Jules picks up where he left off in October by running through some of the choice horror offerings from the fantastic Hammer back catalogue.
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Starring: Valerie Leon, Andrew Keir
Director: Seth Holt, Michael Carerras
After allowing themselves to be stuck in a repetitive groove with the Mummy series, Hammer finally Made an effort to get away from the beat of the cloth-wrapped feet and come at it from a different angle.
Based on Bram Stoker’s lesser-known novel Jewel of the Seven Stars, Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb would have an extremely troubled production, but would emerge as a bold new direction for what had quickly become a tired franchise.
The unmarked tomb of the evil Egyptian queen Tera (Valerie Leon) is discovered by an expedition led by Professor Fuchs (Andrew Keir). With her body perfectly preserved in a state of suspended animation, the archaeologist is instantly obsessed with her and brings mummy and sarcophagus back to London, where he secretly recreates her tomb under his house.
At the exact moment said the name of Tera as he discovered the body though, his wife and child both die in labour, but the baby breathes again and lives.
Twenty years later, his daughter Margaret (Leon again) is a grown woman, plagued by nightmares of a life she can’t possibly be aware of.
Soon, Tera’s influence begins to take hold of Margaret, the body Clint begins to rise and an ancient evil threatens to be born once again…
Considering the awful circumstances Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb was created under, it’s all the more remarkable how effective it is. Peter Cushing was originally cast as Professor Fuchs, dropping out a week into shooting to care for his terminally ill wife, leaving Andrew Kerr to step in at a couple of days notice while later on, director Seth Holt tragically died on set, leaving Michael Carreras to step in and finish his film off.
Despite all that, there’s no real signs of any difficulties up there on the screen. Keir gives a sterling effort in what must have been a very difficult position, not only stepping into a role written for the great Peter Cushing of all people, but with only a weekend’s sort of prep time. It’s far from a prime Keir performance, but he copes admirably with the hand he was dealt.
In her first (and bafflingly only) starring role ft Hammer, Valerie Leon is left with much of the heavy lifting and does a sterling job of it. The 5’11” actress strikes a commanding figure and far transcends any suggestion of being mere eye candy. Yes, she’s stunningly beautiful, but in switching between the personalities of Margaret and Tera, she utterly convinces as both. With her voice dubbed over, it’s a very physical performance, cool and aloof at times, playful and vulnerable at others. She’s at her best when she’s somewhere in the middle though, as the influence of Tera starts to take hold and that malevolence begins to creep out. It’s just a shame we never got to see much more of Leon in Hammer films as she really shines here.
In adapting Stoker’s original novel for the gore-loving 70s market, screenwriter Christopher Wicking turns it into a revenge film in the style of AIP’s recently-released The Abominable Dr. Phibes.
Similar to how Phibes brings ancient biblical curses to bear on the surgeons who failed to save his wife’s life, so Queen Tera uses the cursed Margaret as her vessel to reclaim the artifacts taken from her tomb by Fuchs’ expedition that she needs to be reborn again, murdering each member of the party as she goes.
Each member of the team is attacked by a spirit form of the relic they protect, killing them horribly and leaving each corpse with their throat very graphically torn out.
Holt and Carreras bring these mystical killings to lurid life brilliantly, through a series of sharp edits and overwhelming visual assaults.
The already borderline-insane George Couloris is tipped over the edge before death by the snake figure he most fears, Rosalie Crutchley is killed by the cat personification of the goddess Bast and Hugh Burden by a ghoatly jackal. Each one is given real gravitas by the victims hysteria as they know what is coming and that Tera will show no mercy.
There’s plenty more murder and mayhem in here though and each grisly death is given the same amount of loving care to maximum effect.
Nothing will ever come close to the stone-cold classic 1959 original, but Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb is a brilliantly entertaining horror with a strong cast and some gloriously nasty set-pieces, ensuring Hammer’s Mummy series would end as it began, on a high note.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy