Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, The (Hammer 1964)
Arguably something of a misfire from the Hammer House of Horror…
The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb begins with an interesting scene of an archeologist being chased through the desert and then being tied to two poles; his hand is lopped off with one clean cut. The man is Professor Eugene Dubois (Bernard Rebel) and he is the leader of an expedition that has been cleaning out the tomb of Prince Ra-Antef (Dickie Owen). The Egyptians are, of course, unhappy with the actions of the Egyptologists and when they learn of the plans of American entrepreneur Alexander King (Fred Clark) to ship everything back to London and take it on a touring sideshow, the ever familiar face of Hashmi Bey (George Pastell) tries to plead with them, warning them of the ever present curse of the mummy’s tomb, but King will have none of it, thus allowing the mummy to wreak havoc on those that refused to listen.
On paper this sounds exciting enough, but unfortunately Carreras’ pedestrian direction is unable to inject any life into the film. Besides lacking the star power of a Peter Cushing or the presence of a Christopher Lee, the film feels like a poor substitute for Hammer’s earlier effort, The Mummy (1959) as it limps along with its mostly unlikable cast. The centrepiece of the film involves the slain professor’s daughter, Annette (Jeanne Roland) and her fiancée John (Ronald Howard), but a mysterious stranger finagles his way into their relationship in the form of Adam Beauchamp (Terence Morgan), and he has other things on his mind.
A tense moment from The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (Hammer 1964)
The film is lacking in showmanship overall and the violence is somewhat subdued, including a scene where Bey’s head is stepped on like a grape (off-screen, of course). The film moves along rather quickly for its allowed time, but the mummy in question does not appear until the film is almost over. Several of the reels are bogged down with storytelling exposition and are rather unremarkable in general. The best part of the film comes in the form of American Fred Clark who does his best PT Barnum impression as he continually explains how the crowds are going to eat this up.
Hammer have gone to the well a total of four times to bring a Mummy film to the screen, but the first one with Cushing and Lee is the only one that is outstanding. The colour palette of the film is interesting and it pops up nicely on the home DVD version, and the score by Carlo Martelli is also notable, including the use of Franz Reizenstein’s score from the original Mummy in a flashback scene, but this only reminds us that the entire thing has already been done once before, only better.
The use of Hammer regular Michael Ripper portraying an Egyptian native worker at the tomb is slightly amusing, but the laughs feel forced and wedged in. Like many Mummy films before it and afterwards, there is only so much originality that you can add to the overly familiar storyline. The tomb gets desecrated, the curse of the tomb is invoked, the mummy eventually comes to life and wreaks revenge on those that did the raiding, and the mummy is destroyed. The end, until the next sequel rolls around once more.
This Hammer film is really for completists only. The boxed set that this is featured in does include other gems like The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll, Taste of Fear, The Gorgon and Stop Me Before I Kill Again!
A theatrical release poster for The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (Hammer 1964)
Article by Robert Segedy.