Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Mummy's Hand (1940)

There is no doubt that there are plenty of films in the ole coffin that resides in crypt. Some of them are classics, some are not so classic. There are titles that really only need to be seen once and then traded off or flipped for cash on ghoulbay. Then there are some that I like to call "repeaters". Films that always get multiple viewings especially when I get a hankerin' for something that has that certain "umph" to get me going. It's August and soon fall will be upon us and we Monsterkids know what that means right? Soon the days get shorter, the darkness comes quicker, the leaves begin to change and fall to the ground and before you know it you are stocking up on candy and waiting for the doorbell to ring on that one glorious night in October.....Halloween. Well today's film is one that really has that certain something to it that jump starts my love for all things spooky on October 31st.

The Mummy's Hand was Universal's first sequel to the successful Boris Karloff vehicle The Mummy (1932). It might not really adhere to the first film but it does utilize footage from the original and has Kharis as the doomed walking dead. The Mummy's Hand has treasure seekers Steve Banning (Dick Foran) and Babe Jenson (Wallace Ford) team up with an American magician Solvani (Cecil Kellaway) who is touring Egypt with this daughter Marta (Peggy Moran). Banning convinces Solvani to fund an archaeological dig along with Dr. Petrie (Charles Trowbridge) of the Cairo Museum, to find the lost tomb of Princess Ananka.
Abbot and Cost....oh wait.
Unknown to them Andoheb (George Zucco) is watching their every move and thwarting against them finding the tomb. Andoheb is a high priest of Karnak and has vowed to protect the tomb. He is also in control of the titular shambler played by Tom Tyler. With the help of an elixir made from extinct Tana leaves, Tyler can be used as a tool against any who dare stumble upon the hidden tomb.

Banning and company do find a tomb but it is not Princess Ananka's. Instead they discover the tomb of Kharis. In a flashback at the beginning of the film, Kharis' story is told. Kharis was in love with the Princess who has died. Kharis steals the sacred Tana leaves to make an elixir to bring the Princess back to life. He is caught in the act of this black ritual and for his punishment his tongue is cut out. He is then mummified and buried alive along with the Tana leaves. They discover Kharis in his tomb and remove him for examination. Soon however, Kharis is revived by Andoheb and the carnage begins. Kharis kills Dr. Petrie and the company's guide Ali. He soon terrorizes Solvani and carries off Marta to the high priest's temple located on the other side of the hill. By the way this hill is named the Hill of the Seven Jackals no less.
Urk...okay, okay I'll take a look at the Amway Catalog.

Banning goes after Marta while Bebe circles to the other side of the hill to find any sign of the temple. Im not sure how no one ever discovered it though, it is plain as day! A wonderful set piece made by the fine craftsmen of the Universal back lot. Bebe is confronted by Andoheb who wants to immortalize Marta so that they both can live forever. It seems Andoheb has been charmed by her beauty and plans on using the Tana fluid to set them both up for life. Andoheb attempts to shoot Bebe but is a lousy shot and Bebe gets two good bullets into Andoheb who tumbles to the bottom of the steps. Inside the temple both Banning and Kharis have made their way in. While trying to untie Marta, Banning attempts to thwart Kharis from ingesting the Tana fluid which would turn him into a uncontrollable force. As Kharis is about to drink the fluid, Bebe arrives just in time to shoot the container from his hands. As Kharis tries to drink the fluid from the floor, Banning sets him ablaze with a burning brazier thus ending any chances of the the mummy becoming all powerful and the movie itself.
Flippin' huge!!

The Mummy's Hand was the first of four in the series of films made in the 1940's. They were followed by The Mummy's Tomb (1942), The Mummy's Ghost (1944) and The Mummy's Curse (1944). Tom Tyler did not don the musty rags of Kharis and the role was taken over by Monsterkid legend Lon Chaney Jr. For this Monsterkid however, Tyler is my favorite in this series. He had an excellent mummy walk dragging one leg and holding up a crippled arm to his chest. His size was perfect and his eyes.....ooooh how Universal topped off the look with the eyes!
Jeepers creepers where did you get those eyes!
Kharis's eyes are solid black. An effect achieved by blacking out his eyes on the film. I have to assume there were no special lenses to wear like there are in modern film making. The effect gives an extra air of creepiness that totally completes the look of the undead creature. George Zucco also gets plenty of props for his portrayal as the evil Andoheb. The dude is seriously creepy and has a bit of a Frank Langella air about him. As always Zucco plays the role full on but not as over the top as he can sometimes do in some of his roles.

I get to be eeeeviiiil?
 I also enjoy the flow of the film. It travels along at a great pace and never seems to lull. Wallace Ford as Bebe is a real hoot. Kind of like a Lou Costello but cooler and not as bumbling. The banter between Bebe and Banning is classic 40's dialog which always brings a smile to my face. The sets are pretty impressive too for a low budget affair from Universal. Maybe low budget is harsh....mid budget maybe? Either way the sets are convincing and the exteriors look pretty good too.

Peggy Moran and Tom Tyler behind the scenes.
The Mummy's Hand is, for this Monsterkid, a must see. A great way to get into the spirit of monsters, skeletons, bats and witches....which is pretty much year round for me.

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