“Has any man before ever offered his bride the gift of eternal life?”- Yousef Bey
And so, the Mummy saga shuffles on, with the third instalment in the series that began with The Mummy’s Hand. Lon Chaney returns for the penultimate time as the vengeful Kharis in a film that shows how threadbare the series was becoming by this point but still has something to offer.
Much as I love the Mummy imagery and myth, the very nature of the monster is also his limitation. Mummy rises, shuffles around kidnapping and killing at the command of the High Priest. And that’s about it. Yes, I love seeing the Mummy, all bandaged up, moving inexorably toward his target as an unstoppable force, and the very image of the Mummy and his backstory makes him far more interesting than, say a zombie. Come to think of it, is there really that much of a difference between the two, a cup of tana tea aside?
But yes, by this point there was a degree of repetition in this fast paced hourlong movie. There’s an awful lot on screen that we’ve seen before in the previous entries. Even the beginning, when a new High Priest is summoned to take the place of the aging one, it’s old footage from The Mummy’s Hand.
Once again, the ancient and dying High Priest (George Zucco) is anointing a new replacement to take over. Once again, the legend of the Mummy is repeated. The High Priest is now of Arkam, not Karnak, though. The replacement is Yousef Bey, played by a youthful John Carradine who had previously appeared as a huntsman in Bride of Frankenstein and would soon become the latest actor to play Dracula. Bey is to travel to America, to the town of Mapleton, where Kharis was sent to destroy the infidels who had dared defile the tomb of Ananka in The Mummy’s Tomb. Bey will summon Kharis by brewing the tana tea, nine leaves during the full moon – Kharis will sense it and come for it, wherever it is. (Well, that retrospectively explains that, then.) Bey’s mission is to bring Kharis and Ananka back to Egypt.
Meanwhile, in the local college, Professor Norman (Frank Reicher) who had examined the scraps of Kharis’s bandages at his last little spree is explaining all about the animated Mummy to an unimpressed class of students, which include Tom Hervey (Robert Lowery, who five years later would become the silver screen’s second Batman in the Batman and Robin serial of 1949). Hervey has a girlfriend of Egyptian descent named Amina (Ramsay Ames). But there’s a small problem that’ll soon become a big one – she gets into a sort of trance whenever someone mentions Egypt. (And her poor boyfriend is studying Egyptology, oh the irony).
Meanwhile, the Professor has deciphered some strange hieroglyphics and has stumbled on the recipe for the tana fluid without realising the implications of what he’s doing. There’s no real explanation why or how Kharis (Lon Chaney) has survived the burning he suffered last time, but he comes crashing through a glass door. (Chaney thought the door was prop glass, but sadly it wasn’t and a shard cut him through his rubber mask appliance, right on the chin and you can clearly see the blood flow in this scene.
Kharis kills the Professor, but as he unknowingly shuffles past her home, she wakes up in a kind of trance – and is spotting either a tattoo or birthmark she didn’t have before. She sleepwalks to Kharis and faints as soon as she sees him. As she’s close to the Professor’s home, she’s implicated in his death until mould from the Mummy is found on the Professor’s throat and they know what they’re dealing with again.
There’s an ingenious plan by the police to capture the Mummy by luring him in with the tana tea and digging a large, deep hole to trap him.
Yousef Bey and Kharis realise that the body of Ananka in the museum is hollow and turns to dust – her soul has been reincarnated in another body (Any guesses who?) Amina is now sporting a Bride of Frankenstein style white streak in her hair – her appearance changes every time the Mummy walks. Yousef summons Amon-Ra to show him where Ananka’s soul is and sends the Mummy in that direction, so off he goes in Amina’s direction. As Kharis sees her, he diverts from the cleverly disguised hole in the ground – so the Road Runner/Coyote paradigm doesn’t work.
Kharis carries her off to Yousef Bey’s hiding place where Bey becomes enamoured and wants her for himself. (Yes, the same as every other High Priest in these movies) By now, her hair is completely bleached. Bey is planning to feed her some tana fluid, taking some for himself as well, so they’ll be immortal. Honestly haven’t we seen this before? But the best and most stunning is yet to happen…
An enraged and jealous Kharis kills Yousef and shuffles away holding his bride to be, with the townsfolk led by Hervey in hot pursuit. All so repetitive – until the movie takes an unexpected swerve and Amina/Ananka starts to age rapidly in his arms. Making his way to the swamp, the mob reach him too late – Kharis sinks beneath the murky water, with Ananka, now dead of old age in his arms while Hervey watches helplessly, having lost his love.
Another downbeat ending, but oddly effective in a film that up to its end was so formulaic. I honestly never saw that coming. A welcome beam of originality that gave the film a much-needed last gasp boost.
Copyright © 2010 - 2020 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.