#26 in my ranking of the Classic Universal Monster movies.
The Mummy films have never been the bright spot of the Universal Horror franchise, but with The Mummy’s Tomb, it establishes a new bottom for lazy and cheap filmmaking from beginning to end. Taking the largely unremarkable efforts from the first two entries and doing nothing to make it any more interesting or exciting, turning it into a slow moving monster film, as slow as the titular monster himself. This is Universal producing as cheaply as possible to get what cash it can from a reliable audience without worrying about actually trying to entertain them.
This movie is only 60 minutes long, and literally the first quarter of the film is recap. The first fifteen minutes is Professor Stephen Banning (Dick Foran) recalling the entire second half of The Mummy’s Hand, complete with extended clips that run for about ten of the first twelve minutes. The next three is a remake of one of the early scenes of the earlier film where the elderly (supposedly dead) antagonist of the previous film, thirty years later, gives the oath to his successor, Turhan Bey (Mehemet Bey), who takes the mummy Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr.) to Massachusetts to exact vengeance on those who violated the sacred tomb of Princess Ananka, as well as their families.
Since thirty years have passed (the 70s sure do look a whole lot like the 40s, if you ask me), Banning now has an adult son, John (John Hubbard) who is engaged to the pretty Isobel (Elyse Knox). These aren’t really characters. They are figures around which things happen, and they don’t really act like humans. When Stephen gets attacked by the mummy, John barely seems to notice emotionally, having a scene quickly thereafter where he’s happy as a clam on a lakeside with Isobel. There’s a line of dialogue about how it’s been a few weeks, but this is the danger of having a really short runtime (effectively only 45-minutes because of that opening), there’s no time to sell emotional realities. It’s just jumping from one thing to the next without really setting the scene.
So, Bey takes a job as the caretaker of the cemetery in the small town in Massachusetts, bringing Kharis, his sarcophagus, and the required for canon tanus leaves, and he sets out to kill the four people tied to Banning who live there: Banning himself, his son, his older sister, and Babe (Wallace Ford), who comes to visit from New York after Banning dies.
The back half of the film is the monster action, and this mummy is probably one of the worst monsters. Imagine a zombie without the gross out factor who can only kill by grabbing someone by the neck. It’s meager monster action at best, and the only way people can get killed by him are to be inherently stupid, like when one character meets Kharis on the street and immediately runs down an alley without an exit. Just walking at a brisk pace on the street itself would get him away from Kharis.
So, the characters are threadbare. The action is terrible and dumb. One quarter of the film is repeating the first film. Where is there any enjoyment in this? Well, I found two bits.
The first is in the performances of both Foran and Ford. Playing characters much older than themselves, they give Banner and Babe a surprisingly amount of introspection that’s nice to see. The second is the absolute insanity of how the ending progresses, mostly regarding its use of fire. I mean…the way the filmmakers used fire here feels very dangerous for the actors and the sets. People are rolling backwards down stairs and on top of burning fires. They are hitting stuntmen in the face with fire. The fire across the set doesn’t look controlled at all. It’s absolutely incredible to watch the filmmakers’ irresponsibility.
Written by Griffin Jay and Henry Sucher while directed by Harold Young, The Mummy’s Tomb as a title doesn’t even make sense. He doesn’t have a tomb here. He just has his sarcophagus. It would make more sense to switch the titles of this and The Mummy’s Hand. Anyway, aside from a couple of small things, this is a real drag. It’s always interesting when hour long films feel so long, but The Mummy’s Tomb is just dull, uninteresting, and boring monster action done cheap.
3 thoughts on “The Mummy’s Tomb”
Lynda Barry’s solution to making the Mummy a scarier monster: “Give it a deadly smell.”