Here we are! Continuing with our October Overlook Madness, here we have quite the jump in time, from 1919 to 1940, to the Second Time of what is known in the Universal Horror Films cycle of the 30’s and 40’s. This movie is watched because James Rolfe talked about it today in his Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness, here you can watch his video on ‘The Mummy’s Hand’ (1940) for more information and a deeper look.
So, there we go, my first mummy movie that doesn’t star Boris Karloff nor Brendan Fraser, for me it’s quite an experience as I’ve always felt that movies aren’t much of a threat in terms of real horror, but for some reason in this movie the menace is real and it manages to get a few chills when it appears… more than halfway down the film. It’s 67 minutes long and the fact that the titular mummy only appears in screen at minute 30-something is worrysome, since it takes so much time to build up something, and because of the events that are prior, one can expect that this movie might make a turn around for a comedy at any time.
But no, there’s something scary and frightening at the bottom. The way that it was achieved was by one of the oldest (and at times most experimental) ways of altering the pictures in the history of cinema. Whenever the mummy appeared, they’d black out the eyes and the mouth of the actor (that would still be visible through the makeup) by painting on the negatives. Seeing a creature without eyes is something way scarier than you can think, it’s something from out of this world, and the fact that the creature has those eyelids open (maybe forever), looking at you through that blackness, stumbling towards you… that’s scary.
It’s a real shame that this only happens in the final 30 minutes of the film. Before that, the movie is just a few moments with the way too comedic for a 40’s horror movie protagonist duo, that find a random broken vase being resold by a normal merchant, but that happens to be the entrance and the main clue to the presence of a lost tomb of a princess, the one that is protected by the tomb of Karris, the mummy that is revived to defend the casket. Joining the adventure there’s a magician, that puts most of the money and really enhances the whole ‘comedy’ feel of the movie, as well as his daughter, a semi feisty young gal that doesn’t work at all when they seem to construct her as a strong-willed character, but then just use her as the usual damsel in distress.
There’s a bunch of missed oportunities here, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had as well. The mummy is frightening, and the legend behind it (though unfulfilled and recycled from the first mummy film from 1932) is interesting though completely unrelated to any real mythology of egyptian deities and gods. I imagine how an egyptian who knows about the roots of their culture would react to these films, does anyone know if mummy films are popular in Egypt? Or are they banned? Or they are just released to be later forgotten? Is there any egyptian horror film featuring a mummy?
Well, that’s too many questions for this movie, and we still have three more in the next three days, so we can talk about them when the time comes. In the meantime, I can recommend this film for its final half, but as well because it can be fun for what it is. Not like the original mummy film, but a league on its own, and it spawned some sequels following the same story, so that’s that.