(From now until Halloween, the Canadian Cinephile will be taken over by pure, unadulterated FEAR. No, I’m not commencing an Adam Sandler marathon. I will be reviewing some of the most spine-chilling, bloodcurdling horror movies, with this year’s trip covering those freaky films released prior to 1970. There will be a special focus on Universal’s classic monster pictures, so bring your hot cocoa. It’s going to be a dark and scary ride. Sort of.)
Universal continues its ungainly trudge through “Egyptian mythology” with The Mummy’s Tomb, the 1942 sequel to 1940’s The Mummy’s Hand. This film is directed by Harold Young from a story by Neil P. Varnick. It features Lon Chaney, Jr. as the mummy, which is a good thing. It also runs just an hour long, which is also a good thing.
In a sense, it doesn’t much matter who the mummy is. Jack Pierce may have spent hours putting Chaney, Jr. in the makeup for the character, but there’s little personality to the character. The mummy is the epitome of the plodding monster, a creature that stalks and stalks and stalks some more. Most of the “feeling” is exhibited through minimalistic arm movements.
The film picks up some 30 years after the events of The Mummy’s Hand, with good ol’ Steve Banning (Dick Foran) telling his son John (John Hubbard) and John’s girlfriend Isobel (Elyse Knox) all about his adventures. Meanwhile back in Egypt, Andoheb (George Zucco) is doing a little recounting of his own. He sends his follower Mehemet Bey (Turhan Bey) to the US to get revenge on Banning.
Bey gets to take the mummy (Chaney, Jr.) and he gets a gig as a caretaker at a graveyard, which gives him access to tombs and whatnot. He sends the mummy out for revenge, first tracking down Steve Banning and then his friend Babe Hanson (Wallace Ford). The “curse” then falls to John, who wants nothing more than to marry his lady in peace. An angry mob helps bring everything to fruition.
There’s not an awful lot to The Mummy’s Tomb, which makes the opening recap sequence all the more troublesome. Steve basically walks the audience through the events of The Mummy’s Hand, only it’s actually more interesting than The Mummy’s Hand. By the time the recap is over, The Mummy’s Tomb really has to step on it.
Fortunately, Young doesn’t have a lot of ground to cover. The mummy arrives with his spine-chilling Egyptian handler, who is creepy because he’s Egyptian. The townsfolk are apprehensive because he’s Egyptian, which leads to the final confrontation and the ensuing dehumanization of the man. What with all his reading from his Egyptian bible and whatnot, one can hardly blame those simple folk.
Sure, Bey is evil in his own way. But he’s also just carrying out orders, at least until he catches a glimpse of Isobel and gets all starry-eyed. It’s only then that he gets his own ideas, which are akin to the ideas of his predecessors. Women seem to cause an awful lot of trouble in these movies, don’t they?
Steve and Babe are now old dudes, by the way. That means that Foran and Ford undergo a little of the old “elderly gent” makeup and it also means they aren’t given much to do. Babe’s changed his last name inexplicably, while Steve likes to sit around and tell stories about the time he was a better man in a strange land.
As for Hubbard’s John, he’s about as straightforward as it gets. He loves Isobel, probably, and packs a pretty shipshape moustache. But his character has less personality than the mummy, which has the disastrous side effect of making the “witty” banter in The Mummy’s Hand look amusing by comparison.
The Mummy’s Tomb is just dull. It doesn’t have a lot going for it, apart from a lean runtime and Pierce’s makeup job. There is a rather fiery finale involving the aforementioned mob and the mummy on a balcony, but even that lacks a finite punch apart from a whirl of newspaper headlines. With nearly a dozen minutes spent in flashback and no real fright to speak of, this movie is an unfortunate bore.