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Saturday, March 11, 2017

THE MUMMY'S CURSE (1944) -- Movie Review by Porfle

(CAUTION: Contains Spoilers.)

Continuity flies out the window faster than a Mummy-propelled John Carradine in 1944's THE MUMMY'S CURSE, the final film in Universal's "Kharis" series.

Timeline? While this one takes place twenty-five years after the events of the last film, THE MUMMY'S GHOST, it's still the forties. Mapleton? Never heard of it. Now, the Mummy and Amina are buried beneath a bayou in Louisiana that's being drained by land developers.

Don't look at me--I don't know how they got there. But the workers start dying, and a Mummy-shaped hole is discovered by Dr. James Halsey (Dennis Moore), who's investigating on behalf of the museum against the wishes of the gruff foreman, Pat Walsh (Addison Richards).

Halsey's assistant is the delightfully-named Dr. Ilzor Zandaab (Peter Coe, HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN), and it doesn't take long to find out that Zandaab is the new High Priest of Whatever, sent to finish the job that all the other idiots so overwhelmingly screwed up.

This guy's different, though--he's hardcore, and nothing, not even Walsh's beautiful daughter Betty (Kay Harding), can sway him from his task. His eyes gleam with purpose as he narrates the extensive flashbacks (they're back!) for us, and if anybody has a chance of getting this long-standing Mummy business straightened out once and for all, it's this guy. He is my hero.

One catch, though...he has a shifty-eyed henchman, Ragheb (Martin Kosleck), and sure enough, the henchman falls for Betty and screws everything up in the end. Somehow, I think Amon-Ra has a sick sense of humor and is just messing with these guys.

Comedy relief returns to the series--sorta--in the form of Cajun Joe (Kurt Katch) and a stereotypically-black swamp worker named Goobie (Napoleon Simpson), who exclaims at one point, "De Debbil's on de loose and he's dancin' wiff de Mummy!" Later, after some reconsideration, he amends this to observe, "De Mummy's on de loose and he's dancin' wiff de Debbil!" (Well, I did say "sorta.")

Cajun Joe meets his end in a shot that graced the cover of at least one monster mag back in the 60s, while another likable character, Tante Berthe (Ann Codee), a beloved singer who owns the local bar where everyone hangs out, gets hers while valiantly trying to keep the Mummy from grabbing a young girl found wandering around earlier in the swamp.

Played by Virginia Christine, who was "Mrs. Olson" in the old Folger's coffee commercials ("It's mountain grown!"), she turns out to be Amina herself. Her resurrection from the drained swamp is one of the most impressive, and downright odd, sequences in the entire series.

Caked in dried clay, she struggles to break loose from her burial place and then staggers blindly through the woods, her head turned upward to the blazing sun as it glows through her closed eyelids, until finally she descends slowly into the water to cleanse herself.

This is such a strangely beautiful, almost surreal sequence, it almost doesn't even fit into a relatively ordinary film like THE MUMMY'S CURSE, and is without a doubt the most memorable thing about it.

The Mummy has a lot more screen time in this film than in any of the others as he keeps trying to apprehend the fleeing Amina, who doesn't quite remember who she is, and killing anyone who gets in his way.

He finally catches her and takes her to the abandoned monastery where he and Zandaab have been hiding out (and yes, it has about a hundred-and-fifty freakin' steps for him to schlepp up and down), where he discovers that Ragheb has kidnapped Betty and has her tied up and ready for the old tana-leaf treatment.

Ragheb has already killed Zandaab, who remained faithful to the cause to the bitter end (my hero!) and is duking it out with Dr. Halsey when the Mummy steps in and makes him sorry he ever went off-mission.

Ragheb flees into a cell and locks the door, and the Mummy goes into a rage, ripping the bars out of the wall and bringing the roof down on both of them in a hair-raising scene that serves as a worthy end to this lively series.

Once again, Lon Chaney, Jr. is an intimidating presence as Kharis (who racks up quite a body count), while Virginia Christine proves a most interesting actress in one of her best roles.  The inexplicable change in location serves this fast-moving story well, as does an energetic supporting cast.

While discounted by some monster fans as the weakest "Mummy" film, I find THE MUMMY'S CURSE to be one of the most entertaining and unusual entries of all.

Read our overview of the entire original Universal Mummy series

THE MUMMY review


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