The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb
Review by Mike Finkelstein
Well, it looks like I have to apologize to the 1959 The Mummy since I said that it was the worst Mummy film I'd seen yet. While that was true at the time, I didn't realize the depths of the tedium I was going to suffer as I explored the Hammer series. That said, I should have: Hammer films aren't exactly known for getting better as they iterate through their sequels, so even with how low The Mummy started I shouldn't be surprised that the follow ups could get even worse.
The thing to note with this film, and part of my disappointment with it, is that the film isn't a direct sequel to anything that happened in the 1959 original (a term we have to use loosely for a film that was itself based on three different Universal Mummy films). Instead, this is a self-contained new story about a band of Egyptologists who, through their own greed and stupidity, once again managed to release a mummy bent on killing them all for desecrating the tomb. Clearly this is an event that can happen regularly enough that you'd think Egyptologists would be ready for it and would have, I don't know, a flame thrower or some anti-mummy spray or something they keep on them at all times. What I'm saying is maybe these people need to stop going into ancient Egyptian tombs.
I'm disappointed because the producers of this film had a chance to tell a new story, one that wasn't just a retread of "when you disturb a tomb a bandage-wrapped hulking beast will track you down and strangle you to death." At this point we've seen that story five times now (counting the three Universal films with that exact plot, plus two Hammer films so far) and it's far from fresh. A reboot of the series, moving away from the Universal stories, should be new and interesting, but no. Hammer gave us the same old film all over again, just with different characters.
We're introduced to John Bray (Ronald Howard) and Giles Darlymple (Jack Gwillim), two Egyptologists working at the tomb of Ra. The Egyptologists want to bring the artifacts they find to a museum to honor and respect the items they found (while stick-handed kids ogle the treasures while on school trips). American financier Alexander King (Fred Clark), though, wants to take the treasures out on the road, from city to city, to showcase them (and make a tidy sum). The Egyptologists think this a sacrilege (which, I hate to break it to them, but they're all grave robbers), but they're voted down. SO the items are packed up and shipped to London for their debut.
While in London, Bray's fiancee Annette Dubois (Jeanne Roland) falls under the sway of mysterious gentleman Adam Beauchamp (Terence Morgan). He courts her while the professors all work furiously on the exhibit. The evening of the grand reveal, though, has it's own shocking mystery: the mummy, the centerpiece of the exhibit, is gone. Soon the members of the team, one by one, start to die, all at the hands of the Mummy, now undead and wandering the streets of London (without being seen, thus showing how little city people pay attention to those around them). And, wouldn't you know it, it all ties back, somehow, to Beauchamp. Annette's life could be in danger and then rest of the men will have to work together to stop the mummy and save the girl at all costs.
I will admit that the start of the movie gave me a little hope. Sure, it's still just Egyptologists finding a tomb and raiding it (as tomb raiders do), but the inclusion of Fred Clark, the greedy financier, at least could have allowed for some different storytelling. If the movie really had been about, say, the Mummy being taken on the road and killing people as they travel, that could have been pretty neat. Sure, it would have been expensive to go to all those locales (or fake it on sound stages) but it could have been a fresh concept.
Of course, that's not what this movie goes for. Despite the different setup, The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb is woefully beholden to the storytelling of the previous films. We have the people raid the tomb. We have the Mummy getting resurrected by a nefarious person so they can be sent to kill the people that desecrated the tomb. We have a flashback to show us how the Mummy was buried. We have another flashback to show us the raiding of the tomb again. Everything you saw in the previous Mummy film (let alone all the Universal movies) is repeated here ad nauseum. The characters look different but everything else about this movie is the same.
The one real twist of the film comes near the end of the film when it's revealed that one of the characters is actually an immortal Egyptian prince cursed to wander the land until his brother, the recently resurrected Mummy, kills him. It's a plot twist that basically comes out of nowhere so the movie can have a villain, but it had a hard time landing, mostly because this movie has been so tedious leading up to the ending that by the time the twist comes around you simply don't care about it. You don't care about the characters, you don't care if they live or die, and you don't care about any twists the movie throws at you. It's been a tedious mess, start to finish. A retread of a retread of a retread. It's awful.
I'd say there's no way for a Mummy movie to actually be good, except I know that the 1999 Universal film is actually fun and a silly, good time. I keep holding out hope that one of these earlier films will actually be good, or even some show some kind of spark of something. As of yet, these "classic" films have yet to impress me. I don't hold out much hope at this point for anything to come next.