FRIGHTENING FLIX by Kbatz: Mummy Movies!

Unwrapping a Mummy or Two!

By Kristin Battestella

 

Seen any good mummy movies lately?

 

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb – Based upon Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars novel, this 1971 Hammer outing gets right to the saucy, sexy mummies, colorful jewels, tombs, and classic Egyptian designs not through spectacle of production but via subdued lighting, firelight, soft music, foreboding curses, and a silent, dreamy start. The intriguing father and daughter dynamic between Valerie Leon (The Spy Who Loved Me) and Andrew Kier (Quartermass and the Pit) is both endearing and suspicious – straight jackets, psychics, ominous constellations, cluttered museums, and sinister relics likewise contribute to the visual mixing of old, Egyptology styles and early seventies designs. Pleasing hysterical fears, snake scares, uneasy reunions, and power struggles unravel the reincarnation tale nicely. It is tough, however, to see some of the night sky transitions, and the simmering 94 minutes may be too quiet or dry for today’s speedy audiences. Subtitles would help with the exposition as well – especially for the fun homage character names like Tod Browning that may be missed otherwise. Brief nudity, one by one deaths, the collecting of killer artifacts, and a resurrection countdown also feel somewhat rudimentary at times, predictable before snappy and missing some Hammer panache in cast or direction. Considering the on set death of director Seth Holt (Taste of Fear) and the departure of Peter Cushing – both briefly discussed in the DVD’s features – the film’s flaws are certainly understandable. Besides, this is still most definitely watchable with an enjoyably moody atmosphere and fun, subjective finish.

 

The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb – Hammer producer Michael Carreras (Maniac) wrote and directed this 1964 sequel to The Mummy, and it’s a well shot piece with plenty of Egyptian color, tombs, flashbacks, artifacts, humor, and film within a film carnival spectacles. The 1900 designs are also period fine, but some scenes are obviously on-set small scale and lacking the expected all out Hammer values, making this follow up feel like some one else’s beat for beat B knock off rather than an authorized continuation. Opening blood and violence, characters at each other’s throats in fear of the eponymous threat, brief debates on traveling sideshow exhibitions, and scandalous belly dancing can’t overcome the slow, meandering pace while we await the well wrapped and perfectly lumbering Mummy violence. Jeanne Roland (You Only Live Twice) is very poorly dubbed, and beyond the over the top, annoying, love to hate Fred Clark (How to Marry A Millionaire) as a sell out American financier, the rest of the cast is interchangeably bland with no chemistry. The somewhat undynamic writing is uneven, with twists and mysteries either out of the blue, too tough to follow, or all too apparent. Though the sinister deaths aren’t scary, it’s all somehow enjoyably predictable because we’ve seen so many rinse and repeat Mummy films. This isn’t a bad movie, but it takes most of its time getting to the Mummy scenes we want to see – and we can see a lot of fact or fiction Egyptology programming today. It’s not quite solid on its own and feels sub par compared to its predecessor, yet this one will suffice Mummy fans and fits in perfectly with a pastiche viewing or marathon.

 

The Mummy – Karloff, Karloff, Karloff! The drawn, crusty, and dry opening makeup and mummification designs looks dynamite- accenting OMK’s tall, imposing, sullen, and stilted presence. His silent up close shots are indeed hypnotic and powerful- even if modern audiences might find this one more fanciful fantasy than truly frightful. Even though there is some tell, not shown off-screen action, the plot is well paced, with nice dialogue and support from Zita Johann (Tiger Shark) and Edward Van Sloan (Dracula). Some of the 1932 style or mannerisms, foreign languages, and customs of the time might be strange to us now, but the mysteries and iconography of Ancient Egypt look delightful. An action packed pseudo silent styled flashback also works wonders. The CGI spoiled may of course find things here slow and dated compared to the 1999 The Mummy, but seeing a film done when Egyptology was arguably at its height allows a little more of all that onscreen glamour and gold to shine through. Actually, I am usually completely against it, but I’d love to see this in color- at least once anyway. Sweetness!

