Sunday, May 25, 2008


Wrapping up--heh-heh, sorry--our look at Universal's MUMMY films, 1944's THE MUMMY'S CURSE brings the series to a close on a less than resounding note. A step down from the flawed but fun THE MUMMY'S GHOST (my personal favorite of the four sequels), it tiredly trots out the same old story for one more go-'round.

Picking up 25 years after GHOST (someone on IMDB did the math and figured out that, given the skewed chronology of the series, CURSE should rightfully take place in 1997), the movie mysteriously transfers Kharis and Ananka from New England--where they drowned together in a quicksand pit--to a Louisiana swamp populated by ethnic stereotypes. Once again, there's an Egyptian henchman to do the grunt work--Peter Coe, aided by THE FLESH EATERS's Martin Kosleck--this time trying to reunite the re-animated lovers and take them back to Egypt. (Though, unlike the previous films, the human villains are just as bland as the rest of the cast.) And as usual we get a refresher course on the use of tana leaves, as well as a needless five-minute flashback to THE MUMMY'S HAND regurgitating the Kharis/Ananka backstory.

Previous MUMMY films weren't much better--especially in the story department, where plot holes seemed to be dominant feature--but there's an empty-tank feeling to THE MUMMY'S CURSE that keeps it from being as enjoyable. Any continuity from the earlier movies--like, if Kharis and Ananka drowned together, why are they separated? If Ananka was reincarnated at the end of GHOST, why is she acting like a twentieth-century amnesiac?--is abandoned, save for the recycled motions of Kharis and his cronies. (Not even a bandaged Lon Chaney, Jr. can rescue scenes in which people don't notice a huge shambling mummy six inches behind them.) And Leslie Goodwins's traffic-cop direction prevents the film from gaining any steam (one exception is a fairly eerie scene in which a mud-caked Ananka pries herself from the muck); the DVD subtitles say "Footsteps Dragging" whenever Kharis walks, an apt description of the plot itself.

And just like the other films, testosterone gets the better of the hired help as Kosleck tries to take Ananka for himself, incurring Kharis's wrath. Perhaps Universal was as fatigued as the story, since they allow Kosleck and Kharis to be buried alive together in an accident that also destroys the remaining tana leaves, putting an end to the Kharis saga (until the studio resurrected him to star in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY).

The lackluster finale of THE MUMMY'S CURSE notwithstanding, the series still makes for fun viewing today, thanks mostly for its Saturday afternoon-nostalgia factor--not bad for disposable cinema originally intended for undiscriminating kids. (Unlike this summer's THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR, which will be forgotten by Labor Day.)

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