Thursday, May 22, 2008


Universal carried on its MUMMY series in 1942 with THE MUMMY'S TOMB, and if it wasn't apparent before that these films were intended as double-bill fodder, the mechanical nature of this picture will clear up any doubts.

Though produced only two years after THE MUMMY'S HAND, TOMB picks up three decades later, with Dick Foran in old-age makeup recounting the events of the previous film. This tactic unspools a good deal of flashback footage from HAND, taking up nearly 12 of the film's 61 minutes; add a subsequent scene as HAND's high priest swears Turhan Bey in as George Zucco's successor in an almost identical fashion and a quarter of the film is wasted (this is especially tiresome for those watching the series in a row). Bey's mission is to punish Foran, as well as his family, for violating Princess Ananka's tomb, for which he brews some tana leaves and sends Kharis out to do his bidding (you'd think there'd be a more practical, not to mention inconspicuous, way to kill a handful of people, but then there wouldn't be much of a mummy picture, would there?).

THE MUMMY'S TOMB focuses more on mystery than adventure, shifting locales from Egypt to a quiet Massachusetts village; improbable, maybe, but the fog-swept setting helps evoke some semblance of Universal's better efforts. The problem with the mystery angle is that we already know a mummy's to blame, so we get to twiddle our thumbs as an "elderly" Wallace Ford tries to convince the police of what the audience has just been told. (Director Harold Young also has an annoying habit of digressing to moments of painful redundancy; do we really need a doctor pronouncing Ford dead after he's strangled by Kharis?)

As with THE MUMMY'S HAND, the performances are flat and unengaging as most '40s programmers, with Bey being an exception (his vaguely Asian mannerisms suggest a post-Pearl Harbor response). Though I'm sure he was hired purely for marquee value, Lon Chaney, Jr. makes for a thoroughly undistinguished mummy under Jack Pierce's wrap job, probably more concerned with the bottle waiting in his trailer than giving a real performance.

Pedestrian and apathetic, THE MUMMY'S TOMB possesses a few moments that might please fans of vintage horror, but there's an awful lot of filler to sift through to get to them. Not nearly as taxing as, say, watching Brendan Fraser overact against a bluescreen, but still far from rewarding.

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