Daily Archives: February 26, 2019

The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)

*. What’s in a name? Not much.
*. The Mummy, notoriously, never showed us the Mummy in action. What we mainly got was the resurrected Ardeth Bay moping about while controlling others with his occult powers. As for The Mummy’s Hand . . . well, sure enough, the Mummy has a hand. Two of them in fact. But the title was a throwaway.
*. Which brings us to The Mummy’s Tomb, which is the first film in the franchise to not take us inside the Mummy’s tomb (except in flashbacks from the second movie). Instead the series has moved to the U.S., which is where Kharis is brought by another of the priests of Karnak in order to wreak his vengeance on the Banning family.
*. The film is only an hour long and the first twelve minutes are spent recapping The Mummy’s Hand. It’s fun seeing the stars from that film reappear, apparently some years later, in old-man makeup, but the intro plays pretty dull and seemed unnecessary to me. Then when Babe shows up he’s not comic relief any more but feels like a totally different character.
*. I had the sense they really mailed this one in. The story is just a re-run of The Mummy’s Hand, with the creature’s handler falling in love with the female lead and having the Mummy kidnap her so that he can make them both immortal together by drinking tana leaves. She is abducted while sleeping (the shadow of the monster falling over her bed), then carried off when she faints unconscious. She is later bound to a plinth. All of this is stock material. Hell, in this film we even get villagers with torches chasing after the creature.
*. Today The Mummy’s Tomb is probably best known for being Lon Chaney Jr.’s first appearance as the Mummy. I don’t see why this means very much to anyone. Chaney was a big guy and he moves well, but really: so what? This isn’t a star turn.
*. Indeed, the Mummy is a diminished thing. From being the mysterious mastermind of the first film he has become little more than a shuffling automaton doing the bidding of the priests of Karnak. There is one point here where he shows some sign of rebelling against his handler Mehemet Bey (Turhan Bey), but in the end he has no agency or purpose of his own. In itself this wouldn’t be a fatal flaw, but the Egyptian villains pulling his strings aren’t that interesting either and the business with the tana leaves and the full moon is too complicated and silly to follow. Given how pedestrian these movies were it’s surprising the franchise kept going. But another couple of movies were still to come.

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