Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb (1971 Britain)

I’ve been sweating cobs over some major computer problems recently and its been tough trying to write new posts. But while there’s some life in my old Toshiba there’s some hope. Hammer Studios had already peaked and it’s two marquee stars, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, had moved on to greener pastures. Loosely based on Bram Stoker’s “Jewel of the Seven Stars”, which is to say they ripped off a few elements, put Stoker’s name on it, safe in the knowledge that he was long dead and his works had entered the Public Domain. Two directors worked on this because the first one died and a lacklustre disorganization is evident. It’s also hard not to shake the feeling that Hammer horror were already on the way out.

This is probably one of Hammer’s most underrated features. The amazing sets are so eerie and striking that it really catches your eye. It also adds to the suspense of the scenes since the realism of them plays out incredibly well as they are so intricately made that it almost looks like they used ancient Egyptian props straight from a tomb and put them directly in front of the camera. The tomb is the most impressive, with the beautiful sarcophagus in the middle as the best example of this with the decorated head filled with colored jewels, the elaborate headdress…making the overall design it has look simply marvelous with the large hieroglyphics on the walls etc. Very nice. It really does look like an actual Egyptian tomb inside, so the production team’s results certainly lives up to Hammer’s usual high standards.

The story, conveyed somewhat in retrospect, is that of a British expedition that unearths a tomb in which is found a perfectly preserved princess (or “mummy” for this one), except that her hand has been lobbed off and the disembodied hand has a nice ring on one finger. The expedition falls under a bit of a curse (always bad to open these sacred tombs) and these paranoid tomb-raiders ultimately disband and scatter like dried leaves in the Autumn. But when the expedition leader gives his daughter the ring, which he conveniently pinched from the tomb, the trouble really begins. The large ring’s stone has embedded within it a star alignment and that star alignment is, of course, when the reincarnation of the Princess is to begin. And did I mention that this gal who got the ring looks exactly like the Egyptian Princess? Tis so, and the original expedition members begin to fall like flies when she subsequently visits them. But unlike today’s horror its all done with a fluid, graceful ease.

Even the kills were pretty good–always going for the jugular is a nice adaptation to give the killer, making for some nasty kills along the way even if it doesn’t provide for any creativity. However, it allows for a lot of blood to flow, and this is one of the bloodier films from Hammer. There weren’t a lot of kills in the beginning, but once this gets rolling they came fast and furious. Finally, Valerie Leon is one of the better and bustier heroines of the Hammer staple, spending a lot of time in the film wearing negligee, and sometimes less, so this is something many red-blooded males will want to see. There’s not a lot to dislike from this one, though it is probably one of the slower entries in their series. Once it gets going, it’s not that bad, but for a mummy film we don’t see a mummy in the traditional sense that we know of, covered in layers of mouldy bandages and shuffling about. This is a very moody piece of work and if you dig the atmosphere it conjures up then it succeeds. The top performance (apart from Valerie’s heaving bosoms) must go to James Villiers as the nasty Corbeck, although Andrew Keir also turns in a believable effort as the unfortunately named Professor Fuchs.

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