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The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb
Tonight's Feature Presentation

THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1964)

Starring: Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard, Fred Clark, Jeanne Roland, George Pastell, Jack Gwillim

Written and Directed By: Michael Carreras

The Short Version

Well, it sure didn’t take Hammer long to tank this series, thanks to the chairman’s kid.

Is it about a mummy, or a flighty French woman deciding to cheat on her beau?

Consistency is something that happens to other flicks.

There is not one likable character in this movie.

The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb is so awful that it’s only worth watching for genre completists.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

KRAFT SINGLES.

Made up of American cheese, which the rest of the world calls “wax” for been oily and flavorless.  But surely, Mr. King would argue, anyone would pay ten cents for a slice, wouldn’t they?


Pairs Well With...

THE HOUSE FRENCH WINE.

With a lead-in like that, the sommelier will get you something cheap in quality but not in price and probably a bit too tart.

“Let the consequences commence!”


In 1959, Hammer Studios released its finest horror film, The Mummy.  Oddly, though, despite a fair amount of enthusiasm for it, they didn’t make any effort toward a sequel for five years.  To some, this may seem like a sign that the studio was waiting for everything to come together so that they could do things right.

Alas, it was just a sign that the head of the studio got sick of getting needled by his son, and finally decided to allow said son to go ahead and do his pet project, which became The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb.

Oops.

It starts off interestingly enough as a group of bandits chase a man through the desert, tie him to a pole, and lop his hand off.  (We’re supposed to assume that the bandits are all Egyptian despite that most are very, very obviously as white as the Michelin Man, but this is par for the Hammer course, much like we’re supposed to assume that the Dracula and Frankenstein films primarily take place in Germany despite the English accents.)  The hand will turn up later in the camp of a group of archaeologists who have spent the last several months emptying out the tomb of a certain Prince Ra-Antef, but if it’s meant to be a warning against going any further, it comes a bit late, considering that one of the chief archaeologists, DuBois (an uncredited Bernard Rebel, in his final role) has already been killed.

Not that even this can stop the tomb being emptied, of course, for the fact is that it’s already done.  The remaining chief archaeologist, Sir Giles Dalrymple (Jack Gwillim, Clash of the Titans), is all set to conclude an arrangement with the Egyptian government as represented by one Hashmi Bey (George Patell, playing a different Egyptian than he did in The Mummy) to sell the contents of the tomb to the Cairo Museum for 90,000 pounds, but this is spoiled by the arrival of the dig’s American financier, Alexander King (Fred Clark, Visit to a Small Planet).  King figures he can make more money by “taking the show on the road” for an international tour through the UK, Europe, and the US, and thus has no intention of allowing the treasures to remain in Egypt.

Gosh, you think that might get some mummy somewhere pissed off enough to start bonking heads?

Since we already know that the answer is yes, do you think maybe said mummy could make an additional stop at the office of Michael Carreras, perhaps not to bonk a head, but maybe just to take away his Guild cards?  Because without a doubt, even though Michael Carreras certainly isn’t the only person wrecking this turkey, he is definitely the primary perpetrator.  One would think that he’d have cared enough about a pet project to actually do a good job with it, but, alas…

It starts with his script, which has no likable characters whatsoever, suffers from noticeable consistency issues, and considers the notion of “range” to be “the distance between ‘pedestrian’ and ‘insipid’.”  Let’s begin by having a look at these characters.

The one who most wants to grab your attention is Alexander King, who is an absolute caricature of the “Ugly American.”  He’s loud, obnoxious, and boorish, and he has no problem welching on a promise if there’s a buck in it for him.  Frighteningly enough, he is the most likable character in the film.  This is almost entirely due to the magnetic performance of Fred Clark, who is often the only real breath of life the movie has, and who really deserves better than he gets.  King’s contrast in Sir Giles, the one whose disgrace he directly causes, and who becomes a drunken fool because of it.  Sir Giles, too, gets a wonderful performance from Jack Gwillim, but considering the part he has to play, it’s a thankless job, and as often happens with disgraced drunks, he’s essentially shoved off to the side until it’s time to for him to die.

Thus, by sheer will of the actors involved, the two most sympathetic characters are an obnoxious boor and a disgraced drunk, neither of whom is likely to be invited to a decent party.  Oh, goody.  So, what’s left?

