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One of Universal's most popular monster creations, and still an icon of American culture, is none other than a 3,700 year old figure whose love for his Princess has endured the centuries. The theme is as timeless as the creature itself, and for further proof of its impact on the psyche of the film-going public, one need look no further than the box office grosses of the studio's 1999 remake. Against such stiff competition as the fourth installment of George Lucas' "Star Wars" saga, "The Mummy" grossed over 150 million dollars domestically.
The genesis for Universal's original 1932 classic can be traced to producer Carl Laemmle, Jr., the son of studio founder and then owner Carl Laemmle. It was he that conceived the original idea, and then brought writer Nina Wilcox Putnam on the scene to produce a workable storyline. The result was entitled "Cagliostro" and initial studio press releases and trade advertisements touted the film by that title. Boris Karloff, riding a crest of popularity at the time due to his roles in "Frankenstein" and "The Old Dark House," was naturally pegged to star in the upcoming shocker.
By the time it went before the cameras in the fall of that year, the final title of "The Mummy" had been chosen. The character Cagliostro had also found a new name, that of Imhotep, a High Priest buried alive for committing an act of sacrilege. Following the death of his beloved Princess Anck-es-en-Amon, Imhotep steels the Scroll of Thoth, which contains the spell used by Isis to raise Osiris from the dead. Before he can bring his beloved back to life, he is caught and sentenced to death. He, and the scroll, are buried in an unmarked grave and remain there for the centuries, until unearthed by a British field expedition in 1921.
In one of the best-staged scenes of all of the early Universal classics, the creature is returned to life when an overzealous assistant (Bramwell Fletcher) translates and then reads the words from the scroll. The monster (Boris Karloff), in a marvelously underplayed scene, simply takes the document from the table and lumbers off into the Egyptian night. The assistant is driven mad by the encounter, and is found laughing hysterically by archeologist Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) and Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan), an expert on the Egyptian occult sciences.
Eleven years later, Frank Whemple (David Manners), the son of the Sir Joseph, is concluding a disappointing expedition, when he is approached by the Egyptian Ardeth Bey (also Boris Karloff). Bey is actually the resuscitated mummy, having used the Scroll of Thoth to complete his transformation. He guides the young archaeologist to the final resting place of the Princess Anck-es-en-Amon, giving him a find of great historical significance.
Bey later turns up in Cairo, where the mummy of his Princess is displayed in the Cairo Museum. Unable to resurrect her utilizing the scroll, he soon learns that her soul has taken refuge in the body of a young woman, Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann), a patient of Dr. Muller. Following several attempts to completely gain control of her will, which are hampered by her growing love for Frank Whemple, she finally succumbs and meets her alter ego's former love in the bowels of the Cairo Museum.
Muller and young Whemple race to her rescue, knowing that the creature intends to kill her and restore her to life as a living mummy. Under Imhotep's influence, she acquiesces to his demands, but his hypnotic spell is interrupted by the sudden appearance of the two heroes. She begs the god Isis for divine intervention to save her, and the statue of the god ignites the Scroll of Thoth, resulting in the destruction of Imhotep.
Simply put, "The Mummy" is one of the best of the Universal classics of the era. It features an impressive cast, under the capable direction of Karl Freund. "Papa Karl," as he was called, gained screen immortality primarily as a cinematographer. It was his camera that roved through he sets of "Dracula" and "Murders in the Rue Morgue" at Universal in the early 1930's. He later became head photographer for Desilu Productions in the 1950's. Freund also directed another classic of the horror genre, MGM's "Mad Love" in 1935, which starred Peter Lorre, Colin Clive and Frances Drake.
For Karloff, it was yet another screen triumph. His characterization was letter perfect, and this film was to firmly entrench him as the nation's leading horror film star. Strangely enough, following he completion of "The Mummy," Universal refused to give the actor a pay raise in spite of the picture's enormous grosses. Karloff subsequently left the studio, and would return only after his critically acclaimed appearances in "The Lost Patrol" and "The House of Rothschild" convinced studio executives that his popularity had not ebbed. His first film after his departure from Universal was the Gaumont-British chiller "The Ghoul" with Ernest Thesiger, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Dorothy Hyson. The 1933 release bore more than a passing resemblance to "The Mummy," but was still an excellent film, and most deserving of its classic status.
