Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)

*. I’ve made notes on several mummy films, most of them dreadful, but with this one it might be worth taking a step back and looking at one of the earliest instances of mummy horror in the literature: Bram Stoker’s widely unread 1903 novel The Jewel of Seven Stars.
*. I can honestly say I have read The Jewel of Seven Stars, and it wasn’t easy. Not quite as tough a slog as Dracula (which is a truly terrible book), but difficult in its own way. That way being an incredibly awkward plot involving a bunch of different characters falling asleep or into trances or under hypnotic spells. It doesn’t take long before you start wondering what is going on, which is a mystery that is never entirely explained.
*. The reason I bring the Stoker novel up here is because Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb is loosely based on it and also because the novel makes a big deal out of a strange element that, for reasons I can’t explain, mummy movies have had a tendency to retain. This is the way the female lead is usually seen as the reincarnation of the mummy’s ancient love, with the same actress usually playing both roles.
*. I say I can’t explain why this is a plot point so regularly adopted from The Jewel of Seven Stars because when you think of it (1) it’s a huge stretch that usually makes no sense at all, and (2) there’s no particular need for it. I mean, the cast could just accidentally wake a mummy up and defile his tomb and become victims of his curse without all of the trappings of an ancient romance and the transmigration of souls being roped into it. But instead, mummy movies keep going back to this same stupid idea.
*. The Jewel of Seven Stars is, as I’ve said, a tough read. It’s also unfilmable, which is yet another reason I wonder why studios have bothered going back to it. They could have a scary mummy come to life and not bother with a jewel that somehow contains within it an astrological map. But here we are.
*. As a title, The Jewel of Seven Stars was never going to fly, and it was jettisoned here and in subsequent treatments of the same material (The Awakening and Bram Stoker’s The Legend of the Mummy). Screenwriter Christoper Wicking explains the process used to come up with Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb as a title: “we just took all the words associated with the mummy genre . . . and that combination came up.”
*. This is later Hammer so it’s set in the present day and it’s a little sleazier and has more blood. The first shot after the credits run is of Valerie Leon’s heaving bosom as she writhes in bed. Then we go back in time and we’re introduced to her in her guise as Tera, wearing another very revealing top. As she describes her role: “I used to show an enormous cleavage, everything but the nipple, but I was never ever nude.” She had a body double in the scene where she gets out of bed naked and we see her bum.
*. Also typical of a Hammer production is the solid cast of veterans with a young couple thrown in as the love interest. What’s interesting this time out is the way Margaret’s young man is killed off, leaving her alone with her father and the last surviving archaeologist. This is especially odd given that her young man (named “Tod Browning” here) is the sole survivor who lives to tell the tale at the end of the first edition of the novel (a subsequent edition has Margaret surviving as well so that she can marry her beau).
*. It’s a talky film, and no easier to follow for all of its talk. They did what they could to make the novel comprehensible but could only get so far. The idea of there being three relics that have to be acquired from the other tomb raiders makes for a good storyline, even if the scenes where the relics come to life and tear the throats out of their victims have to be rendered through crazy editing and camera tilts and wild reaction shots that do nothing to disguise how ridiculous it all is.
*. I wonder why they introduce the ambiguously gendered fellow at the end for the death of the female archaeologist. He doesn’t seem to have any purpose in the story at all except to surprise us with his fingernails before disappearing.
*. In the end I find this a hard movie to rate. It’s a mess, but not nearly as big a mess as the novel it’s based on. The blood-and-tits sleaziness gives it a cheap and tawdry flavour. It’s fun to see the old guys chew the scenery and emote for the ages but in the end none of it adds up to much. I imagine Hammer fans will enjoy its retro Brit-horror vibe, but for me it was only another underwhelming chapter in a genre (the mummy film) that rarely fails to disappoint.

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