The Mummy’s Ghost (1944) [31 Days of American Horror Review]

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 and October, Jules is fixing to round out 2018 with 31 more days of classic American Horror movies.

So brace yourself, folks.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Director: Reginald Le Borg
Starring:  Lon Chaney, Jr., John Carradine, Robert Lowery, Ramsay Ames

Here we go again.

Universal were churning out Mummy films so thick and fast by this point this is only the first of two that would be released in 1944. The fourth in the series, but in actuality the third in the Prince Kharis series that began with The Mummy’s Hand in 1940, it’s a prime example of the law of diminishing returns.

I’ve previously said I have a low bar for bandaged-up killing machines working their way through a list of blaspheming unbelievers, but it’s at this point my patience is running thin. In short, The Mummy’s Ghost’s big idea is to take the reincarnated love idea from the Karloff original, crowbar it into a repeat of the last two films and add in a cheeky little dog. Yay.

Andoheb (George Zucco), the aging High Priest of Arkam (previously Karnak in the other films), has summoned Yousef Bey (John Carradine) to the Temple of Arkam to pass on the sacred duties of High Priest. Beforehand, Andoheb explains the legend of Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr) to Bey.

Over in America, Professor Norman (Frank Reicher), a Massachusetts academic who had examined one of Kharis’ missing bandage pieces during the mummy’s last spree through the town, explains the same story to his more cynical students, including a Tom Hervey (Robert Lowery), who’s girlfriend Amina Mansori (Ramsay Ames)is of Egyptian descent and who suffers a weird, clouded feeling in her mind whenever the subject of the country is mentioned.

Yousef is tasked with retrieving the body of Princess Ananka (Ames again) and facilitating her reanimated lover’s mission of revenge, but soon realises that the soul of the Princess has been reincarnated in Amina’s body and decides he wants her for himself, which drives Kharis into an even-more murderous rage…

Kharis isn’t the only one in a rage. We’re used to laziness in The Mummy series already, but it’s getting really grating by this point.

Right from the off, the lack of effort to follow the previously established continuity is there for all to see. Andoheb, who blatantly died at the end of The Mummy’s Tomb (and The Mummy’s Hand actually) is alive, if not all that well, ready to pass the torch of endless revenge to the next generation. George Zucco gives it his best withered old man routine and his old man makeup is fairly convincing.

Less so is John Carradine as “Egyptian” Yousef Bey. Once again he fails to convince, either as a Machiavellian villain or even just as an Egyptian. There’s just something far too slight about him, both physically and in his performance that seriously impacts any attempts to properly intimidate or frighten.

Worst of all though is the legendary effects genius Jack Pierce’s work on The Mummy’s costume. Chaney Jr had supposedly complained about how uncomfortable the makeup process was, so you can’t really blame Pierce, but this is as basic as it comes. It’s not even made of bandages, more a body stocking and a mask, while the pleasing continuity of mud, grime and evidence of burning that we saw in the previous instalment is chucked in the bin as well. It’s very, very poor indeed and sums up the lack of effort and concern that runs through The Mummy’s Ghost.

It’s not all bad, as again there are some tense kills as Kharis goes about his business and considering she was a last-minute replacement for a concussed Aquanetta (Jungle Girl), Ramsay Ames gives a stellar performance. She’s stunningly beautiful, but also has a magnetic screen presence that lights up every scene she’s in and you have to wonder why she never became a bigger star. Whatever “it” is, Ames had it in spades and absolutely steals the show here as the reincarnated Egyptian princess cum tranced-out modern American girl.

Sadly, just as you’re accepting The Mummy’s Ghost for what it is, they go and give you one last slap in the dial when Kharis has a final showdown with…a dog. It’s just that kind of film.

The actual finale though is fairly iconic and surprisingly downbeat, failing to give the happy ending that mainstream horror audiences of the time would expect to see and is all the better for it.

The Mummy’s Ghost isn’t one of the better entities in the series, in fact it might be the worst. Maybe. But it’s still got enough in it’s well-worn sarcophagus to hold the interest. Just about, anyway.

Rating: 2/5.

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

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