As the female lead, the talented Hungarian born Zita Johann added immensely to "The Mummy," and it is no doubt the best-remembered role of her short Hollywood career. Among her other credits were "The Struggle," notable for being D.W. Griffith's last film, and "Tiger Shark" with Edward G. Robinson. She ultimately left Hollywood and returned to the stage in 1934, ten years after her initial Broadway debut. Johann passed away in September, 1993 at the age of 89.
Eight years would pass before Universal would attempt a sequel. Much had changed at the studio in the interim. The Laemmle regime had been fallen in 1936, and Universal was placed under the ownership of the Standard Capital Corporation. Horror film production had ground to a halt as a result of declining box-office performance.
The "New" Universal reissued "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" in 1938, and the excellent box office returns brought renewed life to the genre. The extravagant "Son of Frankenstein," released in 1939, further solidified the studio's faith in the horror market and the dawn of the new decade brought about a revitalized batch of thrillers.
Following the success in 1940 of "The Invisible Man Returns," a sequel to James Whale's superb 1933 classic "The Invisible Man," it was inevitable that another installment of the saga of "The Mummy" was overdue. The only difficulty was that the story of the original did not lend itself so easily to a sequel.
A new treatment was done, changing the creature's name to Kharis. Instead of the ancient Scroll of Thoth, the fluid brewed from tana leaves gave life and movement to the being. The monster was no longer the primary menace, but a henchman for the villainous High Priest of Karnak. Kharis sole purpose was to guard the tomb of his beloved Princess, now named Ananka.
"The Mummy's Hand" begins with the Egyptian Andoheb (George Zucco) traveling to the Hill of the Seven Jackals in answer to the royal summons of the High Priest of Karnak (Eduardo Ciannelli). The dying priest of the sect explains the story of Kharis (Tom Tyler) to his follower. The tale closely parallels that of the original film, except that Kharis steals the sacred tana leaves in the hope of restoring life to the dead Princess Ananka. His penalty upon being discovered is to buried alive, without a tongue, and the tana leaves are buried with him.
The leaves are the secret to Kharis' continued existence. During the cycle of the full moon, the fluid from the brew of three tana leaves is to be administered to the creature to keep him alive. Should despoilers enter the tomb of the Princess, the fluid of nine leaves will restore movement to the monster.
Meanwhile, down on his luck archaeologist Steve Banning (Dick Foran) and his sidekick, Babe Jenson (Wallace Ford), discover the remnants of a broken vase in a Cairo bazaar. Banning is convinced it is authentic, and his interpretation of the hieroglyphics on the piece lead him to believe it contains clues to the location of the Princess Ananka's tomb.

With the support of the eminent Dr. Petrie (Charles Trowbridge) of the Cairo Museum, but against the wishes of the Andoheb, who is also employed by the museum, Banning seeks funds for his expedition. Banning and Jenson meet an American magician, Solvani (Cecil Kellaway), who agrees to fund their quest. His daughter Marta (Peggy Moran) is not so easily swayed, thanks to a prior visit from Andoheb, who brands the two young archeologists as frauds.
The expedition departs in search of the Hill of the Seven Jackals with the Solvani's tagging along. They accidentally uncover the tomb of Kharis, finding the mummy along with the tana leaves, but nothing to indicate the existence of Ananka's tomb.
In one of the film's best sequences, Andoheb appears to Dr. Petrie in the mummy's cave and has the surprised scientist feel of the creature's pulse. After administering the tana brew from nine leaves, the monster quickly dispatches Petrie and escapes with Andoheb, through a secret passageway, to the temple on the other side of the mountain.
The creature continues his periodic marauding about the camp, killing a native overseer and eventually attacking Solvani and kidnapping Marta. Banning and Jenson set out to track Kharis down, with Jenson going around the mountain and Banning attempting to follow the secret passage they have discovered inside the tomb.
