The Mummy's Curse
USA 1944 Directed by Leslie Goodwins
Universal Blu Ray Zone B
The Mummy’s Curse used to be one of my favourite films of the Mummy franchise but, I dunno, it seems like less the movie I remember nowadays. I’m going to go right ahead and get the whole ‘series continuity’ elephants in the room out of the way first because, frankly, there are some big ones here... in keeping with the continuity crimes of the previous films in the series. This one was directed by Leslie Goodwins, the guy who directed the Mexican Spitfire pictures with Lupe Velez, in the very same year as the previous entry, The Mummy’s Ghost (reviewed here) and, frankly, I’m surprised that the writers here managed to build on those continuity problems even more. So let’s get to it...
If you remember the last film, Kharis and the woman hosting the soul of Princess Ananka sunk down into the swamp in New England. Now the swamp is being drained to make way for building work and Kharis is already up and about, with the help of yet another egyptian High Priest (plus his murderous assistant), who is trying to help Kharis find Ananka. However, absolutely nobody can answer the big, obvious question here? Why the heck the swamp has suddenly moved geographically to... New Orleans. Yes, that’s right, sink in a swamp in Massachusetts and rise in The Big NO. Nobody refers to the location of the last film in any way, shape or form and are acting as though the last picture took place in this latest locale.
Not only that. I’ve already said the films tend to jump anywhere between 3 to 30 odd years between sequels, right? Well this one is set a whapping 25 years after the last one but, guess what folks? Yeah, that’s right, 25 years have passed but characters are still getting drafted into the war because it’s still 1944. What the heck? I just read that somebody had worked out the time shifts between the films based on when the first one is set and, by rights, the action here should be taking place in the year 1997 but... no, ‘tis still 1944. Gosh knows what would have happened if Kharis had turned up in The Devils Brew (released as House Of Frankenstein, reviewed here) as originally planned.
Furthermore, when the decidedly confused and amnesia ridden Princess Ananka does come out from under the earth, well... she went down as actress Ramsay Ames but now she’s being played by Virginia Christine. Both lovely ladies but, really? It was shot the same year, couldn’t they get the same lady back for the next one? I’m speculating here but Virginia Christine has gone on record that she feared for her life in the scenes where the bandaged Lon Chaney Jr, playing the role for his third and last time, carried her around because he spent most of the production drunk. So maybe there was... I dunno... some tension between him and Ames in the previous shoot. I’m just speculating here but... well, it would be interesting to know if somebody has the information.
Okay, continuity aside, it’s not a bad picture but, considering it’s short, one hour and some seconds running time, it’s exceptionally slow. It takes maybe a half hour before Kharis even lumbers into the picture properly and it doesn’t help that we get a lengthy recap of the back story of the character (again using footage from both the Boris Karloff and Tom Tyler movies) to keep things from getting pacey.
Still, asides from the incredibly dull first half an hour, there are still some entertaining and also notable things about the film. Entertaining such as in lines of dialogue which brought a smile to my face like... “Come, the hours do not linger.” instead of just telling someone to hurry up. Or the discovery of... “freshly murdered men.” Oh, well... glad they were still fresh then, I guess.
The real big thing for me is the fact that we have an undead, reanimated corpse of a character, Princess Ananka, pushing up through the earth she is buried in with her hand, followed by the rest of the body. Many people think this was first done by George A Romero in his 1968 zombie classic Night Of The Living Dead. However, I can think of at least two other times prior to this that I’ve seen it done before that film. One would be the 1966 Hammer Horror The Plague Of The Zombies (which I can’t help think influenced Romero just a little) and the other time would be in this one. After all, Mummies are pretty much just Egyptian zombies and so, shot in 1944, I think this may well be the first film in which this was done. If anybody knows of an earlier example of this phenomenon then please let me know in the comments section below.
When Ananka walks around trancelike for a bit, she is caked in dust and earth and so she walks through a stream to wash herself out, so to speak. When she surfaces she looks a normal colour again and, wow, those streams in New Orleans must really be something. Not only does it get her clean, it gets her make up done and her hair styled too. Hair salon owners all over the world need to jump in a plane and wrest the secrets of the magical beautician super powers from the New Orleans swampland.
Other than that, there are a few more nice things. The shadows used to show the first murder as silhouettes against a wall is effective but an overwrought scene where Kharis keeps trying to grab Ananka but people, unaware of his presence keep leading her or driving her away from his clutches by accident just as his hand comes up to get her, actually does kind of play as a comedy almost and I wonder if this was deliberately supposed to register like this due to Goodwins’ other directorial assignments.
The music in this one is by genre composer Paul Sawtell (no, thanks all the same IMDB but he’s not, as you say, uncredited... thanks for playing though) and I think this is the first one of these he’s done (although he’d scored a lot of other pictures prior to this in the five years he’d already been working). It gives the film a somewhat different atmosphere than the others although, I did notice that an earlier piece of music from the Universal monster movies by either Hans J. Salter or Frank Skinner has either been tracked or rewritten for at least one of the scenes towards the end of the picture. And, frankly, it really needed that piece slotting in because, much as I like Sawtell and his future collaborations with Bert Shefter, this one really doesn’t help speed up the picture any and it could have done with some bolder scoring with a few more ‘musical stings’ in my opinion.
And that’s it... more or less... for The Mummy franchise. There would be one more in the series after The Mummy's Curse but it wouldn’t be Kharis reappearing, it would be a parody of the character for... well, you’ll see in a future review. Keep your eyes open on this blog because we were almost into the era of... the comedy/horror movies.