The Mummy's Hand (1940)

OCTOBER 2, 2009


Since tonight I will be taking one of my rare trips to Universal Studios (in order to take in both the Eyegore Awards and the new Horror Nights mazes), I figured I’d watch something from their esteemed library for my daily movie. But I’ve watched all of the esteemed movies already, so I watched The Mummy’s Hand instead. I wasn’t a big fan of the original Mummy, but since this was the start of a whole new series I was optimistic for something a little more up my alley.

And it was! I’ll never be the biggest fan of any Mummy movie (the combination of adventure and horror just never quite gels for me), but this is the type I can at least enjoy for a single viewing and never really think about ever again. And Stephen Sommers seems to agree, since this one seems to have inspired his 1999 version more than the previous movie (the one with Karloff). Not only did he hire Arnold Vosloo, who more than slightly resembles the villain of this film (the requisite human villain I mean, not the Mummy), but treasure hunters and comic relief are the focus of this film, not the tragic back-story of the Mummy himself like the 1932 one. There’s also a character who is quite similar to the one played by Kevin J. O’Connor.

It’s still a bit too slow though. It’s only 68 minutes long, but the Mummy doesn’t appear until around the 45 minute mark. And for nearly 20 minutes after, it’s a bit repetitive, as our characters all sit around this tiny camp while the Mummy picks a few of them off. Here’s a tip: when a Mummy is killing people in tents, maybe stay out of the tents. Or stay in groups. It also has the same sort of lengthy exposition flashback scene that the original had, although at least this time they get it out of the way early instead of stopping the movie cold later on.

The hero guy is kind of bland too. He has the type of generic personality that will make you spend the entire movie wondering who he reminds you of, and you’ll come up with wildly diverse answers (throughout the film I thought of, for a few examples, Russell Crowe, James Gandolfini, James Denton, and my friend David). I did like his rather subdued romance with the girl though; she tells him he is swell and gives him the quickest of quick pecks on the mouth, and that’s about the extent of it.

Another thing I liked, which again seemed to have inspired Sommers, was the sort of motley crew design. Our heroes are a pair of fortune-seekers, and they team up with the usual local guide, a magician, and the girl (I’ve already forgotten her motive). You know the main guy and the girl are safe, but the others are fair game, and it allows for some minor suspense that these movies tend to lack (not the filmmaker’s fault usually though, more due to my having seen all of the ones that ripped them off already).

I also dug the fact that the Mummy was the traditional sort of wrapped bandages type! I wouldn’t mind putting together a model of him, unlike the rather un-interesting Karloff version (loose bandages > robes). He’s also scarier, though the attempt to black out his eyes by coloring them out frame by frame doesn’t really work. Not only do the blackout spots constantly shift around (distracting and goofy), but in the film’s trailer they are NOT blacked out and we can see that the eyes are actually creepier without the effect.

Most importantly, at 68 minutes, it’s a wonderful little godsend for me today, as I am very busy and don’t have time for some epic length 90 minute film. Also the director is a man named Christy, so I felt kind of bad for him. Good work, buddy! And maybe call yourself Chris.

I assume the other three films, all of which were released in rather quick succession after this one (two of them in 1944!) are direct-ish sequels to this one, so now I am again interested in watching them. I know the Karloff Mummy has its fans, and I liked some stuff in it, but this one is way more appealing to me. Sorry, Boris. I still consider Frankenstein my favorite though, so it evens out!

What say you?

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  1. Thanks for writing about the mummy's hand - I coincidentally watched it and three of the other mummy movies between Monday and today. Dont get your hopes up for the sequels - direct knock offs that dont add much to the story (Mummy's Tomb - which has no tomb - spends 15 mins rehashing the Mummy's Hand). I havent watched the Mummy's Curse, not sure if I'll watch it before its due back at the store.

  2. Mummy's Tomb is actually the best of the post-Karloff films (and Kharis is hidden away in the main crypt [read: TOMB] of the local cemetary - apparently the previous poster wasn't paying attention, lol)


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