Friday 11 April 2014

Vengeance Of The Mummy

Naschy Come Home

Vengeance Of The Mummy 
(aka La Venganza De La Momia)
1973 Spain
Directed by Carlos Aured
Camden Collection DVD Region 0

Vengeance Of The Mummy is one of Paul Naschy’s loving homages to the classic Universal horror movies of old. Naschy, best known for his portrayal of the werewolf Waldemar Daninsky in many films, also wrote this one. Like the 1959 Hammer update of The Mummy (reviewed here), this mixes elements from the 1932 classic version of The Mummy, which starred Boris Karloff in the titular role, with ingredients from the 1940s pseudo-sequel series, which followed the bandage-wrapped exploits of Kharis, as played by both Tom Tyler (The Adventures Of Captain Marvel, The Phantom) and by the legendary Lon Chaney Jr (who had the privilege of playing all four of the top tier Universal monsters in his time). 

In this interpretation, Naschy plays a dual role in that he plays both Amenhotep (which is obviously a name check reference to Imhotep) and also a devoted, Victorian follower of the same tyrant, Assed Bay. Unlike the Karloff “dual role”, where he played the bandaged wrapped version and the modern Egyptian version of the same character using an assumed name, the roles  in this version are actually two different characters, with Amenhotep prowling around in bandages while Assed Bay seeks to reunite him with the spirit reincarnation of his former lover (which is a concept with direct lineage from the Karloff version, of course). A concoction very similar to the “tana leaves” of the Kharis series of Mummy films is also used in this version, although Amanhotep only needs to drink this the once.

In Vengeance Of The Mummy, the main male protagonist who, with his wife, discovers the accursed tomb of Amenhotep, is Jack Taylor (start of such genre movies as The Ghost Galleon aka Tombs Of The Blind Dead 3, Female Vampire, Vampyros Lesbos etc) who I also liked in what I consider to be the best of the Naschy/Daninsky films I’ve seen to date, Dr. Jekyll And The Wolfman. Interestingly, it’s not this character’s wife who is the love object of Amenhotep’s curse in this version, but the daughter of his professor friend and, I’m guessing because of certain gender and genre expectations at the time this was made, she is played as a single lady... I just can’t tell you why because I don’t want to spoil the end of the movie for you.

The film has a prelude set in Egypt (this one doesn’t make extensive use of flashbacks as did the 1932 version of The Mummy and various other incarnations of it over the years) but the majority of the movie is set in London, England and in this way it plugs into the same feeling of nostalgia (I used to go into London a lot as a kid) that I got from Taylor and Naschy’s collaboration from the year before, the aforementioned Dr. Jekyll And The Wolfman. I don’t quite remember the Natural History Museum having a big sign out in front of it saying British Museum (Natural History) but... I guess it could have done and I just wasn’t paying attention as a kid. The montage of establishing shots to tell us we’re in London is bizarrely long, though. Clocking in as a few minutes and outstaying its welcome somewhat as a “short” intro to a scene. 

Even so, this film is one of the best of the Naschy productions I’ve seen. The set design is a little simplistic, especially the stuff in the Egyptian setting at the start of the movie, but it’s also very colourful and lively and I loved it. Similarly, the shot design and the way things are dollied through or edited together is all excellent with some really nice, Hitchcockian moments which are almost birds eye views of the characters as they go about their business in a few sections. Really nice stuff.

The musical score, by a guy named Alfonso Santisteban, is pretty good too. It’s not exactly as subtle as you might hear in a lot of horror films but that doesn’t count against it and the melodies and elements of the orchestration are all quite toe tapping and listenable throughout, certainly defending its honour against such brilliant scores as Franz Reizenstein’s score to the Hammer version of The Mummy, for instance. I’d love to get my hands on a recording of this score but, unless a boutique label like Quartet decide to give it a go (they released two Naschy scores but I think they were slow sellers and possibly underperformed for them), then I’m not holding out much hope.

What we have in this movie is one for all fans of the always familiar and iconic movie monsters which have stood the test of time throughout the years from the early talkies (and sometimes before) and if you are into these kinds of films, or even if you like Paul Naschy movies in general, then this one is a definite must-see. For people expecting something a little more sophisticated... well, you’re probably going to be a little disappointed, to be honest... but fans of 50s and 60s Hammer/Amicus style productions will surely love it. As did I. Hope I get to it again sometime soon before I die.

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