this character was a little more light-hearted, then almost comically maniacal at times with barely any attention paid to transition. Which leads to my other issue…

Things happen a little too easily or conveniently sometimes. Even the best shot, the smoke blowing reveal, is a little too easy. How did the inspector know he was there? They also set up him giving cigars to at least two people, but I’m not sure if that was just to call attention to his own smoking so it would be in the audience’s mind in time for him to execute his brilliant smoke maneuver.

The pacing and build. It’s not boring before it, but things don’t really pick up until almost exactly halfway through the film. I understand the classic script structure halfway point power swap aspect, but in this it dramatically improves the film overall, instead of strengthening the arc of the protagonist in an already interesting plot. Radcliffe starts investigating who actually killed his brother, starting with a drunk former night watchman named Willie Spears (Alan Napier, in a fun performance) who Cobb has made superintendent of the Radcliffe mining operation. This is also where the audience starts to be shown possible motivations of those who have framed Radcliffe. It doesn’t ruin it, but this half and half feeling leads to an uneven presentation, even with rising action taken into account.

The ending. As I said, spoilery is my stock-in-trade today. Griffin dies in the first story, beaten by a mob in the novel, and shot in the film. His body is revealed after death, which I feel is poetic and tragic and part of why it works well. In The Invisible Man Returns, as far as we are shown, Radcliffe lives and there’s swelling music and it’s a relief and all that (even though Frank Griffin just said Radcliffe would die without surgery, but that’s none of my business…). I’m not saying I wanted a sad moral tale of an ending, but once again it did feel a bit too easy. I take into account that this character’s story is quite a different one with different motivations and crimes, as I said in the beginning myself, but something in-between might’ve felt more appropriate for the tone they’d set as the film went on.

RATING:

This film is entertaining, decently thrilling, has fantastic special effects, and has some genuinely funny moments sprinkled in too.

I’ll give The Invisible Man Returns 7/10.

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PATRICK LOVELAND writes screenplays, novels, and shorter prose fiction. He also draws somewhat disturbing imagery on Post-its. By day, he schedules classes, helps instructors get set up for class sessions, possibly draws said weird Post-its, and moves many furniture’s at a state college in Southern California where he lives with his wife and young daughter. His stories have appeared in anthologies published by April Moon Books, Bold Venture Press, and the award-winning Crime Factory zine. Patrick Loveland’s first novel, A TEAR IN THE VEIL, will be published in late 2016 by April Moon Books.  You can connect with Patrick on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pmloveland   Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pmloveland/   Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00S78LF9M Or Blog [under construction]: https://patrickloveland.wordpress.com/

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Universal Monsters in review: The Mummy’s Hand (1940)

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On today’s agenda, we bring you, The Mummy’s Hand (1940), directed by Christy Cabanne and produced by Ben Pivar. Another first screening for me on this journey through the classic Universal Monster pictures. Thus far, we’ve seen the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Wolfman, and even one of the famed Abbott and Costello flicks, as well as some of the lesser knowns, the sequels to the great pillars of horror. Last week, we had Dracula’s Daughter, which turned out to be a direct sequel from the original film. On this episode, we’ll take a closer look at a movie I doubt many have seen, unless they count themselves among the shuffling, perhaps even undead, prolific Universal aficionados. If you have, bravo. And I hope you enjoy the review. If you haven’t, well, read on and decide for yourself if this of many Universal Monster movies would be something you fancy yourself watching on a dark night during a thunder storm. The Mummy’s Hand was one of my personal picks when contacting fellow writers and bloggers to help with this monumental task of reviewing Universal’s macabre lexicon. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked. It is strange for me to say, the Mummy is one of my favorite monsters, especially considering how most of my published work thus far has focused on creating my own Wolfman’s and Frankenstein’s (though as a side-note and shameless self promotion, stay tuned for later this year when one my stories with my very own version on the Mummy gets published, wink wink). Regardless, the story of the Mummy is fascinating, to me at least. And I’m thinking on the boundaries of the Boris Karloff version, the brooding Imhotep willing to suffer live burial and a cursed death for his betrothed Anck-su-namun. With today’s adaptation, The Mummy’s Hand shares many similar attributes equally as it likewise differs wildly.

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Here’s a quick fire synopsis to get us all on the same page.

In Cairo, amateur wannabe archaeologist Steve Banning (played by the very stoic but still fantastic Dick Foran) discovers a vase at a local market with his good pal Babe (played by funny man Wallace Ford), which he believes could lead them to the ancient tomb of Princess Ananka. Steve contacts his colleague Dr. Petrie (Charles Trowbridge) who believes, like Steve, the vase is a map to the tomb of Ananka. However, unknown to Steve and Dr. Petrie, fellow professor of Cairo Museum Andoheb (played by the steely eyed George Zucco), who happens to also be the High Priest of Karnac, a cult order of priests who hold the secrets of Karas, a mummy (played by future spaghetti western star Tom Tyler) who guards Ananka’s tomb. He attempts to persuade them the vase is a fake. When that fails, throughout the movie, he does everything he can to thwart the excavation of the ancient crypt. However, upon receiving funds from magician Solvani (Cecil Kellaway) and his daughter, Marta (the famous Peggy Moran), Steve, his sidekick Babe, and the Solvanis, embark on an expedition to the grave site, where Karas awaits slumbering. Andoheb is then forced to summon the shambling corpse to keep the Hills of the Seven Jackals (or some such nonsense) and the Temple of Ananka safe from outside encroachment, because, as every fan of Mummy movies knows, while science may reveal some secrets, there are other truths which must forever remain unknown. 

