Written by Michael Carreras
Directed by Michael Carreras
Starring Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard, Fred Clark, Jeanne Roland, George Pastell, Jack Gwillim
US Release December 31, 1964
RT 81 min.
Home Video Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Classic Horrors rating = 7 (out of 10)
The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964) blends the basic premise of most mummy movies with elements from other horror films, as well as writer-director Michael Carreras’s predilection for female skin, to create an odd second entry into Hammer’s mummy series. Familiar to the story are the desecration of a tomb and the manipulation of a resurrected mummy. New to the story are a selfish reason for the person manipulating the mummy, a financially-motivated benefactor for the expedition, a love triangle, and a climactic chase through the sewer.
In “Egypt in the Year 1900,” the locals assisting at the excavation site turn on Professor Eugene Dubois (uncredited Bernard Rebel) when they see the tomb and want its treasures for themselves. They tie him between two posts, stab him, chop off one of his hands, then leave him for the vultures. Back at camp, Annette Dubois (Jeanne Roland) comments that it’s not like her father to remain so late at the site. John Bray (Ronald Howard) comforts her with kisses and the promise to buy her a drink when they return to Paris.
Jump to a week later and Sir Giles Dalrymple (Jack Gwillim) is lowering a sarcophagus into a crate when Alexander King (Fred Clark) arrives with a plan different from shipping their find to a museum in Cairo. He wants to take this show on the road. £70,000 from the museum? He plans to make £700,000! Since King persists “in this childish exhibitionism,” Dalrymple withdraws from any further participation (and crawls into the bottle). Bray is promoted to be the man in charge, although King will be pulling his strings.
At a local belly dance performance… I mean, celebratory dinner… among King, Bray and Annette Dubois, Bray asks King if he knows about the “Curse of the Pharaohs?” He replies, “Know about it? I wish I created it!” If there were a way to make money from it, he’d find it. They’re interrupted when Dalrymple, still hanging around, I guess, notifies them that someone broke into the space containing the treasures they discovered. They didn’t take anything, though, except for their inventory lists.
Sometime later, on board the ship home, a man attacks Dalrymple and Bray, but is thrown overboard by guardian angel Adam Beauchamp (Terence Morgan), who quickly insinuates himself into the entire enterprise… and into Dubois’s heart. Beauchamp offers Bray and Dubois lodging in London, where he is brazen in his attempts to woo Dubois, giving her jewelry in front of Bray. He’s a real cad and it isn’t long before we learn he has more sinister intentions. I suppose this is a twist; however, it’s telegraphed early in the story.
The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb is already more plot-heavy than its predecessors, so why stop with the obligatory flashback story about the genesis of its monster? When his twin brother successfully conspires to brand Ra-Antef as a witch, their father banishes him. While wandering the Sahara, he befriends a band of nomads that make him their king, giving him a medallion with the “sacred words of life” that can revive the dead. Ra-Antef later makes plans to return home to right his wrongs, but his brother hears about it and orders him assassinated.
The assassins cut off his left hand wearing a ring to prove his death, but what happened to the medallion? Was it buried in the tomb? (“Was it?!?”) It turns out that the locals who killed Professor Dubois and the people who stole the inventory list were looking for this medallion. Who directed them to do so? When it’s revealed that the professor gave it to his daughter the day he died, and she gave it to Dalrymple to examine, a mysterious person in black breaks into his study, knocks him out, and takes it.
That results in King opening an empty sarcophagus during his big show. How disappointing for the audience that King’s introductory speech (“All persons present when opened and gaze at the face of mummy will die. You have been warned!”) is all for naught. It’s even more disappointing for King, who’s later tossed down some back alley steps into the water by the resurrected Ra-Antef (Dickie Owen). It’s good for us, though, because we finally get some mummy action, as it were.
No mummy movie is complete without an Egyptian representative spewing warnings and becoming a suspect in all the mayhem. Here, it’s Hashmi Bey (George Pastell) who ends up being nothing but a red herring. When asked if he’s responsible, Bey asks, “If I could revive the dead, would I use it in such a stupid way?” In a fresh development, he later throws himself at Ra-Antef’s feet and asks to be destroyed for the sin of being an ally with the desecrators of his tomb. What happens next is one of the more gruesome punishments I’ve seen a mummy enact.
The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb has more humor than Hammer’s only other mummy movie at that time, The Mummy (1959). The blowhard character of Alexander King is naturally funny. However, I also chuckled during a scene between Beauchamp and Dubois when she decides to leave London with him. She wants to go tell Bray first, but Beauchamp suggests, “It might be kinder to leave him a note.” And I smiled when Inspector Mackenzie (John Paul) tells Bray that the advantage an amateur detective has over a professional is that an amateur gets a second chance.
It all concludes with the Ra-Antef, the mummy, carrying Dubois into the sewer. Actress Jeanne Roland must have been a contortionist, because I’ve never seen a woman arch her back as much as she did in the arms of the monster. This, of course, allows us the most direct view down her blouse into the valley of her bosom. Ra-Antef is fond of Dubois, for no reason other than that she’s a woman with ample breasts, so no harm will ultimately come to her. The real bad guy gets what’s coming to him and there’s a happy ending.
If you think the person who portrays a mummy doesn’t really have to act, just compare Christopher Lee’s performance in The Mummy with Dickie Owen’s here. Then again, Ra-Antef is little more a supporting character in The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, so not as much talent is required beneath the bandages. The movie is just O.K. to me. I’m normally less fond of the movies that producer Michael Carreras also writes and/or directs himself. There’s a distinct feeling or style that, to me, represents Hammer’s cheaper, less appealing side.