Andoheb has plans of his own. Enthralled by Marta's beauty, he plans to inject both himself and his captive with tana fluid, making them immortal. Jenson arrives in the nick of time, and guns down Andoheb outside of the temple, while Banning attempts to rescue the girl. However, Kharis appears on the scene and Banning's bullets have no effect on the immortal being. Marta has learned the secret of the tana fluid and tells Banning and Jenson that Kharis must not get any more of the serum. When the creature raises the brazier to his lips, Jenson shoots the container from his grasp. Dropping to the floor, Kharis attempts to ingest the spilled life giving liquid. Banning seizes the opportunity to set the monster on fire, and it is engulfed in the flames. The ending has the members of the expedition heading happily back to the United States with the mummy of Ananka, and the spoils of her tomb.
By the time "The Mummy's Hand" rolled off the Universal production line in 1940, economy was the order of the day. Yet, as is always the case with the vintage Universal titles, even a "B" picture such as this has a visually satisfying appearance. The film effectively utilizes some of the leftover sets from James Whale's "Green Hell," produced by the studio in 1939. Much of the musical score was from an earlier film, "Son of Frankenstein" in this case, as well.
In spite of the reduced budget, "The Mummy's Hand" is first-rate entertainment. It would spawn three more sequels in the 1940's, but itself is still regarded as the best of the Kharis films. Veteran director Christy Cabanne, whose credits dated back well into the silent era, kept the action going a rapid pace.
Noted western star Dick Foran received top billing among the cast. The handsome actor was born on June 18, 1910 in Flemington, New Jersey, the son of a Republican senator. He graduated from Princeton, where he excelled in sports, most notably football. Following contracts with Fox and then Warners, where he was to become famous as a singing cowboy, Foran eventually signed at Universal and made his first film for the studio in 1938.
He appeared in two of the studio's other horror films of the era, "Horror Island" with Peggy Moran in 1941, and "The Mummy's Tomb" the following year. Another screen highlight was his appearance in the Abbott and Costello comedy "Ride 'Em Cowboy," in which he sang the now classic song "I'll Remember April" to the very beautiful Anne Gwynne. It was one of three of the comedy team's films in which he appeared, the others being "In the Navy" and "Keep 'Em Flying," both of which were released in 1941.
Foran continued acting into the late 1960's, with his final film being "Brighty of the Grand Canyon" in 1967. He died on August 10, 1979, at the age of 69.
One of Universal's brightest ingenues, Iowa born Peggy Moran lends her grace and beauty to the production. It is perhaps her most memorable film. She appeared in over twenty features for the studio, including the Deanna Durbin vehicles "First Love" in 1939 and "Spring Parade" in 1940. That same year, she appeared in "One Night in the Tropics," the first film to feature the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. The talented actress departed the screen prematurely in 1942, following her marriage to the notable director Henry Koster. Moran's final screen appearance was in the Roy Rogers western "King of the Cowboys," released by Republic in 1943.
Of "The Mummy's Hand," Moran can now recall very little, thanks to a quick shooting schedule and the fact that it was produced over 60 years ago. "It didn't take long to film," she says. "What I remember mostly is that the mummy, who I only learned later was Tom Tyler, I never met him before the picture started. I only met him on the set all made up and he literally could not talk. So, I really didn't know him, he was the mummy to me. When I had to do scenes with him at the backlot, and in the cave later, I really was scared of him inside. I really didn't have any trouble acting it you know. I could be scared and be truthful about it."
As the High Priest of Karnak, George Zucco made his first appearance in a Universal chiller, and his performance firmly established him as a major player in the genre. He had already shown a penchant for villainy in the 1939 film, "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes." In it, he portrayed the master detective's chief nemesis, Professor Moriarty.
How the studio wound up with veteran western star Tom Tyler portraying the mummy Kharis is anyone's guess. However, he does his job most admirably. For many years, Tyler portrayed Stony Brooke in Republic's popular 3 Mesquiteers series of westerns. Fans of horror and fantasy films also remember him as the title character in Republic's "The Adventures of Captain Marvel" serial in 1941. A true great of the western cinema, Tyler also did memorable character work in John Ford's "Stagecoach" in 1939, and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" a decade later. Alas, the New York native died of a heart attack at age 50, in 1954.
Another member of the cast did outstanding cliffhanger work as well. Edwardo Ciannelli was the master villain of the title in Republic's 1940 chapterplay "The Mysterious Doctor Satan." The actor continued his film career until the time of his death, from cancer, in his native Italy in 1969. One of his last screen credits was the western "Mackenna's Gold" with Gregory Peck, released that same year.
