Note the drawing of Lon Chaney Jr.'s real face
underneath the image of Kharis.
In Egypt, Yousef Bey, next in line to receive the title of High Priest of Arkham, meets up with the aging current High Priest, who tells him the legend of Princess Ananka and Kharis, whose forbidden love doomed the former's soul to being cursed when she died. He then tells him of how Ananka's mummy was taken to the United States thirty years before while, at that very moment, in Mapleton, Massachusetts, Prof. Norman is telling a classroom of college students of Kharis' reign of terror there, which ended when the mummy was believed to have been destroyed in a fire at the Banning house. Norman, who had examined a piece of Kharis' wrappings before, also tells his class of the tana leaves that keep the mummy alive, a large quantity of which were handed over to him by the investigators for scientific study. One of the students, Tom Hervey, meets up with his girlfriend, Amina Mansori, after class. Amina is a lovely young woman of Egyptian descent but, whenever the subject is brought up, she's filled with a strange, uneasy feeling. Back in Egypt, Bey is told of his mission: to journey to the United States and bring both Kharis and Ananka's mummy home. After swearing to Amon-Ra that he won't rest until his mission is accomplished, Bey is instructed to brew nine tana leaves each night during the cycle of the full moon in order to bring Kharis out of hiding. The cycle has already begun in Mapleton and Prof. Norman, having translated the hieroglyphics on the case containing his own quantity of the leaves, follows its instructions and boils nine himself. Able to sense this from a great distance, the still-living Kharis makes his way to Norman's house, killing him before drinking the fluid. On his way there, Kharis happened to pass by Amina's house, his presence having a strange effect on he,r as she got out of bed and followed his path in a trance-like state before collapsing to the ground outside of the murder scene, with a strange mark now visible on her wrist. When the police investigate the scene the next day, Sheriff Elwood and the coroner realize that the strangulation and the gray marks on Norman's throat mean that Kharis is back. Because of her presence outside the house, Elwood questions Amina, who can't recall anything about the night before, and while he remains suspicious, he's unable to find a concrete link between her and the crime, although he warns her not to leave the area. Fear grips Mapleton as news of the mummy's return reaches the newspapers, as Yousef Bey arrives and boils nine leaves to draw Kharis to him. Kharis does find him, but not before causing Amina more distress and killing another man. The following evening, the two of them head to the Scripps Museum, where Ananka's body is kept, but just when they think their quest is at an end, the mummy suddenly disintegrates when Kharis touches it: Ananka's soul has been reincarnated into another form, as Bey realizes. Now, they must find the princess' earthly vessel, which is much closer than anyone could imagine.
Another prolific director, Austrian-born Reginald Le Borg, was the one hired to helm the latest Mummy flick. Like his predecessors, Le Borg had a long career, managing to direct 68 films from 1936 all the way up to 1974. The first seven years of his directorial career were spent making theatrical shorts, with his first feature being Calling Dr. Death, which happened to be the first entry in Universal's Inner Sanctum series, starring Lon Chaney Jr. Around the time of The Mummy's Ghost, for which he was credited by the critics for making good use of his small budget, he directed other horror films, like Jungle Woman, which was the sequel to 1943's Captive Wild Woman, and Weird Woman, another Inner Sanctum film where he again worked with Chaney, as he would a decade later in 1956's The Black Sleep, which also featured John Carradine, Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, and Tor Johnson. The year after that, Le Borg worked with Boris Karloff on the film, Voodoo Island, and with Vincent Price in 1963's Diary of a Madman. Despite all of his horror films, his most successful movie was a comedy, San Diego, I Love You, starring Jon Hall (who starred in Invisible Agent and The Invisible Man's Revenge around that same time) and Buster Keaton and released the same year as The Mummy's Ghost. Starting in the early 1950's, Le Borg began taking to television and, as the decade wore on, he began doing that more than actual films, directing episodes of Death Valley Days, Sugarfoot, Maverick, and, most notably, twelve episodes of The Court of Last Resort. One of the last features he was involved with, House of the Black Death (he co-directed it with Harold Daniels but was ultimately uncredited), was another re-teaming with Chaney and Carradine. His last film was So Evil, My Sister in 1974, after which he retired. He died of a heart attack in 1989 at the age of 86, while on his way to an awards ceremony where he was to be honored.
