Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Mummy's Tomb - 1942

 Director:                           Harold Young
Screenplay:                       Neil P. Varnick (story)
                                             Griffin Jay & Henry Sucher (writers)
Cinematography:             George Robinson
Make-up:                          Jack P. Pierce (special make-up)

Kharis:                              Lon Chaney, Jr.
Stephen Banning:           Dick Foran
Dr. John Banning:           John Hubbard
Isobel Evans:                   Elyse Knox
Andoheb:                        George Zucco
'Babe' Hanson :              Wallace Ford
Mehemet Bey:                Turhan Bey
Prof. Norman:                 Frank Reicher

Dry, dusty ones.

(Before you start reading this you really should go back and read the review for "The Mummy's Hand".  For that matter, start with "The Mummy".  You'll be glad you did.  )

It is 25 years after the end of "The Mummy's Hand” and we are in Mapleton, Massachussettes listening to a now codgerly Steve Banning entertain his son and his son’s fiancée with stories of his adventures with Kharis.

We see his story in flashback using extended clips from the previous movie.  Later, we return to Egypt briefly and find out that….holy cow!.. Andoheb did not really die in the last one and neither did Kharis!  How in the world can I ever trust my eyes again?

Andoheb is once again played by Mr. Creepy himself, George Zucco.  A new priest, played by Turhan Bey, is given the back story and told to run with it.  This poor shlemiel sails with Kharis (who unfortunately has to travel steerage) to Mapelton where the Princess is on display in the museum.  Their mission is to bring her back to Egypt to her sacred tomb.  Oh yeah, and kill the members of the expedition who defiled her tomb, Banning and Babe Hansen, and their families and pretty much anyone else who gets in the way.

Turhan takes a job as caretaker at the little town cemetery in order to have cover for his real job of babysitting Kharis.  Ok, look – I can roll with a lot, but what was Turhan told exactly?  “Go my son, blend in with the townsfolk.  Don’t be conspicuous”.    Right, - a young, handsome foreigner, who looks like he has a Savile Row tailor working as a small town cemetery caretaker.   I’m trying to imagine him pushing a lawn mower.  Sorry.  If I get stuck in all the gaps in logic we’ll be here all day.  Have I mentioned that I love these movies?
Actor Turhan Bey.  Not your typical small town cemetery caretaker.

Much killing ensues, Banning is killed, then his sister, then Babe Hansen (his name was Jensen in the previous movie.  Don’t ask me.)  Sonny boy is next on the list, but….Turhan Bey gets a load of the young fiancée, and guess what?  No, …really.  Guess.  He decides that she should be HIS wife, so Kharis has to kidnap yet another ingénue.  Kharis is trapped inside the Banning home and is set on fire…again.  The fiancée is rescued and Sonny gets a telegram that he has been given a commission in the Army Medical Corps (it IS 1942 after all).  And speaking of WWII, there is also a distinct and distasteful flavor of war-time xenophobia in the way Turhan is dispatched.  A veritable lynch mob posse goes after him, confronts him at the cemetery and shoots him when he reaches into his sleeve for his gun.  Maybe he was Egyptian and not Japanese, but dang it, he was SOME kind of foreigner wasn’t he? 

Every setting, even in the Egyptian scenes looks suspiciously like southern California.  We have taken a step down in production values since "The Mummy's Hand".  Even though that one was filmed on the studio backlot, it had a feeling of a higher budget and more interesting direction.  “Tomb” has Kharis in the US, running around in backyards and through picket fences.

There are no long scenes set in Egypt, and the whole thing, from the sets to the direction feels more pedestrian.  Old scenes of angry torch-bearing villagers are borrowed from “Frankenstein” and “Bride of…”   You will hear the same music themes over and over, sometimes borrowed from movies such as “Son of Frankenstein”.   Reduce, Reuse, Recyle!

The mummy’s makeup is still by Jack Pierce, but it degrades as the series continues, looking more and more cheap over time.  It has come a long way down from the intricately and painstakingly applied layers of make-up in "The Mummy"”, to a mask and a modified union suit that can be slipped on by Chaney.  I will talk about Lon Chaney in the next two reviews. 

All of these faults, or shortcomings I’ve described merely add to the charm of these flicks as far as I’m concerned. Affection goes a long way in reviewing them.  In this case, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, it breeds something much more warm and fuzzy.  The whole series is cozy and comfortable like wrapping up in a soft blanket and sipping tea on a cool autumn afternoon. 

Well, are we ready for the next chapter in our saga?  Onward then, dear friends.  We are about to meet "The Mummy's Ghost".

Have a comment about this post?  Please, be my guest.  Indulge yourself.  I would love to hear from you.  Click on “Comments” below.  Thanks!

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