By 1942, Lon Chaney, Jr. was firmly established as Universal's top boogyman with the success of "Man Made Monster" and "The Wolf Man" in 1941. He had already portrayed the studio's most famous monster earlier in 1942, in George Waggner's production of "Ghost of Frankenstein." Inevitably, when Universal got around to bringing Kharis back to the screen, Chaney would naturally be assigned the role.
"The Mummy's Tomb" picks up the story thirty years after the conclusion of the previous entry. 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 meting out retribution to 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, 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 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.
Chaney's portrayal of Kharis has been much maligned down through the years. However, his performance in this film shows the creature as being capable of independent thought. For proof of this statement, observe the close up of the monster as he stalks his first victim, Stephen Banning. There is a look of hostility in his expression not apparent in some of the other scenes. Also, his initial unwillingness to kidnap Isobel betrays that there is more to Chaney's Kharis than just a mindless murderer.
Elyse Knox is charming as the female lead. The Connecticut born actress began her career at Twentieth Century Fox in the late 1930's. "The Mummy's Tomb" was one of her first Universal films. Her final film for the studio would be the 1944 release, "Moonlight and Cactus." She married 1940 Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon at the conclusion of World War II, and ended her film career completely in the early 1950's. Knox is the mother of actor Mark Harmon, and grandmother of actress Tracy Nelson.
Turhan Bey effectively brings an exotic aire to the role of Mehemet Bey. Born in Vienna, Austria, he came to Universal in 1941 and quickly became of the studio's most prolific and popular male leads. One of his best roles was on loan out to MGM, where he costarred with Katherine Hepburn in the 1944 film, "Dragon Seed." He left Universal after appearing with Merle Oberon in "A Night in Paradise" in 1946. His career subsequently fell into a state of decline, and he eventually became an artist and returned to his native Austria. Bey was a frequent player in Universal's horror films, with featured roles in "The Mad Ghoul" in 1943, and "The Climax" with Boris Karloff the following year.
Like his counterpart Dick Foran, Wallace Ford was again on hand to portray his character from "The Mummy's Hand" in the sequel. However, the scriptwriters failed to get his name correct, and Babe Jenson became Babe Hanson in "The Mummy's Tomb." A minor quibble perhaps, but then with the tight schedules these films were produced under, errors could and did occur.
Ford, an Englishman by birth, appeared in numerous Hollywood productions up until his death in 1966 at the age of 68. Among his many memorable films were John Ford's "The Lost Patrol" with Boris Karloff in 1934, the Humphey Bogart drama "Dead Reckoning" in 1947 and the delightful "Harvey" in 1950 with Jimmy Stewart. The latter film was directed by Henry Koster, and also featured Wallace Ford's costar from "The Mummy's Hand," Cecil Kellaway.
Kharis would take a brief respite following "The Mummy's Tomb," before being resurrected for another sequel in 1944. For this next effort, "The Mummy's Ghost," the legend of Kharis underwent a major revision.
No longer is the monster harbored to protect the final resting place of Ananka and take revenge on those who despoiled it. Suddenly, the task at hand is to reunite Kharis with the mummy of his beloved and return them both to the tombs of Egypt. The ancient sect that was charged with guarding the creature is now called Arkam, rather than Karnak.
The film begins with Andoheb (George Zucco) explaining the legend of Kharis to his newest follower, Yousef Bey (John Carradine). Bey is sent to the little town of Mapleton to find Kharis and bring he and the mummy of Ananka back to the tombs of Arkam.
The scene shifts back to the United States, where Professor Norman (Frank Reicher) is lecturing his class on the curse of Ananka and the horrors brought on the community by the living mummy, Kharis. One of his students is young Tom Hervey (Robert Lowery), who is dating an Egyptian girl, Amina Mansouri (Ramsay Ames). When Tom tells Amina about the Professor's lecture, she becomes visably upset.
Later that evening, Professor Norman, pouring over his notes and studying the box that contains a quantity of tana leaves given to him by the authorities following Kharis' last massacre, unlocks the secret of the tana brew. Sending his wife (Claire Whitney) off to bed, he prepares the potion.