From left to right: Sheriff Elwood, Inspector Walgreen, and
The best casting decision that the studio made with any of these films was John Carradine as Yousef Bey, Kharis' guardian and master in this film. As many know, Carradine was an actor who should've been in much better movies than he was, as his elegant and powerful way of delivering his lines helped give whatever he was in a touch of class and this is no exception. When he's praying to Amon-Ra, asking for guidance in his mission, to have the gods lead Kharis to him, and to give them a sign so they can find Ananka's reincarnated body, he really makes it sound like he truly believes what he's saying. Like the High Priests before him, Bey has a single-minded determination to complete his mission set, no matter the obstacle, including said sudden reincarnation of Ananka's soul. One of my favorite scenes with him is at the Scripps Museum when this happens. He's shocked upon seeing the mummy disintegrate with its bandages, saying, "Amon-Ra, oh might god, thy wrath is far-reaching. By thy will, her soul has entered another form," and when Kharis begins destroying everything in the display room in a rage, he manages to calm him down, telling him, "The gods have chosen to make our task more difficult. So be it. In whatever form Ananka's soul has found refuge, it will not escape us. Our mission will be fulfilled." After that is when he has his best moment in the whole film, when the museum security guard, hearing the commotion, runs into the room, seeing Bey but missing Kharis, who's hiding in a corner behind him. When the guard draws his gun on him, Bey confidently proclaims, "I am a priest of Arkham. I fear only the great wrath of Amon-Ra, not the little angers of an infidel," and he watches with a wonderfully smug smile as Kharis sneaks up behind the guard and strangles him. So, Bey is the best character in the film and one of the best in this whole series... until we get to the climax when Kharis abducts Amina and brings her back to an old mill he and Bey have been hiding in. After having tied her down, Bey prepares inject with her something (I thought it was tana leaf fluid, at first, but that turns out not to be the case) when, guess what he does? Seriously I want you to take a guess what he does. He decides to forsake his mission in order to make both her and himself immortal with the tana leaf fluid and make her his bride. This is a big reason why these movies are so repetitive. I couldn't believe that they recycled the same subplot three times in a row, as well as that here, it comes out of nowhere, whereas before, it had been established early on. Unfortunately for Bey, Kharis overhears his plans, decides he's not having it, and knocks out the mill window to his death.
Speaking of Pierce, he tweaked the design of Kharis in terms of the head, actually applying makeup to Lon Chaney Jr.'s face this time instead of using a rubber mask (it was still used for the long shots). While I prefer the way his face looked in the mask, since here, I think he mainly looks like a guy who's got dried clay and dust all over his face rather like than an ancient creature, it's still a pretty classic look for a mummy. But, better than that is what I mentioned in the introduction: Chaney manages to give his best performance in this very thankless, cumbersome role. In the close-ups of his face, you can really see the anger and rage in him when he's going in for the kill on someone, gripping his fingers in anticipation, and when Yousef Bey is praying to the gods for assistance, there are moments where, if you watch carefully, Kharis appears to bow his head in prayer as well. While most of the kills are still clichéd in a bad way, there's an offscreen one where Kharis jumps a farmer inside his barn and right before it, you see a shot of Kharis readying himself to attack that's pretty effective. However, his best moments are in the scenes involving Princess Ananka's mummy and her reincarnation. When Bey directs him towards the museum display case containing the mummy, Kharis' body language shows the poignant happiness he has of being reunited with his beloved princess and he eagerly shuffles over to the case in order to touch her. But, when the body suddenly disintegrates, Kharis is overtaken by angry frustration, which you can see on his face, and then, full-on rage as he smashes everything in the room. Near the end of the film when brings Amina to the mill, Kharis reaches his arm out towards her in a longing way when she looks at him, and I love how, when he overhears Bey's plans to become immortal with her, he's like, "Oh, no! We're not doing this again!", and, for the first time, turns on his would-be master. After killing Bey, Kharis, in an apparently desperate act to be with his beloved Ananka again, picks the rapidly-mummifying Amina up and carries her into the swamp, an act that makes him feel much more akin to Boris Karloff's Imhotep than he ever had before.
