Harold Young, 1942
Starring: Lon Chaney, Jr, Dick Foran, John Hubbard, Elyse Knox
So far in my Universal horror series, this is the most slapdash film I have yet to review. The third entry in The Mummy series, this actually has nothing to do with Karloff’s character Imhotep, but follows a mummy named Kharis, who first appeared in the previous film, The Mummy’s Hand. While that film ends with the death of the mummy, Kharis, and the High Priest Andoheb who was assisting and controlling him, The Mummy’s Tomb somehow ignores all that and picks up... 30 years later and in Massachusetts. Because that seemed like a compelling idea.
Steven Banning (Dick Foran), protagonist of The Mummy’s Hand, returns and relates his previous adventures in Egypt to his family and friends one evening. It is also revealed that the High Priest Andoheb has survived, as did Kharis the mummy. Before Andoheb dies, he passes Kharis's history onto his disciple Mehemet Bey, as well as instructions about how to revive Kharis with the mystical tana leaves. He orders Mehemet to take Kharis and travel to the U.S. to rescue Ananka’s tomb from Banning. Ananka was an ancient princess and the eternal love of Kharis, who is tasked to protect her tomb at any cost.
Bey moves into a Massachusetts ceremony and revives the enraged Kharis, who immediately kills Banning and his sister. The local Sheriff and coroner are stumped, but Banning’s old friend Babe shows up and is convinced that a mummy is loose. He is killed by Kharis before he can convince the locals, but Banning’s son, John Banning, contacts a local professor who confirms that the strange dust found on all the victims is mold from a mummy. Meanwhile, Bey has become infatuated with Banning’s girlfriend Isobel and is determined to kidnap her. He forces Kharis to help him and informs Isobel that, like it or not, she will be his bride. The ending is pretty similar to The Mummy’s Hand. Bey is killed, Banning rescues Isobel, this time with the help of the Sheriff and coroner, and the enraged townspeople set fire to the house where Kharis has hidden himself. Yet again, he dies engulfed in flames. There is an annoying ending segment showing the wedding of Banning and Isobel.
The whole affair is pretty ridiculous, namely the fact that the film is set in New England instead of Egypt. While I understand that this was for budgetary reasons, it is a completely absurd setting for a film about a killer mummy. The use of clips from other Universal horror films, such as a few shots of angry villagers from the Frankenstein series, only makes this worse. Jack Pierce returned to do the mummy make up, which looks cheaper than ever and for some reason the wonderful post-production effect of blacking out of the mummy’s eyes is gone. Lon Chaney, Jr. appears here for the first time in the role, taking over for Tom Tyler. Chaney allegedly hated the role and is pretty terrible as Kharis. Where Pierce hand-wrapped Karloff’s costume and painstakingly applied putty to Karloff’s face, Chaney is left with a slip-on mask and one piece mummy suit.
Director Harold Young is also responsible for The Frozen Ghost, an Inner Sanctum Mystery starring Lon Chaney, Jr, and for The Jungle Captive, a film in Universal’s Captive Wild Woman series about a woman who transforms into an ape. His work in all of these films represents the bottom of the barrel as far as Universal horror is concerned. The nicest thing I can say about the screenwriting is that it’s incredibly lazy. A few characters return from The Mummy’s Hand, though they have minimal roles and are quickly dispatched. The new characters are barely written. Minus the 15-minute intro that runs through the first film, we are left with about 45 minutes of plot and, let me tell you, it is stretched as thin as possible. Some themes are rehashed from The Mummy’s Hand, but a lot of the plot elements and most of the characters’ actions make no sense whatsoever. For example, the main human villain decides, yet again, to kidnap the female protagonist (another useless character) and force her to become immortal with him. One of the returning characters, Babe Jenson (Wallace Ford, the annoying comic relief from The Mummy’s Hand) is inexplicably named Babe Hanson. Really? That is the epitome of laziness.
Universal also used as many clips from other films that they could get away with and probably 15 to 20 minutes of screen time is taken from The Mummy’s Hand, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and there are some shots that seem to be from Son of Frankenstein. There are some entertaining mummy rampages - probably more shots of the mummy than in either of the previous films combined - and it’s nice to see George Zucco again, but that’s about the only positive thing I have to say.
I can’t recommend The Mummy’s Tomb, though I guess if you are obsessed with mummy-themed films, you might be entertained. It is available as part of The Mummy: The Legacy Collection, which included all five Mummy films, a documentary, and some other special features, or on a double-sided DVD with The Mummy’s Hand. It is followed by The Mummy’s Ghost and The Mummy’s Curse. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to watch them.