Kharis, seemingly drawn by the scent of the tana brew, appears from the woods and shuffles to the Norman home. He confronts the Professor and kills him. Amina, sleepwalking in a curiously hypnotic state, witnesses the monster leaving Norman's study and faints outside. She is found there the next morning by the investigators, complete with a white streak in her hair. Sheriff Elwood (Harry Shannon) thinks that she may know more than she is telling, and forbids her leaving the town.
Bey arrives in Mapleton and sets out to find Kharis, and easy enough task. He simply brews a cup of tana fluid and the mummy finds him. Bey explains to Kharis their mission, and the two embark on their journey to the Scripps Museum to steal the body of Ananka.
Arriving in the dead of night, they break into the museum, and when Kharis reaches for Ananka's mummified remains, the bandages crumble at his touch. Bey quickly ascertains that Ananka has been reincarnated into the form of another being. Kharis angrily expresses his displeasure by wrecking the display room, arousing the night watchman (Oscar O'Shea). After disposing of the guard, the two return to their abode to contemplate their future plans.
Sheriff Elwood and Inspector Walgreen (Barton MacLane), enlist the help of Dr. Ayad (Lester Sharpe) after the murder of the museum employee. Revisiting the Norman home, they unlock the mystery of the tana leaves and set a trap for the creature. However, Bey and Kharis have other ideas. After praying to the Egyptian gods for a sign, a light shows the way to the reincarnated Princess. Kharis follows it and upon finding Amina, kidnaps her.
Alerted to her peril, Tom and his dog, Peanuts, set out in search of the girl. The Sheriff and the rest of the authorities are soon on the trail as well.
With Amina in their hands, Bey sends Kharis outside their hideout, an elevated mining shack, to keep watch as he prepares for the girl's demise. Overcome suddenly by her beauty, Bey plots to administer the tana fluid to them both, thereby making them immortal. Kharis interrupts Bey's tea party, and in a struggle pushes Bey out the window. The once loyal Priest plummets to his death.
Tom arrives on the scene, and is attacked by the creature on the ramp leading up to the shack. Tom survives, but the mummy escapes and heads toward the swamp with the unconscious Amina.
Regaining his wits, Tom leads the Sheriff and his posse into the swamp. Amina, meanwhile, appears to be aging rapidly. By the time the pursuers reach Kharis and his Princess, she is a mummy herself. The two sink into the depths of the swamp, once again bringing an end to the Curse of Ananka.
"The Mummy's Ghost" is an imaginative thriller, but is hindered by the sudden changes in the storyline that don't fit with the previous Kharis entries. The reincarnation subplot is inventive, and may have had its roots in the original Karloff classic. However, the renaming of the ancient line of High Priests from Karnak to Arkam serves no useful purpose. The rules governing the use of the tana fluid have also undergone a major revision, unless the scent of the concoction alone is all that is necessary to rejuvenate Kharis.
George Zucco made his third appearance as the High Priest. After his demise during the climax of "The Mummy's Hand," then expiring of old age at the beginning of "The Mummy's Tomb," one has to wonder if the old Priest had already imbibed in a bit of the tana brew himself. Zucco and Chaney were the most prolific players in the series, with three appearances each.
The talented John Carradine gives an excellent performance as Yousef Bey. The actor made numerous appearances in Universal horror films, dating back to the days when he was billed as John Peter Richmond in James Whale's "The Invisible Man." By the time "The Mummy's Ghost" was being filmed, he was busily moonlighting on stage, performing the plays of the Bard with his John Carradine and his Shakespeare Players stock company. Actress Teala Loring worked with the noted actor in two 1944 films, "Return of the Ape Man" at Monogram and the classic "Bluebeard" at PRC. She recently shared about her thoughts about the actor.
"We had occasional conversations with him," Loring recalled. "They thought he was weird because he recited Shakespeare. Well, I said 'I don't care for Shakespeare myself, I don't understand it.' He had been a Shakespearean actor and he liked it, but he really was a nice person to work with. I enjoyed him."
Robert Lowery is perhaps best remembered today for his work in this film, Universal's 1946 release "House of Horrors," and the 1949 serial "Batman and Robin." Johnny Duncan, his friend and costar from the Columbia chapterplay, recalls that Lowery enjoyed drinking beer. When they were signed for the leading roles as the famous crime-fighting duo, Lowery was concerned about wearing the Batman costume, fearing his "beer belly" would show.
