(CAUTION: Contains Spoilers!)
Not long after the events of THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1942), in which Kharis the living mummy first stalked the streets of Mapleton, USA, comes THE MUMMY'S GHOST (1944).
This third semi-sequel to the 1932 Karloff original (the first being 1940's THE MUMMY'S HAND) opens with George Zucco's now-ancient high priest Andoheb breaking in yet another successor and hoping for the best. (They're the High Priests of Arkam instead of Karnak now, for some reason--new management, maybe?)
This time it's John Carradine, who made movies like this mainly to support his theater habit, as Yousef Bey. When Andoheb asks him, "You are Yousef Bey?" it sounds like he says "Useless" instead of "Yousef", which turns out to be pretty accurate.
With the infidel Bannings and Babe all out of the way (except for Steve's surviving son John Banning, who is inexplicably given a free pass), Yousef is charged with a new mission: go to America, where the Mummy is still running loose in Mapleton, and bring him and the Princess Ananka's body back home to their resting place in Egypt.
Instead of brewing tana leaves to keep the Mummy alive, since he apparently doesn't need them for that purpose anymore, they're to be used now to lure him in the same way the wafting aroma of a Brontosaurus steak used to lure Fred Flintstone.
The usual flashbacks are dispensed with this time as Andoheb gives Yousef a quick verbal rundown of the story thus far, which he hands off to the previous film's Dr. Norman (Frank Reicher of 1933's KING KONG) to finish in a lecture to his skeptical Egyptology students back in Mapleton.
Unfortunately, Dr. Norman brews up a batch of tana leaves himself during a home experiment that night and the Mummy (Lon Chaney, Jr. again in another cool Mummy mask by Jack Pierce) shows up to kill off yet another familiar character before chugging the concoction like a frat rat at a keg party.
His presence somehow attracts a sweet young Egyptian college student named Amina (Ramsay Ames), who sleepwalks to the scene of the murder and passes out on Dr. Norman's lawn, then becomes a suspect when she's discovered there the next morning.
Her stuffy boyfriend Tom (Robert Lowery, who played a dour Batman in the 1949 serial BATMAN AND ROBIN) whines to the local sheriff about this to no avail, then thoughtfully leaves his dog Peanuts with Amina to help cheer her up. (Tom's stiff-arsed character is made more bearable by the fact that it sounds like he's calling his dog "Penis" throughout the movie.)
Yousef Bey's seemingly simple task is made more difficult when he and the Mummy reach the museum where Ananka's body is kept. For just as Kharis reaches out to touch it (he actually cops a feel--really!), it crumbles to dust as her spirit flees to another body.
Whose body, you ask? That's right--Amina, who is the physical reincarnation of Princess Ananka, and now serves as the vessel of her living soul as well. So the Mummy kidnaps her and brings her to the abandoned tower where he and Yousef are hiding out. (For some reason, they pick the one place in town with the most steps for the slow-moving Mummy to have to walk up and down.)
Yousef, of course, takes one gander at the lovely, bound Amina and goes ga-ga, his priestly vows flying out the window as he grabs for the tana fluid and professes his eternal love to her. The Mummy overhears this sacrilege, however, and, having learned his lesson in the previous film, turns Yousef into a priest-Frisbee.
Meanwhile, Penis--I mean, Peanuts has managed to lead Tom and the usual mob of townsfolk (sans torches this time since it's broad daylight) to their hideout, and while making his escape with the now rapidly-aging Amina, the Mummy wanders into a swamp filled with quicksand as the horrified Tom and Peanuts look on.
A lengthy subplot about Inspector Walgreen (Barton McClane, THE MALTESE FALCON) investigating Dr. Norman's murder and setting a trap for the Mummy at Norman's house goes absolutely nowhere, since the Mummy never shows up there again. (It was a dumb idea, anyway--dig a big hole in Norman's yard, cover it with leaves, and hope the Mummy falls in. "Duh.")
But the Mummy's angry rampage at the museum after Ananka's body crumbles to dust and his killing of the museum guard are memorable, as are some good, spookily-lit closeups of him during the movie. The murder of Dr. Norman and the downbeat ending continue the unsentimental, anyone-can-die attitude of the series.
Despite the fact that he hated playing the mute, heavily-wrapped character, Lon Chaney Jr.'s performance is energetic and effective. And at 61 minutes, THE MUMMY'S GHOST is a pretty eventful little film with some good Mummy action.
Read our overview of the entire original Universal Mummy series
Here's the poster in parallel-view 3D (click for larger version):
Here's a lobby card from the film in parallel-view 3D (click for larger version):