Mummy’s Tomb, The (1942)
Cast: Lon Chaney, Dick Foran, John Hubbard, Elyse Knox, George Zucco, Wallace Ford, Turhan Bey
Director: Harold Young
Nutshell: mysterious deaths on the Banning Estate thousands of miles from Ananka’s Tomb has the community in grip of mortal fear and reports of a dark, shuffling shadowy figure moving silently through the night sends the town into a fear frenzy.
Years have passes since Stephen Banning has returned from his adventure to the Egyptian tombs where his team unearthed the ancient tomb of Ananka and evoked a terrible curse that resulted in the deaths of several of their party. Banning, safely back home in Mapleton, Massachusetts, is telling his guests about his mis-adventures and the marauding Mummy that was brought back to life with the potion of the forbidden Taana leaves.
Terror strikes soon after the little post dinner session with Mr. Banning as screams pierce the night air and the eminent archaeologist is found slumped on the floor with a strange, mouldy dust covering his throat where he appears to have been brutally strangled to death.
Meanwhile a greasy foreigner with a strong “bad hombre” vibe plans his journey to arrive on American shores with his mysterious baggage containing something dark and dreadful. He also travels with a large stash of the old Taana leaves. Evidently in the milieu that saw the Mummy supposedly being burned to ashes and the evil High Priest of Karnak being shot to death was not quite so accurate as both the Mummy and the Priest appear to have survived (from The Mummy’s Hand) and are now being transported to the United States so Kharis can complete his deadly mission which is to destroy all those who desecrated the tomb of his beloved Princess Ananka. And so, when the moon is at its highest point, Kharis is summoned once again with the aid of the Taana leaves to go out and complete what is his destiny and to avenge his Princess.
One by one the members of the Banning clan are found horribly strangled the same way as Stephen Banning had been; an odd waxy dust around the throat the tell-tale sign of death at the hands of the lumbering shadow that spreads death silently through the night.
The film begins with Banning’s recollections in the form of some highlights from Universals previous franchise release: The Mummy’s Hand and then builds its own little tale up on that base. With a running time of just 60 minutes, the film fortunately wastes little time to get to the basic business of having a horrible Mummy marauding around the community picking off hapless victims in quick succession while the locals grapple with the startling reality of what afflicts them.
Lon Chaney makes an imposing and impressive Mummy shuffling about silently and relentlessly in the shadows of the night. When the moon is full, death strikes the community and slowly it begins to dawn on the locals that these dreadful occurrences may have something to do with the ancient curse invoked by the Banning’s when they discovered and desecrated the tomb of Amon Ra.
This, the third instalment of the Mummy franchise clocks in at just 60 minutes and is seven minutes shorter than its predecessor The Mummy’s Hand. By comparison though The Mummy’s Tomb moves briskly along and wastes no time in getting into the thick of the horror action unlike the Mummy’s Hand that took an age to get started and was bogged down by some infantile comedy that marred proceedings rather badly. This time around, the comic relief is held in check while Lon Chaney is given much more screen time in full prowling mode which is why most of us would watch a Mummy film to begin with. There is nothing startling nor innovative this time around with the story being the sort of “staple” Mummy plot which appears to have been the one that Hammer took its cue from for their wonderful Colour remake in years to come.
Not perhaps the most memorable or resonant of the Mummy films, The Mummy’s Tomb manages to keep things moving along briskly enough and with such an abbreviated running time that gives the audience hardly any time to lose interest of start getting bored. Short, sharp and relatively sweet but with no hidden surprises, layers or wonders embedded within. Cheap and cheerful and rather unadventurous, The Mummy’s Tomb is still a reasonably satisfying slice of hokum and a considerable improvement upon the rather tedious Mummy’s Hand.