An enterprising member of the wardrobe department suggested that the actor wear a corset under the tights, and located one large enough to fit. Duncan says that during the entire length of the production his morning ritual was to meet Lowery in secret and strap him into the apparatus. The one drawback of its use was that it left Lowery short of breath during his action scenes. Viewers will notice that he does appear a bit pudgy in "The Mummy's Ghost."
Kharis would make his final appearance, also in 1944, in "The Mummy's Curse." Twenty-five years have passed since the monster and his mate submerged into the swamp, and once again, he will rise to bring death and destruction to those that oppose him.
Set in the Louisiana Bayou, a group under the auspices of the Army Corps of Engineers is trying to drain the swamp for the public good. However, the efforts are being hampered by the superstitions of the workers, who believe the area to be haunted by the mummy and his bride.
Two representatives of the Scripps Museum, Dr. James Halsey (Dennis Moore) and
Dr. Ilzor Zandaab (Peter Coe), arrive on the scene and present their credentials to the head of the project, Pat Walsh (Addison Richards). They have come to search for the missing mummies, buried in the swamp years earlier. Their conversation is interrupted by the news that a workman has been murdered in the swamps. Evidence at the scene convinces Halsey that the murderer has found the mummy of Kharis.
Later that evening, Zandaab steals into the swamp and meets Ragheb (Martin Kosleck). Ragheb is a disciple of the Arkam sect, and Zandaab is secretly a High Priest. The follower killed the worker that unearthed Kharis, and has taken the immobile monster to a deserted monastery.
Zandaab explains the legend of Kharis and Ananka to Ragheb as he brews the tana leaves, giving instructions on their use. The old sacristan of the monastery (William Farnum) intrudes on their ritual, and is promptly executed by a risen Kharis.
Meanwhile, in a breathtaking sequence, the mummy of Ananka (Virginia Christine) rises from the swamp after being partially uncovered by a bulldozer during the excavation. She immerses herself in a pond and the mud is washed away, revealing an attractive young woman.
Cajun Joe (Kurt Katch) finds the girl wandering listlessly in the swamps, calling out the name "Kharis." He takes her to Tante Berthe (Ann Codee), the owner of the local pub, who aids the girl. Later, Kharis finds her there and murders Berthe, as Ananka flees into the night.
Ananka is soon found lying unconscious beside the road by Halsey and Betty Walsh (Kay Harding), the niece of Pat Walsh. While in their care, and although apparently suffering from amnesia, the girl displays an incredible knowledge of ancient Egypt. Her stay at Halsey's camp is again interrupted by the appearance of Kharis, and the kindly physician, Dr. Cooper (Holmes Herbert), is killed. She again takes flight, and Halsey and the others go in search of her.
Fleeing the monster after he attacks and kills Cajun Joe, she comes to Betty's tent seeking refuge. Certainly, Kharis can't be far behind. He enters the tent and whisks away his Princess, leaving the horrified Betty unhurt.
Betty asks Ragheb for his help in finding Dr. Halsey. The treacherous disciple has other ideas, and takes her to the monastery instead. Zandaab, having already administered the tana fluid to the young Ananka, is angered to find Ragheb making advances on Betty. He orders her death, but Ragheb kills him instead. Halsey arrives, tracking them from the camp after finding Betty's tent destroyed. A struggle ensues between Ragheb and Halsey, until Kharis intervenes. The creature, sensing Ragheb's betrayal, advances on his former ally.
Locking himself inside a cell like room, Ragheb is powerless to do anything but watch as Kharis literally brings down the walls on the two of them. Halsey, Betty and the rest find the mummified remains of Ananka in the adjoining room.
If "The Mummy's Ghost" took liberties with the storyline from the previous Kharis films, "The Mummy's Curse" shot them to pieces. The monster and his mate sank into the swampy mire at the conclusion of "The Mummy's Ghost" in Mapleton, Massachusetts. Here, they are uncovered in the Louisiana Bayou! Also, Zandaab brews three tana leaves while going through a lengthy exposition explaining the use of the tana leaves and their power over Kharis. Yet, the potion still restores "life and movement" to Kharis at the conclusion of Zandaab's soliloquy.