What’s left are the principal players in an insipid “subplot” that ends up completely dominating The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb which kinder folks will call a love triangle but which I’ll call a flaky trollop deciding to unceremoniously ditch her beau.  The flaky trollop in question is Annette Dubois (Jeanne Roland in her dreadfully acted film debut), daughter of the ill-fated Dubois from the start of the picture.  It takes her exactly one jump cut to completely forget about her murdered father and go back to being a bubbling airhead of a sort that makes it utterly plausible to accept Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist in The World is Not Enough.  Over the course of her bubbling (her voice, which may or may not be dubbed, depending upon whom you ask, is nearly incomprehensible under the thick accent), we learn that while no jewelry has been exchanged, it’s pretty well cut and dried that she will be marrying her long term beau, John Bray (Ronald Howard, not to be confused with the guy who played Opie), who has coincidentally been given a promotion of sorts thanks to the disgrace of Sir Giles.  (While one cannot argue the against the practicality of his taking the job, his utter lack of real sympathy for Sir Giles speaks volumes to his lack of integrity.)  Things get dicey, however, when Annette watches a gent send a knife wielding lunatic over the rail with a single punch on the boat ride back to England.  This “gent” is one Adam Beauchamp (Terence Morgan, Svengali), and he immediately takes up station next to Annette and starts liquoring her up.  In full view of the long term beau she was romancing just moments before, Annette laps Adam’s attention right up, and jumps at the idea when Adam suggests that she and John should stay at his house while they are in London.  John’s objections are limp-wristed at best, and so of course, that’s where they end up.

You’re going to spend a lot of time watching Adam sweet talk Annette.  You’re going to reach a point where you’ll start having an automatic gag reflex whenever Annette says his name in her ridiculously poured-on accent.  You may want to actually have a barf bag on hand for when Adam reads Annette Shakespeare’s Sonnet XLVII (“How do I love thee?” etc.) in its entirety.  (This is made worse by the fact that Terence Morgan plays Adam like a just slightly more butch version of Liberace.)  Has someone forgotten that this is supposed to be a frickin’ mummy movie and not some Lifetime/WTN Movie of the Week?

Apparently, they have.  Every so often when John tires of watching his lady being given presents of Faberge jewelry by her new pal, he goes off and pretends to be interested in the mummy, since he’s too much of a wuss to stand up for himself, but honestly, what you’re going to remember this flick is much more the wuss part than the mummy part, especially since the extent of John’s interest in finding out about the mummy involves him sitting at a desk.

And this, folks, is exactly what writer/director Michael Carreras wanted.  He thought Hammer was far too involved with its Gothic stuff, see, and wanted to branch out.  Swell.

Oh, by the way, we even reach the point where Annette makes the split second decision to dump John via a literal “Dear John” letter, which we get a nice close-up look at on camera.

How about that mummy, huh?  Anyone?

Oh, right.  He sucks.

Everything that actor Christopher Lee and Director Terence Fisher combined their talents to accomplish in realizing the mummy character of Kharis in The Mummy is summarily ignored in this film.  Kharis was expressive and menacing; Ra-Antef (Dickie Owen, The Mummy’s Shroud) is just a lumbering dude with a missing hand.   Director Carreras does nothing to help; frankly, he displays no talent at the helm, to the point where there is indeed a reason why the most common adjective used to describe his efforts among critics is “pedestrian.”  His idea of adding some threatening aspect to the mummy is to mix in a noise that sounds like someone breathing heavily into a bucket whenever the mummy is near or when the camera takes on the mummy’s point of view, as though the creature’s real aim is to just find a telephone so he can make some prank calls.

However, through what one can only assume must have been blind, stinking luck, the mummy does get one genuinely great moment here: one of his executions is accomplished by stepping on a living man’s head and crushing the skull.  The step down is off camera, of course, but the sound tells all the story that’s really required.

Otherwise?  Ugh.

The plot of The Mummy was familiar, but that was easily forgiven thanks to a great script.  Both plots of The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (the mummy plot and the cheating romance plot) are familiar, as well, but they’re written so badly that they get no free passes, especially when the sins of lousy direction a generally poor acting are tacked on.  I concede a favorable point regarding the argument it occasionally makes about where artifacts really belong, but other than that, forget it.  It doesn’t help that Carreras can’t seem to make up his mind about what’s really going on, with the result being some head-scratching consistency problems with the plot.  For example, I won’t spoil the scene, but on one occasion the mummy is about to kill a victim it has indeed been tasked with going after, but its controller makes it stop… only to instruct the mummy to kill this same person again just a short time later.  Huh?

Sadly enough, at the end of the day, I really don’t care, and I don’t think Michael Carreras did, either.

Bottom line, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb is inferior in every way to The Mummy, essentially following up Hammer’s best film with one of its worst.  Poorly directed and (with a few exceptions) poorly acted, this movie features a dramatis personae full of unlikable characters who often seem to prefer the idea of being in a badly written romantic drama to being in badly written mummy movie.  Unless you absolutely have to see every last Hammer or mummy film out there, there’s just no good reason to bother with The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, November, 2011


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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