Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Blood From The Mummy's Tomb (1971)

Good old Hammer. Only at the height of their powers could they take a minor Bram Stoker novel, fill it with slashed throats, a crawling severed hand (what exactly was the point of that, by the way?) and a sexy leading lady, and just by accident produce an original and satisfying spin on the mummy theme that still works forty years on.
      Valerie Leon is Margaret, daughter to Andrew Keir's Professor Fuchs, an egyptologist of distinctly dodgy inclination, who seems to have half a rebuilt tomb in the basement of his ordinary-looking suburban house, a whole load of Egyptian artefacts, and a number of colleagues who want nothing more to do with him after some escapade abroad many years ago, which culminated in their breaking into the tomb of Queen Tera (Leon again). Tera, by all accounts, was a pretty naughty piece of work (well, she was definitely pretty, and sadly we don't get to find out how naughty she was capable of being). What's far more worrying is that the professor seems to have some poorly researched and badly thought out plan that involves the life of his daughter and the supplanting of her existence by said evil queen on the occasion of her next birthday.
      Even more dodgy but better organised Corbeck (James Villiers) is keen to see Tera rise again for his own ends, and he aims to assist the queen in reclaiming the artefacts needed to complete the ceremony. George Coulouris is locked up in one of the best Hammer loony bins and, in a superbly edited and shot bit of mayhem, ends up dead and his snake statue gone. Hugh Burden has a heart attack and has his jackal skull stolen, and fortune teller Rosalie Crutchley gets her cat pinched while her companion (labelled 'Saturnine Man' in the credits) looks on. It's all for nothing of course as the surviving cast members succumb to another what-shall-we-do-to-end-it-oh-let's-have-the-roof-fall-in Hammer climax, with either Margaret or Tera ended up being mummified for real in a closing shot that's possibly the best one in a film that's really rather good all the way through.
      With a title that means nothing other than that James Carreras had learned to copy Tony Tenser's approach to titling films by reaching into a box of cards labelled with 'horror' words until the right combination came up, a director who died before filming finished, a star who left once filming had started, and a script by a writer who was both banned from the set and notorious for screenplays that were a bit difficult to make any sense of sometimes, it's a wonder that BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB is any good at all. What's more surprising than that is that it's actually well worth watching, and is easily the best (along with the 1959 THE MUMMY) of the films Hammer made that had a connection to ancient Egypt. It's rare that the fourth movie in any horror film cycle has anything to commend it, and following in the wake of CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB and THE MUMMY'S SHROUD one could be forgiven for expecting Hammer's MUMMY 4 to be a right load of derivative old rubbish. Instead it's original, well directed, and being shot in what looks like the depths of winter only serves to heighten the creepy atmosphere that pervades the movie right up to that classic final shot.
       The acting is fine throughout, with the usual collection of British character actors and eccentrics (Aubrey Morris take a bow you loveable weirdo, you) and Valerie Leon, having been used as decorative set dressing in a number of Carry Ons, getting the role that she was born to play. Hammer didn't always get their casting right but she is uncannily perfect for the roles of both Tera and Margaret. Fine stuff all round, BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB is a Hammer film that's definitely worth preserving.


  1. This is one of my most beloved Hammers. If you consider what a tragic trainwreck the production was it is really good and it´s a shame Valerie Leon didn´t do more.

  2. I know! Funny how the film world is, sometimes, isn't it?