However, such errors don't interfere with the plot of the film, which moves along at a streamlined pace and remains exciting throughout. In fact, once High Priest Peter Coe has his perfunctory speech to disciple Martin Kosleck out of the way, the action doesn't subside until the film's conclusion.
As the villains, Coe and Kosleck are indeed a diabolical pair. Coe's Ilzor Zandaab remains focused on his task from beginning to end, never wavering. As his henchman, Ragheb, Martin Kosleck shows why he would attain more prominent roles in Universal thrillers during the coming two years.
Born in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia on November 11, 1918, Peter Coe received his first training in his chosen craft at England's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in the 1930's. After arriving in the United States, he appeared on Broadway for a time before initiating his screen career. Numerous film, and later television, credits followed. Coe died at age 74 in 1993. The actor appeared in two Universal horror films, this title and "House of Frankenstein." Interestingly enough, they were released on a double bill in December, 1944.
Martin Kosleck also enjoyed a long and successful film career. Born in Germany, Kosleck fled his native land after running afoul of the Nazi Party. Ironically, he would ultimately portray Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels on the screen five times, showing the world just how monstrous the Third Reich and its purveyors of hate were. "The Mummy's Curse" would be his first appearance in a Universal horror film, and his performance established him as one of the studio's best villains for the remainder of the horror film cycle of the 1940's. He easily did some of the best work in the Inner Sanctum thriller "The Frozen Ghost" opposite Lon Chaney, Jr. and was marvelous as the mad artist, Marcel DeLange, in "House of Horrors" with Rondo Hatton and Virginia Grey in 1946.
Kay Harding and Virginia Christine held the female leads in "The Mummy's Curse." Harding labored in films only a short time, being billed in her earlier efforts as Jackie Lou Harding. She had a bit part in "Weird Woman" in 1944, but her appearance in this film and the Sherlock Holmes thriller "The Scarlet Claw" are probably her most memorable parts. Iowa born Virginia Christine continued a career in film for many years, becoming one of Hollywood's best character actresses. Yet, for all of her film roles, she is probably best remembered for portraying "Mrs. Olson" in a series of Folgers Coffee commercials for over twenty years. Christine was cast in one other Universal horror film, being Rondo Hatton's first victim in the aforementioned "House of Horrors."
The mummy was to remain dormant, except for reissues of the previous films, until 1955. That year, Universal - International teamed the creature, now called Klaris, with comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in the comedy film "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy." The cast included alluring Marie Windsor, Richard Deacon and Michael Ansara. Stuntman Eddie Parker played the monster, although he was hampered by a makeup that was a poor copy of Jack Pierce's work from the earlier classics.
By the late 1950's, England's Hammer Films was reviving many of the Universal monsters, and in 1959, their version of "The Mummy" was released by Universal. The cast included Hammer's top horror stars, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, in what was a remake of "The Mummy's Hand" and "The Mummy's Tomb." Standing head and shoulders above the rest of the British studio's later mummy films, this title comes as close as any to recapturing the feel of Universal's earlier series.
Finally, Universal released a highly anticipated remake of the 1932 Karloff original in 1999. The film, starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, was a huge success at the box office. Yet, it owes more to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" as a source of inspiration than any of the classic horrors, even the film it purports to eulogize. As of this writing, a sequel is in the works, with its expected release scheduled for May, 2001.
Just as the shifting sands of Kharis' and Imhotep's native Egypt is not static, neither is time itself. While the era that spawned the classic mummy films may itself be gone forever, through the magic of film and video the products of that time will continue to endure. Perhaps Imhotep and Kharis truly will be immortal.
The Mummy Series
"The Mummy"
Released Dececember 22, 1932
Running time: 72 minutes
Directed by: Karl Freund
Music by: James Dietrich
Boris Karloff
Zita Johann
David Manners
Edward Van Sloan
Arthur Byron
Bramwell Fletcher
Noble Johnson
"The Mummy's Hand"
Released September 20, 1940
Running time: 67 minutes
Directed by: Christy Cabanne
Music by: Frank Skinner & Hans J. Salter
Dick Foran
Peggy Moran
Wallace Ford
George Zucco
Cecil Kellaway
Eduardo Ciannelli
Tom Tyler
Charles Trowbridge
"The Mummy's Tomb"
Released October 23, 1942
Running time: 60 minutes
Directed by: Harold Young
Music by: Hans J. Salter
Lon Chaney, Jr.