|The shorter man with the brush is Jack Pierce.|
Let's now get into the continuity issues that this film has with its two predecessors. In addition to Andoheb possibly still being alive after his death upon passing the mantle to Mehemet Bey in the last movie, you have the order now being referred to as the High Priests of "Arkham" rather than "Karnak." Why that change, I don't know. Makes about as much sense as changing the surname of Wallace Ford's character of Babe from Jensen to Henson. We're also told for the first time that the love affair between Princess Ananka and Kharis was a forbidden one and that Ananka's soul has been forever cursed for it. Granted, it's not that big a deal, considering Ananka was little more than a MacGuffin in The Mummy's Hand and wasn't mentioned much at all in The Mummy's Tomb, but it's odd to bring this up three movies in. More significantly, though, they now say that Kharis was buried alive with Ananka, making it feel like it was punishment for their forbidden love rather than sacrilege for trying to resurrect her with the tana leaves. Speaking of which, that's the most glaring continuity issue. It's still the thing that keeps Kharis alive but here, Yousef Bey is told to brew nine leaves each night in order to draw him out, since he'll know where it is. So now, instead of needing to be administered to him by another in order to allow him to get up and move, it's something that Kharis needs to actually seek out if he's to sustain himself (it seems that he finds it by smelling for it, too, as he can be seen sniffing the air!) How did he manage to stay alive during all those months in-between this film and the previous one? Are we to assume that it actually has only been a month in-between them? They don't specify how long it's been but I always assumed it'd been a couple of years, at least. Plus, the three leaves necessary to keep his heart beating aren't mentioned at all. And there's also the ongoing issue of what the time period is, as this is still clearly the 1940's even though, given what we talked about in the previous review, it should be the 1970's, but I'll let it go here because the next movie has major problems on that score.
One thing this film doesn't have is the atmospheric photography and the mood that the previous one did. The cinematography in The Mummy's Tomb was fairly Expressionistic, with lots of contrasts and deep shadows, and there were nighttime exterior scenes in the cemetery and the woods around Mapleton that were quite creepy, with a soft but audible breeze in the air and the dark forest surrounding Kharis as he stalked the night. Here, director of photography William Sickner creates a much more average look, with little contrast or shadows, save for some of the scenes in the mill before the climax. Even worse, the nighttime scenes are obviously shot in the "day for night" style, making the movie feel much more cheap and the sets and the setting less special than they were previously. It shouldn't be surprising, considering the budget and how these movies were meant to be nothing more than quick, cheap programmers meant to fill movie houses and very little real thought were put into them, but it makes you wish that they would've tried a little bit harder with what they had.