The Mummy (1959) – Hammer perennials Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee team again for this well paced if somewhat familiar plot. Though he looks like the Creature from the Black Lagoon in some scenes and is styled more like a Bond henchman doing the evil deeds of late Victorian villain George Pastell (also of The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb); Lee’s reanimated and mummified priest Kharis is dang menacing but no less tragic in his violence and lost love. His overbearing stature works wonders against the intelligent and suave archaeology gentleman Cushing- whether he’s in the dirty wraps or decked out in great Egyptian costumes, color, and brightness. The sets, however, could use some work, as the exteriors are a bit, well, plastic looking instead of mighty stonework monolith. Yvonne Furneaux (Repulsion) is also a lovely but slightly lightweight façade that’s a little out of place with Cushing’s take action and dueling wit. Fortunately, the musical charms accent the Egyptian suspense and cap off the scares beautifully. Toss in some humor and great fun and this version equals total entertainment.

 

The Mummy’s Curse – Stay with me now – this 1944 hour long Universal sequel marks the final appearance by Lon Chaney Jr. as Kharis after The Mummy’s Tomb and The Mummy’s Ghost, which follow the 1932 original and The Mummy’s Hand. Got that? Of course, the timeline and locales are all over the place at this point anyway! We open with a French sing along to set the inexplicably changed Louisiana setting here before getting to the expected accursed mummy swamp recovery, investigating archaeology professors, and screaming dames. It’s amusing to see all the fearful and faux French accented locals, and reused stock footage from prior Mummy films creates further humor. But why is this exact same story being told to us again? Again but in a Louisiana swamp? A swamp that lies below a conveniently abandoned chapel where the Mummy hides? Fortunately, once the audience takes these leaps, Chaney’s resurrected and deadly, limbering monster can be enjoyed thanks to well done shadows, lighting, and crisp black and white photography. Virginia Christine (Tales of Wells Fargo) also has an excellent entrance as the revived Ananka, with eerie music, stilted movement, and great horror editing. Despite the spooky bayou atmosphere, this isn’t as scary movie as it should be – somehow Chaney’s crippled, dragging Mummy seems sad and used more than frightening. Poor thing misses a victim or two thanks to them, you know, walking away from him! Thankfully, the quick fun here is still watchable for fans, especially in a Mummy or Chaney viewing marathon.

 

The Mummy’s Hand – Be he curse protector or resurrection accomplice, George Zucco (Dead Men Walk) is slick as ever in this 67 minute 1940 Universal sort of sequel that’s otherwise lacking in the expected Mummy stars such as Karloff or Lon Chaney, Jr. These different characters create more remake than follow up feelings, and after awhile, these Mummy films do seem somewhat the same anyway. There’s a little too much humor and bumbling rivalries away from the titular action for this installment to be scary, too. Who has the money for the expedition? Who doesn’t want the archaeology to happen? What’s pretty daughter Peggy Moran (King of the Cowboys) doing pointing a gun at folks? Wallace Ford (The Rogue’s Tavern) is also an unnecessarily fast talking swindler sidekick for by the numbers Dick Foran (The Petrified Forest), and the then-modern Cairo pre-war styles and colloquialisms slow the plot down when there’s no time to waste. Fortunately, despite the black and white photography, the opening Egyptian flashback provides the expected regalia and spooky curses. Perhaps this entry is typical or nondescript in itself, but its fun for a classic marathon. When we finally do get to the tomb robbing action and Tom Tyler (The Adventures of Captain Marvel) as the murderously lurking about Kharis, this becomes a pleasant little viewing with a wild finish.

Servant Of The Goddess and The Chosen

If your looking for a good vampire book that is so much more then a vampire book you should check out Servant Of The Goddess by Denise Verrico. This is the fourth book in the immortal revolution series. The story takes place in New York where Cedric, the star of book three has just escaped India where he was a slave to the elder vampires. Cedric is trying to find Kurt and Mia, the leaders of the newest house of immortals. Kurt and Mia represent the future of vampire society, they have taken in all the vampires referred to as rats that were rejected by the elder vampires and are starting to build a new vampire fellowship in the modern world.