Dick Foran
John Hubbard
Elyse Knox
Wallace Ford
Turhan Bey
George Zucco
Mary Gordon
Virginia Brissac
"The Mummy's Ghost"
Released July 7, 1944
Running time: 60 minutes
Directed by: Reginald LeBorg
Music by: Hans J. Salter
Lon Chaney, Jr.
John Carradine
Robert Lowery
Ramsay Ames
George Zucco
Frank Reicher
Barton McLane
Harry Shannon
Emmett Vogan
"The Mummy's Curse"
Released December 22, 1944
Running time: 62 minutes
Directed by: Leslie Goodwins
Music by: Paul Sawtell
Lon Chaney, Jr.
Peter Coe
Virginia Christine
Kay Harding
Dennis Moore
Martin Kosleck
Kurt Katch
Addison Richards
Ann Codee
Holmes Herbert
William Farnum
The diabolical Hammer Trio (Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher, and Christopher Lee) is back in this chillingly haunting version of the classic Mummy tale. To have to review this movie with a cast and crew this good is preposterous, but Nate told me I better or Ill only be reviewing episodes of "Alf" (oh, the horror!!!). So with this proverbial gun to my forehead, Ill try to construct a somewhat intelligent review without resorting to saying Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast??? Of COURSE its a good film!
While the original Mummy film (starring the unsurpassable Boris Karloff) was haunting, chilling, and downright creepy, this film adds a little more oomph to that concept. I believe of all The Mummy films, this movie is the most fright-inducing. Boris Karloff gives that understated, haunting performance that leaves chills going up and down your spine long after the DVD has stopped playing. Chris Lee truly goes all out, given the Mummy a insatiable, raving lunatic quality that is actually frightening. I remember watching this film when I was young and being gleefully horrified by Chris Lee. While Im very desensitized to horror techniques now, I can still appreciate Hammers horrifying twist on The Mummy and this still ranks up there as one of my top 10 Hammer films.
The film, while very similar to the old Universal Classic, is different enough to seem fresh. This is due to the fantastic writing stylings of Jimmy Sangster (who went on to help write Brides of Dracula). Terence Fisher is at his finest form and the directing is top notch. Terence always had an ability to keep the plot moving (which is not always present in Hammer films not directed by Terence), but still lingers in the moment long enough to be haunting. This is truly a gift that only the finest horror directors bear. Terence certainly deserves a rank on that list.
The casting was perfectly wonderful. Peter Cushing is at top form in this movie. Yvonne Furneax (who plays Princess Anaka and Isobel Banning) is beautifully enchanting. The rest of the characters did adequate jobs. (This is a Hammer Film. We cant expect Oscar worthy performances from everyone, you know!) All in all, two thumbs up for the casting director.
A must see for all Mummy fans, Hammer film fans, or anyone into classic horror, The Mummy is top notch. It is films like these that made Hammer the horror-dynamo it was (and still is). The films beauty holds up well, even by todays high tech standards. Refreshing, chilling, and positively delightful, you simply cant go wrong. Much like the movies tagline states.
Fear will freeze you when you meet, The Mummy!
The Mummy Films:
Notable films with living (or walking) dead, "zombie" plots included Universal's and first-time director Karl Freund's classic The Mummy (1932) with Boris Karloff in the title role as Im-ho-tep - it was Karloff's second Monster role success. Trading on Karloff's success in both The Mummy and Frankenstein, the British film The Ghoul (1933) starred Karloff as an Egyptologist who sought eternal life by being buried with a rare jewel. Dracula-great Bela Lugosi performed in White Zombie (1932), the first of the true zombie films. Universal's sequel to their original Mummy film was The Mummy's Hand (1940) with Tom Tyler as the reborn mummy. Lon Chaney Jr. starred in the title role in numerous 1940s Mummy sequels from Universal. His first was titled The Mummy's Tomb (1942), followed by The Mummy's Ghost (1944) and The Mummy's Curse (1944). Val Lewton's B-masterpiece production I Walked With a Zombie (1943) involved more zombies (see below). Hammer Studios updated the Mummy films with its own entry The Mummy (1959) with Christopher Lee as the awakened ancient Egyptian.