Night #21: The Mummy’s Curse (1944)

Directed By: Leslie Goodwins

The devil’s alive and he’s dancing with the mummy.”

 

Are Mummy’s scary? No. That didn’t stop Universal churning out these pictures though. This is the 4th sequel to The Mummy and the absence from the Universal box set is not really an accident.

Man, Universal loved to churn these things out. After The Mummy was released way back in 1932 you had to wait eight years to get a sequel, then in four years you get four of them, with two coming out in the same year. It’s safe to say that this entry is probably the nadir of the series, and served as Lon Chaney Jr’s final performance as the titular character. What’s also amusing is that, given the continuity laid out in the movies, this actually takes place in 1990’s. This never gets mentioned explicitly of course, but it’s typical of the time that those issues are largely ignored.

During work on an irrigation ditch in Louisiana, The Mummy and Princess Ananka are resurrected to wreak havoc over 60 short minutes (Yes it’s short, but it was released with the Sherlock Holmes movie The House Of Fear as part of a double bill). If you’re wondering how The Mummy got from Egypt to Louisiana (Particularly since the previous movie was set in Massachusetts) it’s ok, the movie fills you in on this with a lengthy exposition dump that manages to work in flashbacks to the first film just to pad out the running time. There’s something sort of remarkable about the way these movies got down to business – as I mentioned in my look at White Zombie. When the movies commit to their premise they just go for it right off the bat.

So The Mummy is awoken and The Mummy kills people. What’s funny is that The Mummy basically can’t be seen until it’s directly in front of someone’s face. For instance, during the first kill there’s 3 characters having a conversation. One of them is facing exactly where The Mummy is coming from and yet The Mummy manages to spring a stunning surprise attack in what can only be described as ‘Ninja-esque’. A Mummy only has one method of killing, this being strangulation, and with only one hand. Not to get all ‘realism’ about these things, but every death relies on the victim not doing anything except staggering back slowly. Surprisingly powerful these Mummy things. They’re really only second to zombies in their overall uselessness as a threat.

I never want to say Mummy that much again.

There is one great sequence in the movie though: The Princess bursts through the ground and slowly makes her way to a lake, to clean off. The sequence plays without dialogue and is allowed to unfold naturally. It’s also undercranked (A technique that speeds up the action), which causes the movements to look unnatural. But it’s incredibly well done, and it’s a shame the rest of the movie is so perfunctory.

Still, there’s something that’s endearing about these old movies. Maybe it’s the black and white photography, or the straightforwardness of it all. They’re uncomplicated, simple, viewing. Sure they turned them out like it was no one’s business, and the law of diminishing returns is in full effect here but they’re reliable, even if they do follow the same formula each and every time. This would be the last regular Mummy movie until Abbott and Costello made one a few years later, but it’s not a surprise to see why it never really entered the popular conciousness the same way something like Dracula would.

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