Reginald Le Borg, 1944
Starring: Lon Chaney, Jr, John Carradine, Robert Lowery, Ramsey Ames, George Zucco
The third film in Universal’s Kharis series, a loose re-imagining of The Mummy, we have watched the murderous mummy Kharis try to reincarnate his beloved Princess Ananka in Egypt in The Mummy’s Hand and in Massachusetts (why?) in The Mummy’s Tomb, and though he was killed at the end of each film, he is back (still in Massachusetts) for The Mummy’s Ghost.
The film follows the same opening as the first two: the High Priest dies and passes on his knowledge about the mummy Kharis to his disciple, this time named Yousef Bey. Bey travels to the Massachusetts suburbs to revive Kharis and help him rescue the violated tomb of his ancient love, Princess Ananka. Professor Norman, from the previous film, explains the legend of the mummy to his college class. One of the students, Tom, has a girlfriend of Egyptian descent, Amina, who has a strange response when he tells her about the Professor’s lecture. Soon Norman experimentally uses the tana leaves and revives Kharis, who comes to his home and kills him. For some reason Amina is on the scene in a trance, but faints when she sees Kharis. Bey uses the leaves to summon Kharis and retrieve Ananka’s body from the local museum, but when Kharis touches her body, it disintegrates. Kharis flies into a rage, but Bey realizes it must mean that Ananka has been reincarnated in human form. Can Bey locate Ananka before Kharis kills again?
Overall I have to admit that this is probably the best film in the Kharis series, possibly tied with the first, The Mummy’s Hand. The Mummy’s Ghost (unlike Ghost of Frankenstein there is no ghost in this film and Universal was clearly giving up at this point) is certainly better than the second and final films of the series. With that said, there are still a laughable number of problems, first and foremost, the timeline. For some reason we are still in the U.S. and, to account for The Mummy’s Tomb taking place 20 years after The Mummy’s Hand, this is somehow set in the ‘70s.
One of the strongest elements of the film is the unexpectedly bleak ending. Amina possessed by the reincarnated spirit of Princess Ananka, actually withers and decays into mummy-form and Kharis takes her into the swamp for a final oblivion. Well, “final” until the last film in the series. Let’s not even address the fact that I’ve lived in Massachusetts and there is no swamp. This is also the first film in the Kharis series where the female protagonist and the Princess Ananka actually have any plot importance whatsoever. You think the screenwriters would have gotten to that before the third film, but apparently not, and for some reason they decided that the more Amina becomes possessed by Ananka’s spirit, her hair should become like the bride of Frankenstein.
There are one or two nicely creepy moments, particularly when Professor Norman uses the tana leaves to awaken Kharis, presumably just out of curiousity. Predictably, Kharis sneaks up on him and kills him in his darkened study. This film also recycles the least amount of footage from other films, though there is supposedly a clip of the temple taken from The Mummy’s Hand. Though that might seem like a positive thing, Reginald LeBorg (also directed several of the Inner Sanctum films) has created a thoroughly bland film with little visual interest or stylistic appeal. Someone also thought it would be a good idea for the virtual hero of the film to be the male protagonist’s dog, Peanuts, who is actually the one to discover Amina’s kidnapping and lead the search party. I wish I was making this up.
Finally, how is that all the Egyptian priests featured in The Mummy and the Kharis films are such perverts? They typically bring the film to its violent conclusion by attempting to take the female protagonist for themselves. For whatever reason, the priests also wind up being the most interesting characters and these roles are filled by the most compelling actors in each film. John Carradine almost manages to make this an entertaining film with his abundant scenery-chewing, but unfortunately he is not the only one on screen and the two youthful protagonists are teeth-grindingly dull. George Zucco also appears, albeit too briefly, and — I could not make this up if I tried — he returns for the third time as the High Priest, despite the fact that he was shot to death in The Mummy’s Hand and died of old age in The Mummy’s Tomb. The less said about Lon Chaney, Jr. as Kharis, the better.
Watch if you dare, though hardcore Universal fans might find something here to enjoy. The Mummy’s Ghost is available in The Mummy: The Legacy Collection set or on DVD with The Mummy’s Curse.