The mummy attack scenes are still pretty embarrassing, for the most part. Prof. Norman's death occurs when he follows the instructions of the hieroglyphics on the case of tana leaves that he has and brews nine of them, which attracts Kharis to his house. He stands in the outside doorway, where Norman spots him, and Kharis then goes in for the kill, with Norman, like Steve Banning in the last film, doing nothing to escape, backing away until he corners himself, allowing the mummy to choke the life out of him. The second, and much more effective kill, occurs when Kharis tries to find Yousef Bey, who's brewing some leaves to draw him out, and it takes him through a barnyard. He attracts the attention of a dog there, who loudly barks at him and tries to tangle with him, forcing Kharis to take cover in the nearby barn. The woman of the house, Martha, sticks her head out her bedroom window to see what's going on as her husband, Ben, arrives home after having been on a neighborhood watch for the mummy. Ben follows the dog into the barn, pumping his shotgun, and the next shot is Kharis readying himself before charging towards the camera. We don't see what happens, as the film cuts to back outside the barn, but we do hear Ben firing, and as Martha runs outside to see what's happening, the sound of the dog yelping can also be heard before she follows the sound into the barn and finds her husband's body and the large hole in the wall Kharis smashed his way through. At first, it seems like the old museum guard's (Oscar O'Shea) death is going to be akin to that of Jane Banning's in the previous film, as Kharis sneaks up behind him, but in this instance, the guard turns around in time to see him. He empties his gun into Kharis, which doesn't stop him, and instead of trying to get away, the guard, like everybody else, allows himself to be cornered, as Kharis grabs him by the arm, slams him backwards through the glass in the door, and then slowly chokes him. As for Yousef Bey's death, he barely has time to know what hit him. Just as he's about to pour the tana leaf fluid down Amina's throat, Kharis comes up behind him and smacks the bowl out of his hand. Backing away, Bey tries to talk Kharis down, saying that he will keep his promise, but Kharis grabs him by the throat, flings him against the edge of the open window, and bashes him across the face, sending him tumbling out to his death.
The climax to this film can hardly be called spectacular but it's affecting in how utterly hopeless the situations becomes as it goes on. After dispensing with Yousef Bey, Kharis shambles down the tracks leading up to the mill to face Tom Hervey and his little dog, Peanuts (who looks a lot like Toto, I might add), the latter of which has been leading Hervey by following Amina's scent. After witnessing Bey's death, Hervey stupidly confronts Kharis with a puny stick, which the mummy easily breaks before knocking Hervey down, sending him tumbling across the tracks and off the left edge. Peanuts runs up to his unconscious master, while a mob led by Sheriff Elwood heads towards the site after being told by Amina's guardian, Mrs. Blake (Dorothy Vaughan), of her abduction. Sensing them nearby, Peanuts leads the men to Tom, and when Kharis looks out the window and sees them, he unties Amina, picks her up in his arms, and climbs down the ladder just out of sight, as the mob heads up the tracks to the mill after being pointed that way by the revived Hervey. Kharis manages to slip into the nearby marsh with Amina while the men investigate the empty mill and almost gets away, until Peanuts chases after him, prompting the mob to follow. The remainder of the film is nothing more than Kharis slowly shambling through the swamp with Peanuts, Hervey, and everyone else chasing after him far behind, intercut with close-ups of Amina's mummifying arms and legs. He eventually walks into a bog and slowly sinks down into the murky water with Amina, who's now a mummified corpse. Hervey, ignoring Elwood's warnings not to go into the swamp, tries to save her but is completely helpless and watches in agony as both she and Kharis vanish into the swamp. The movie ends with the mob dispersing and a final shot of the swamp, with the voice of the old High Priest proclaiming, "The fate of those who defy the will of the ancient gods shall be a cruel and violent death." As I've been saying, it's a pretty shocking ending, but its impact is lost in the next and final film, The Mummy's Curse, which royally drops the ball in carrying on from it.
While you do still hear the familiar pieces from Son of Frankenstein, much of the film's music comes from the score for The Wolf Man. Just about every recognizable piece from that soundtrack is heard here in re-orchestrated forms, from the attack and chase themes to that piece you first hear in that movie when Larry Talbot awakens in bed the night after being bitten, which plays several times when Hervey is following Peanuts to the mill, the ominous themes, and even the sadder ones for the ending when they've failed to save Amina. While I'm not really complaining, since I really like that music (The Wolf Man is one of my favorite horror films ever, for those who don't know), it's always weird to hear music that I associate so strongly with one movie pop up in another. A distinct, raspy chord is also heard when you see the close-ups of Amina's mummifying limbs during the climax, laid over the music that continues to play. I'm not 100% sure but it wouldn't surprise me if I've heard that in other Universal horror films.