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I’m not going to sugar coat my review here, and up front I want to be honest that I had some wild expectations when walking into this movie. Mostly because of my love for the Karloff version, and secondly because of my fascination with the mythos itself, and third, I’d heard or read somewhere the film was actually quite horrifying. And while I will not argue there are some rather dark and terrifying scenes, especially during close-ups of the Mummy when it looks as if the creature has hollowed out eyes, I’d say The Mummy’s Hand was far from being a true horror movie. If I had to categorize the film, it’d be right next to the Abbott and Costello pictures that would eventually release in the mid thru late 40s. The comedy, while at times actually humorous and well blended, did not seem to mesh well with the entire scope of the film. The relationship between Steve and Babe felt as if I was indeed watching an infant version of Bud and Lou. Perhaps, in retrospect, maybe my critique is due to my expectations, after all, the Karloff version had absolutely zero comedy and was altogether serious, due more or less to the decade of depression than anything else. Still, I found more things jarring then I did entertaining. Here are a few of my least favorite things about The Mummy’s Hand:

  1. Reboot. Yup, pretty much is. Sure, they changed the names, but the first scene backstory is pretty much a shot-for-shot of the story of Imhotep attempting to bring to life Anck-su-namun. Getting caught. And being buried alive. They simply replaced Karloff with Tyler. Some of the scenes actually look identical to the original. To me, this is lazy story telling.
  2. Full moon? What is the deal with everything involving a full moon with this movie? If I wanted a werewolf I’d watch something with Lon Chaney Jr. in it. This is the Mummy for crying out loud! And the moon is never really fully fleshed out, just given random references from the supporting cast, something about an elixir given to the “sleeping” mummy every full moon or something like that to keep him alive, or rather, undead. And then there was something about Jackals or whatever. And of course, who can forgive the Bela ripoff as the former high priest paraphrases Dracula with a “children of the night” quote. Ugh!
  3. Motivation. When writing characters, one must make them believable, the reader or audience must understand the motivation of the characters. They don’t have to agree with them, but the motivations must be plausible. I was actually able to follow along with The Mummy’s Hand through half of the movie. Yes, I get it. Steve got canned from the university and is looking prove himself as an budding archaeologist. Andoheb wants to protect the tomb in which the greedy men and woman are attempting to “steal the secrets,” and after watching them sledgehammer and manhandle their way into the tomb, I don’t blame the guy, seriously! Regardless, when the mummy starts taking them out, one by one, and we can certainty cheer during these brief moments of horror, the motivation of the mummy seems dull. The mummy obeys because it wants the elixir? Really, that’s what you’re going with? And what the heck is going on when the mummy kidnaps Marta, aka Peggy Moran? Okay, we can probably chock it up to a classic monster trope, but why, oh why is Andoheb suddenly attracted to her? He plans on making them both immortal, because, as he says, she is so beautiful. While the Elixir of Immortality is an interesting concept, it was very really played up enough in the movie for it to become a prime motivation for the story. It made zero sense.
  4. Babe straight up murderers an unarmed Andoheb and nothing is said about it or comes about.
  5. Category. I’m really not sure how to categorize this film. Is it a black comedy, is it horror, or is it something of a noir film as it seemed most of everyone was costumed in those sleek fedoras. Or maybe the film was a hybrid horror, comedy, spaghetti-western (the ending will explain this for you, six-shooters and all, and noting how pretty much the entire cast went on to make a dozen of those grainy wagon wheel movies).

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Certainly, there was plenty wrong with The Mummy’s Hand. I had expected serious horror and got instead a strange brew (no pun intended) of dark comedy and noir-western. However, we cannot discredit the film as being both moderately entertaining and a member of the Universal Monster classics. Watching the film for a second time, I did everything I could to remove all expectation and truly found myself enjoying the movie more than during my first screening. Some of the issues cannot be ignored, but altogether The Mummy’s Hand was still a monster movie, and in of itself had inspired later monster pictures, including a very reminiscent 1959 Hammer film titled simple, The Mummy starring both Peter Crushing and Christopher Lee (but in all honesty, Hammer did it waaaaaay better). The comedy of Wallace Ford (also marvelous in Tod Browning’s Freaks) playing the part of Babe was fantastic, in its own right. Dick Foran as our leading man was…okay, he did seem to be a bit stoic, and as I understand it he returned to the Mummy lexicon for one more picture in The Mummy’s Tomb with Lon Chaney Jr. taking on the role as Mummy. Peggy Moran was, to be blunt, kind of a prune, yet surprisingly strong and willful, until the end of course when her character Marta falls into the inevitable monster movie trope for women, which sadly still seems to go on into modern horror movies today. What can we say about Tom Tyler, who donned the bandages of the Mummy? His actions were certainly creepy, but the character in itself was mute, in more ways than one—sort of betrothed just as the movie was.

My Rating: 2/5  

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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.