That’s not all that Kurt and Mia are trying to accomplish, they are also trying to find a cure for their vampire blood lust but find a way to keep their immortality and walk in the sun. Cedric finds Kurt and Mia and becomes Mia’s bodyguard but he is obsessed with getting revenge against his former masters and he may ruin everything that Kurt and Mia have worked for.

Servant Of The Goddess is an excellent vampire novel and equally as good as its predecessors. This book has a little bit of everything, its a political thriller with lots of action, violence and sex. While the theme for Book three: My Fearful Symmetry seemed to be how people in power use religion to influence others; Servant Of The Goddess’s theme is how female leaders do not get the same respect as men do no matter how much smarter they are then their male counterparts.

In vampire society women can’t lead so the best that they can achieve is to lead through the males. For instance Kurt sees Mia as his equal but the vampires that they lead do not look at her the same way they look at Kurt. In order to get the men to follow her she has to bust a few heads and we also see this with the villains in the story.

For example Mia is in charge of building and running a vampire club that will give the vampires they lead a job and help to support the vampires that they lead. When Kalidasa, an immortal chief elder comes to the club he laughs and says to Kurt that its nice of him to let his concubine run Kurt’s business. No one sees Mia as an equal with the exception of Cedric who sees her as the living manifestation of an Indian goddess.

Another example of this is when one of the  immortal alphas, Raj along with his female partner Giullietta show up in New York with their band of vampires. Raj gives his crew orders but the vampires don’t move until Giullietta screams “you heard the man, do what your told.” Raj is in charge because that is the rule set down by the grand council but its obvious Giullieta is pulling the strings.

One of my favorite scenes in this book is when Mia notices one of the vampire children playing a video game and she feels sorry because he was turned into a vampire so young. She leaves the room and comes back and sees that  Cedric  has joined the boy and is also playing video games. At this point she realizes that despite Cedric’s sexuality and that he was forced to become a warrior, he is still just a boy. The vampire children in the book are the mirror image of homeless children who get shuffled from foster home to foster home because their parents couldn’t support them. I really enjoy how Denise Verrico’s vampires society is a mirror image for human society and I’m looking forward to more books in the immortal revolution series.

Another  book I want to talk about is The Chosen by Jay Hartlove. Charles Redmond is a former hit-man currently working in the import-export business. One of Charles clients is a strange man named Joseph who is buying religious relics and having them shipped all over the world. Charles tells his psychiatrist Sanantha that he believes Joeseph is a demon, Sanantha doesn’t believe him but soon gets dragged into a battle between good and evil and ancient religions.

Joseph is indeed more then he seems and he is working for Silas Alverado, an ancient Egyptian magician that is trying to bring the god Osiris back from the dead to rule the world again.  Standing in his way is Sammael, the Demon Prince of Liars. This is a battle that has been going on since the book of Exodus and Charles who believes that his voodoo religion is facing extinction may be the only one who can stop it.

Jay Hartlove’s The chosen is an excellent action packed novel which gets deep into Egyptian and voodoo mythology. In particular I really enjoyed how Sanantha tries to talk Charles out of what he thinks is happening. There is also an interrogation scene that was very good and a little disturbing. I also love the character of Charles and how he is trying to redeem himself and what he is willing to go through to save his religion. Sanantha was another great character, I liked how she slowly fell in love with Charles and what she was willing to go through to save him. The ending was also very good and I liked the reaction of Osiris and how things work out for Joseph.

Jay Hartlove did a lot of research for this occult thriller , to get a little more of the back story that went into The Chosen and to see what went into the writing of it, check out his website at jaywrites.com. This book can easily fit intio several genres, there is a lot of suspense, horror and mystery if you love reading about religion and ancient mythology you will love this book.