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The Curse Always Finds a Way

Hammer’s Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb

by Tony Nash

(#5 in The Month of Hammer Horror)

(Spoilers may follow)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964) PG-13 ****

Terence Morgan: Adam Beauchamp/Biel

Ronald Howard: John Bray

Fred Clark: Alexander King

Jeanne Roland: Annette Dubois

George Pastell: Hashmi Bey

Jack Gwillim: Sir Giles Dalrymple

John Paul: Inspector Mackenzie

Dickie Owen: The Mummy of Ra-Antef

Michael Ripper: Achmed

Bernard Rebel: Prof. Eugene Dubois

Michael McStay: Ra-Antef

Written & Directed by: Michael Carreraes (credited as Henry Younger on screenplay)

Synopsis: An archeological expedition team led by a British explorer and a greedy American entrepreneur is slowly picked off one by one by the resurrected Mummy of a murdered Prince of Egypt, fulfilling the prophecy of death to those who disturb Egypt’s tombs. A mysterious gentleman named Adam Beauchamp weaves his way into the fray for unknown reasons and then falling in love with the team’s Egyptologist/Linguist, who’s engaged to another man.

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Hammer’s second Mummy film, made about seven years after the original, takes a very different approach to the character/franchise than the Dracula and Frankenstein sequels. Instead of doing continuity based sequels, the Mummy films went into different years and decades, dealing with new characters and new Mummies. This go around has a team of archeologists dealing with the mysteriously resurrected Mummy of a murdered Egyptian Prince who begins killing off the people associated with pilfering his tomb. Things get even more complicated by a P.T. Barnum like American promoter who refuses to heed the warnings of the strange goings on and a very mysterious interested third-party who never seems to hint at his interest in the Mummy or his legend. While simple in plot, the film’s colorful characters, atmosphere, mood, and lightening accentuate the feel director Michael Carreraes intended for the film, and elevate it beyond its average status. Also by not knowing who among the group might be responsible for the Mummy’s reawakening adds to the tension as anyone could be the guilty party. With everyone in the dark as to why and how this Mummy got brought back makes for a nice head scratcher.

Dickie Owen in The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964)

Another point in Hammer’s favor for the film is the completely original screenplay by Michael Carreraes. Carreraes takes the traditional idea of the desecration of a Mummy’s tomb the tragedies that befall the people who discover it, and it gives it his own unique spin on the tale. While Carreraes didn’t go for constant twists and turns, his keeping the audience and characters in the dark as to who was behind the Mummy’s revival and that person’s interest in his being reborn injects a nice amount of mystery and intrigue that allows the audience to play detective along with some of the characters.

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Terence Morgan, a fairly popular British matinée idol of the 50’s, makes a very unusual though very well-played role as the vague and mysterious Adam Beauchamp. Morgan plays him up as a man who seems naturally interested in Ancient History, particularly Ancient Egyptian History, and tags along as the group studying the Mummy and the artifacts found with him try to figure out the mystery of the Prince’s death and the key to sending him back to eternal rest. Morgan gets to revisit his matinee roots and begins something of a romance with the sole female character of the cast and seemingly has genuine feelings for her, but something always seems amiss or not right in his courting her. Morgan has Beauchamp’s behavior become increasingly paranoid in finding the whereabouts of the Mummy and his increasing desire to come in contact the being itself. A startling revelation by the character near the film’s climax puts everything into perspective.

Fred Clark, a well-recognized and consistent American character actor of both films and television gets a rare opportunity to play an important role in the character of Alexander King. Modeled after showman P.T. Barnum, King is portrayed as only caring about how much money (ironically this wasn’t a stab at Capitalism of World interest) the Mummy and the treasure found with him can make him in a series of showings around the world. Clark, who commonly played shady and sleazy types, excels with King and his greedy ways, getting the audience to look at him as a foolish and miserly, hardly aware of the danger he’s put himself and others in for the sake of a small fortune. Having the character only see the financial gain of such finds and not the historical and folkloric proportions make what his fate ends up being all the more ironic.

George Pastell, who was the villain of the first Hammer Mummy film, gets to play a conscientious objector character in this film. His character, Hashmi Bey, is still akin to the Old Ways and believes fully in the curses of his ancestral land, but offers his assistance for the sake of his country’s treasures being properly preserved. Pastell is the only actor of the bunch who plays up an inner conflict within himself as he seems to regret allowing the greedy King to take the artifacts on tour and not insisting the original idea of placing them in museums be followed. It’s this honesty and integrity that what happens to him in the end all the more tragic and sad.

A nice sub-plot involving how the Prince came to be mummified and the unfinished business involving his traitorous brother offers an interesting possibility in storyline for later on in the film. By having this be presented as a detailed flashback with narration has viewers wondering how much importance the event being played out has on what might be the outcome of the plot.

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While it doesn’t differ much from its predecessors, Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb still offers great thrills, suspense, story, characters, romance, intrigue, and mystery. While a little flimsy in the story and certain character revelations seem a little contrived it still works and doesn’t harm the pace and flow of the story. That the Mummy franchise doesn’t follow a continuity continuance makes the series work much better as the Dracula and Frankenstein ones had so many errors they became somewhat ridiculous, but because the Mummy movies tell different stories with each film, there’s no reason for fans to say there’s no misleading connections or differences.  What it comes down to is that this Mummy film is a simple and effective crowd pleaser, where viewers can sit back with drink and popcorn and enjoy the ride. Carreraes does work in some moments of depth and creativeness, and the little he does put in helps the film very well.

(I do recommend this Mummy film, though it is middle of the road in its story and style. The UK company Indicator/Powerhouse has a fine Blu Ray transfer of the film with nice extras. The box-set it’s currently featured in is region free so US and UK fans can enjoy it. I had the Mill Creek Blu Ray version, but I sold it after finding the audio on it wasn’t correct on my initial viewing.)

All images courtesy of Images and IMDB

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Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

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