The Mummy’s Tomb (1943) [31 Days of American Horror Review]

If it’s a month with 31 days in it, you can be sure that Jules will be firing out the horror movie reviews.

So, following on from his on “31 Days of Hammer” in January, his “31 Days of British Horror” in March and May, and his “31 Days of American  Horror” in August, Jules is once travelling across the pond this October with… you guessed it… 31 MORE Days of American Horror!

Director: Harold Young
Starring:  Lon Chaney, Jr., Dick Foran, John Hubbard

With two very different films already in Universal’s catalogue, this third film in the bandaged horror series establishes what direction they had decided on going forward. Karloff’s ponderous, Machiavellian villainy is confirmed as gone forever. Instead, we are given a direct sequel to 1940s The Mummy’s Hand – essentially a proto-slasher where an (admittedly marvellous looking) mute killer stalks and kills his way through the cast. Over and over again.

More then any other classic horror character, there’s a formula to The Mummy films. It’s not always adhered to, but it’s one that’s all would run all through the Universal series from the moment Boris hung up his fez (with this being the second in a four-movie run) and would go on to be mined well into the Hammer versions and beyond.

Saying that, once you accept the wheel is never being reinvented, there’s always fun to be had with The Mummy and this one is no different.

30 years after the events of The Mummy’s hand, archaeologist Steve Banning (Dick Foran) recounts the story of Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr) to his family and evening guests in his Mapleton, Massachusetts home, whilst unknown to him, his old adversary Andoheb (George Zucco) has survived their encounter and is explains the legend of Kharis himself to his younger follower, Mehemet Bey (Turhan Bey).

With his dying breath Andoheb the gives his protegé instructions for the use of the tana leaves and how to control Kharis, assigning him the task of terminating the remaining members of the Banning expedition and their descendants. Arriving in the United States, Bey sets about his sacred duty as The Mummy works his way through his list of victims, but becomes obsessed with the fiancée of Banning’s son John (John Hubbard)

Isobel Evans (Elyse Knox) and embarks on a plan to make her not only his, but his for all eternity…

Okay, let’s get it out of the way. Why is this set 30 years later? The Mummy’s Hand was a contemporary picture, so this is all happening in 1970? I don’t think so. No effort has been made whatsoever to change the styles or look of anything, apart from male some people look a bit older. What’s the point?

And if so, what has Andoheb been doing for 30 years? Why even mention how long it’s been, apart from to shoehorn in the most blatant flashback padding scenes since…well, the last Mummy film. They really go to town here though. Nearly the first full quarter of the lean run time is taken up with Bannister regaling his guests with flashbacks to other films.

Oh and Andoheb has done an amazing job of surviving those four bullets that sent him bouncing down a massive flight of stone stairs…to his death.

Okay, absolute nonsense aside, The Mummy’s Tomb is actually a lot of fun for what it is.

Lon Chaney Jr is unrecognisable under Kharis’s swathes of bandages (which are nicely burnt in a rare example of actual continuity), but delivers some great physical work to make his version of The Mummy immediately the definitive one, Karloff aside obviously. He’s slow, he limps, he’s only got one working arm, but dear god he’s intimidating. Out of all the Universal monsters, he’s the least sympathetic, just a killing machine directed by a succession of shady masters and he does it brilliantly.

Most of the previous film’s cast are brought back only to be bumped off here, but there’s no feeling that they have lives off the screen this time. Great characters like the former Babe Jenson who is now called Babe Hanson (Wallace Ford) and Banning himself are cannon fodder, but the younger generation are at least endearing enough you don’t want to see them meet a cloth-wrapped demise.

To be fair, it’s basic stuff, but it looks and feels great, all foggy cemeteries, howling wolves (and a recycled score from The Wolf Man), angry mobs with torches and baleful full moons shining down on The Mummy as he unleashes ancient hell on the non-believers.

Formulaic? Sure. Sloppy even? No doubt about it. But The Mummy’s Tomb is a lot of fun along the way and gets much more right then it does wrong. That’s enough for me.

Rating: 3.5/5.

JULESAVThe Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

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