The Curse Of The Mummy's Tomb (1964)

MARCH 3, 2009


Finally, a movie I like on this Hammer set. Like Phantom of the Opera, I just don’t really care for the overall gist of the Mummy story, but The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb is much more exciting than the original Universal version, and has the traditional “guy in bandages” monster as opposed to a well-dressed Karloff, so I left feeling pleased overall.

It starts off pretty similar to the Universal one; complete with flashbacks and such. But once the Mummy’s tomb is opened (after an ENDLESS scene where the guy rambles on and on about where he found it and how he got it there and blah blah blah) it becomes more of a traditional monster movie. None of that eternal love bullshit, I want monster action! It’s hardly action packed, but there’s some good thrills and the Mummy makeup design (by Roy Ashton) is pretty awesome. Plus there’s a bit of a mystery angle to the film; there are like 5 stuffy British guys who all have a stake in the fame and fortune that is bestowed on cinematic graverobbers, so you know one of them is going to turn out to be the actual bad guy while the Mummy ends up finding redemption in the form of saving the heroine. The “curse” of the title refers to the brother of the Mummy, who needs him to kill him, or something (I got a little lost here due to all of the names sounding alike to me).

But what really set this one above the original were the random little moments, both intentional and unintentional, that kept it from feeling too slow or generic. For starters, there’s a monkey. All films are better when a monkey is utilized. And this monkey eats some Turkish Delight, a treat that is “discovered” in this film (you know how like in Titanic they talk about Picasso in the present tense and saying that “he won’t amount to a thing!” and we all laugh because we know that’s not true? This movie does it with Turkish Delight. Like I said, random). For the unintentional side of things, there’s an EXIT sign in plain view during one of the (19th century set) scenes, and a wonderfully prophetic line of dialogue where one of the stuffy Brits exclaims “Sir Charles is in charge!”

Also it’s the first film on this set that has been in color. I always love the look of Hammer films, and while I got nothing against black and white, looking at the inventive and wide-ranging color palettes in these movies can work wonders in giving them their own identity. Had this been in B&W like the original, I probably would have tuned out by the time the Mummy showed up, because the first act plays exactly like the original (which I didn’t care for). Plus, I love “blood” that looks like pink paint, and this movie offers a few gore moments (a severed hand being the highlight) that wouldn’t have been as silly with a monochromatic presentation. A guy’s head gets stomped on too, but you only hear it. Remake!

Strange for a Hammer movie, I don’t recognize anyone in it. With the 5 guy setup, it would have been great to have Cushing, Lee, etc playing the roles. None of these guys are particularly BAD, but they’re kind of bland all the same (though the American guy is likeably corny, probably the British’s idea of mocking us). Given the lack of Mummy action for the first 45 minutes or so, some top notch scenery chewing would have been nice. As I later learned, Lee played the Mummy in an earlier Hammer film, which is by all accounts better. And I am sure they are right, but since I haven’t seen it, I don’t have to play the comparison game. I'll have my McD's first, THEN enjoy the fancy steak.

What say you?


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