THE MUMMY’S CURSE (1944)
Article #1212 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-9-2004
Posting Date: 12-6-2004
Directed by Leslie Goodwins
Featuring Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Coe, Virginia Christine
Kharis the Mummy arises from the swamps of Louisiana to once again find the Princess Ananka.
Ten thoughts on THE MUMMY’S CURSE:
1) Usually, I save my “Ten Thoughts” format for any real stinkers that come my way. In this case, it seems a convenient way of making the points I want to make; this one isn’t really as bad as all that. It is, however, fairly weak for a Universal horror, and it feels rushed and lazy. I’m sure a shooting schedule of only twelve days played into that.
2) Whatever its weaknesses, this movie does have one real humdinger of a scene, and that is when Ananka rises from the mud. This scene is startlingly effective, and may be one of the best scenes in any Universal horror movie. I wish the rest of the movie lived up to it.
3) Unfortunately, the character of Princess Ananka is very poorly developed in this movie. After her resurrection scene, she has only three functions; to be chased by Kharis, to be rescued, and to occasionally show some knowledge of Ancient Egypt. Other than that, she is devoid of personality. I don’t blame Virginia Christine as much as I blame the script; it just doesn’t give her much to do.
4) The other movies in the Kharis series all had fairly interesting high priests in George Zucco, John Carradine and Turhan Bey. Peter Coe is our high priest here, and he’s bland and forgettable. They give the usual temptation subplot here to his assistant, played by the more interesting Martin Kosleck; sadly, his character remains undeveloped as well. Why they didn’t combine these two characters into one is beyond me.
5) I often wonder whether the mummy’s curse in this movie is to cloud the peripheral vision of other characters. In the scene where Princess Ananka is rescued from the side of the road and driven away, nobody who rescues her can see Kharis who is only a couple of feet away. They don’t even spot him in the rear-view mirror of the car (maybe he was in the blind spot). At any rate, this is the closest I’ve ever seen to having one of the Universal monsters giving the classic “darn, they got away” finger snap gesture, though they settled for having him clench his fist.
6) I have no idea what a monastery is doing in the middle of the swamps of Louisiana, nor can I figure out why it’s so hard to find when it’s sitting on the top of a hill. I do understand why it’s been deserted for years, though.
7) One thing the movie does right is that it gets around the problem of having the slow-moving Mummy catch people is by having his victims practically stumble into his arms so that he can strangle them without a problem. I also like the fact that when Tante Berthe first bumps into him, you can see the dust rise from his body, which is a very nice touch.
8) Unfortunately, it seems like a waste of time having the mummy both catch Princess Ananka and kill anyone who gets in his way; every time he stops to kill someone, it gives Ananka a chance to get away. Significantly, the time the mummy finally does catch Ananka, he doesn’t bother to kill the accompanying woman. See, he does learn.
9) Question: how does the mummy carry the Princess Ananka when that right arm of his seems permanently glued to his body? Answer: it suddenly becomes unglued at that point. After he sets her down, it goes back into its glued position. The next time I encounter an Egyptian god, I think I’ll have them explain that to me.
10) I’ve always thought the whole series of Mummy movies were misnamed, but I think they could have solved the problem by switching the names around. Here are my suggestions.
THE MUMMY’S HAND should have been called THE MUMMY’S TOMB, since most of the plot of this involves the expedition that uncovers the tomb.
THE MUMMY’S TOMB should have been called THE MUMMY’S CURSE; this is the one where the members of the expedition are picked off one by one in true “mummy’s curse” style.
THE MUMMY’S GHOST should have been called THE MUMMY’S HAND; actually, any one of them could have been named that, so it makes a good default title.
And this one should have been called THE MUMMY’S GHOST, mainly because the rushed plot and the poorly-developed characters leave me with the sense that it is only the ghost of a real movie. Had they taken more time with this one, it could have been one of the best of the series. Ah, well…