Saturday, November 20, 2010

THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1942)


Thirty years after an American archaeological expedition led by Professor Stephen Banning (Dick Foran) broke into the ancient tomb of Princess Ananka, the High Priests of Karnak finally get around to exacting their terrible revenge. They dispatch Mehmet Bey (Turhan Bey at his swarthiest) and his shuffling, loping, one-armed undead killing machine Kharis (Lon Chaney, Jr., Tom Tyler, or Eddie Parker, depending on which scene you're looking at) to the provincial New England town where Banning and his family live. Sacred vengeance is derailed, however, when Mehmet starts lusting after a blond white woman (Elyse Knox) who is engaged to Banning's smug physician-son, John (John Hubbard) and diverts the mummy from his murderous mission by assigning him the job of abducting virgins.

This is a silly, poorly-written movie that relies heavily on recycled footage from THE MUMMY'S HAND and a series of trite newspaper front-page montages for exposition. And John Banning is an annoying hero--- his rapid emotional recovery from the horrific deaths of his father and his aunt in their own house seems particularly callous, and it only gets worse when he threatens Mehmet with torture (Hippocratic Oath be damned!) and encourages the club-and-torch-wielding mob of local yokels to burn down his ancestral home. Aside from the wonderful night-for-night photography, the film's direction is flat, unimaginative, and overly literal, all of which makes for rather dull viewing.

But I am being way too rough on THE MUMMY'S TOMB. It's an hour-long and has a kind of pulp/comic-book action pace that doesn't skimp on the monster quotient. There's no need for me to be such a snob about it--- it was fun when I first saw it on TV in the early 1970s and I would go across town in a heartbeat to see it projected onto a movie screen tonight. But I am such an avid fan of the 1932 THE MUMMY that I unfairly want a little more out of this one, that's all...

Apparently, the movie put up good box-office numbers in 1942 and enjoyed a prosperous re-release afterlife. By the time THE MUMMY'S TOMB hit the TV screens in the late 1950s, viewers who had missed the movie in earlier days may had at least seen 1955's ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY--- a tedious farce featuring a mummy named Klaris (Eddie Parker again) who defends the tomb of an Egyptian princess from treasure hunters ---so the mummy-as-monster idea was a familiar one. The World War II-era references in THE MUMMY'S TOMB (there's a mention of bandleader Jan Garber and the Russian Front, while John Banning's draft notice is a plot point that kicks the kidnapping plan into high gear) may have dated the film when it appeared on TV as part of SHOCK!. So, too, did the billing of Lon Chaney, Jr. as the mute mummy, as the actor was at that time appearing as Chingachgook in the half-hour Western TV series "Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans." But despite all that, I would wager that THE MUMMY'S TOMB did a lot to haul viewers in and grow the reputation of SHOCK! on TV.

Salt Lake City Tribune, Saturday March 28, 1959




NEXT: "An inventor is killed and another takes his place only to find his own life threatened. Don't miss the thrills and action in THE SPY RING, starring Jane Wyman. It's on SHOCK over this channel!"

3 comments:

rogue evolent said...

Thanks for another wonderful "down memory lane" (for me) review of a rather "meh" but still fun movie. I have fond memories of the first time I saw "The Mummy's Tomb" on TV so... it's all good.
Again: LOVING THIS BLOG! It's MUST READING!!

Mirek said...

There's something about mummy movies that kids like. Maybe how close the sound of the word is to "mommy"....

kochillt said...

I was less familiar with this one than the other three MUMMY features from the 40's. Considering how one fourth of it is taken up with footage from its predecessor THE MUMMY'S HAND, it probably worked better if seen first. Chaney's makeup was modified from Tom Tyler's, with one blackened eye, and all the fingers missing from one hand. He sure had less to work with...it's no wonder he hated the role with a passion. Turhan Bey had just played a Japanese villain in DESTINATION UNKNOWN, and relished playing his namesake Mehemet Bey, but he was no match for either Zucco or Carradine (but superior to Peter Coe). Glenn Strange has a cameo as a farmer trying to calm his horse. Probably the weakest of all four, this aired just 4 times on Pittsburgh's CHILLER THEATER.