After its success with Boris Karloff the Uncanny in Universal's The Mummy in 1932, the mummy has yet to achieve the blockbuster of another true horror feature. The mummy’s status in film stands in stark contrast to the commercial success of its other monster brethren including werewolves (The Howling, An American Werewolf in London), vampires (Interview with Vampire, Twilight) and even zombies (Day of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead).
The reason for the mummy’s lack of success in horror is unclear, but it could be that after Universal released Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955) it was hard to take a shambling corpse wrapped in toilet paper seriously. The image of the mummy as a comic monster was later reinforced by cartoons like Scooby-Doo in Where's My Mummy?(2005) and the mummy was never featured in any of Universal's "versus" films (Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman). Despite these setbacks, the mummy has found success in the action-horror hybrids The Mummy (1999), The Mummy Returns (2001), and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) and in a slew of Spanish language horror films from the fifties and sixties including La momia azteca contra el robot humano “Aztec Mummy vs. the Human Robot” (1958), La maldición de la momia azteca “The Curse of the Aztec Mummy” (1957), and my personal favorite, Las luchadoras contra la momia “Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy” (1964).
But successful films that feature the mummy as its monster are few and far between. This three part retrospective of the mummy in horror films will review Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) by Hammer, Bubba Hotep (2003) starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis and Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (1999) directed by David DeCoteau.
Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb by Hammer is based on Bram Stoker’s novel Jewel of the Seven Stars. According to screenwriter Christopher Wicking, the original title for the film was to be Jewel of Seven Stars riffing off of Stoker’s novel, but since no reputable Hammer horror film would ever have such a lukewarm title, producers devised an alternate strategy. They sat down and made a list of terms associated with mummy movies and somehow came up with Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb as the best combination of words for the title.
Andrew Keir (Quatermass and the Pit) plays Professor Julian Fuchs who discovers the tomb of Tera, the Queen of Darkness and has her body and various artifacts stored in his basement. The busty Valerie Leon (Never Say Never Again) plays his daughter Margaret Fuchs, who is the very image of Queen Tera, and was born on the same night her father and his expedition opened her accursed tomb. As the seven stars come into alignment on Margaret’s twenty-first birthday, Fuchs' corrupt colleague Corbeck, played by James Villiers plans to use Margaret to bring Queen Tera back from the dead. Margaret must triumph over the hold Tera has on her to save herself and the world from Tera's evil.
The production of Blood from the Mummy's Tomb seemed to be plagued by its own curse of the mummy movie. Peter Cushing was originally cast to play Margaret’s father, but had to be replaced when his wife became ill and died. In addition, director Seth Holt died of a heart attack in his sleep in the last week of production, and was substituted by Michael Carreras at the last minute.
The resulting film is slightly incoherent, with scenes of long exposition butting up against the more thrilling scenes of gore and suspense. This uneven tone is showcased in a scene where Margaret’s boyfriend Todd crashes his car into a tree and dies while trying to keep the top down (?). It is also never made clear whether Tera is controlling Margaret outright or Margaret is using the façade of Tera for her own devices. The latter seems probable in a scene where Margaret and Todd confront Berrigan, a crazed former colleague of Fuchs' to recover one of Tera’s relics.
I’m not sure which death grimace I like more, Margaret’s or Queen Tera’s
That’s what Wonderbras are for.
Horror fans seeking out a Karloff-ian mummy will be disappointed with Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb. Despite its lurid title, there is no mummy swathed in decaying bandages, unless you count the final scene with Margaret in her hospital bed as the sole survivor of the house collapse that ensues after Tera is destroyed.
I want my mummy!