Synopsis: A British archaeologist and his team bring an embalmed Egyptian royal back from their latest expedition, and trouble ensues when the archaeologist’s daughter is possessed.
Stars: Andrew Keir, Valerie Leon, James Villiers, Hugh Burden, George Coulouris, Mark Edwards, Rosalie Crutchley, Aubrey Morris, David Markham
Director: Seth Holt
Running Length: 94 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: I’m still more than a little disappointed that 2017’s The Mummy was such a lackluster bust. Not only did it stop Universal’s planned onslaught of re-envisioning their classic monster catalog, but it wasted a prime opportunity to use their gender-swapped title character in any meaningful way. It was more about star Tom Cruise than any gauze-wrapped undead wreaking havoc in modern times. While Universal making their mummy female was applauded, it was far from the first time that change was made (that would be 1944’s The Mummy’s Curse) and other studios had attempted their own twist on mummy norms over the years.
One studio that gave it a shot was Hammer, this British company that churned out oodles of genre pictures covering every kind of beastie and baddie. Already three deep in their mummy series and wanting to change things up, they looked to none other than Bram Stoker for inspiration on their next picture, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb. Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars was published in 1903 and concerns an ancient evil Egyptian queen, a group of unwise archaeologists, and a young girl that becomes a vessel for the rebirth of the queen’s violent spirit. This would be a different kind of mummy movie, with the same storyline fueled by revenge but carried out in far more supernaturally obtuse methods and showcasing less rotting flesh in favor of the ample cleavage of its well-endowed star.
Margaret (Valerie Leon, The Spy Who Loved Me) has been having increasingly vivid nightmares about the mummification of a beautiful queen. Adored in finery and surrounded by key artifacts, not to mention a whopper of a ring, the body is well-preserved save for her hand which is violently cut off but remains fairly…active. In present day, her father (Andrew Keir) a retired archaeologist gives her the same ring from her dreams as an early birthday present, a coincidence that’s just the beginning of Margaret completing a long-gestating connection to Queen Tera, the woman of her dreams. As Margaret becomes more entwined with the spirit of Queen Tera, her father’s old expedition companions begin to sense what can only be described as a disturbance in the force. Flashbacks reveal their presence as Margaret’s father discovered Queen Tera’s tomb (of course dust/cobweb free and with her body in immaculate condition) and they all took something from their find. Now, with Tera controlling Margaret, she needs these pieces back by any means necessary so she may live again and continue her reign of terror. The bodies start to pile up at the same time Tera’s treasures begin to find their way home, leading to a showdown for Margaret’s spirit.
The production of Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb is legendary. Original star Peter Cushing left the production after a day to tend to his terminally ill wife, a production assistant was killed, and director Seth Holt died before filming was completed. Seemed there was a curse of some sort over the film and perhaps that’s why it had a rather lackluster reception at the time of its release, despite it being a fairly enjoyable, if overly tame, ride when compared to its elegantly wrapped series siblings. There’s just something odd about calling the film a mummy movie when it’s more about possession and reincarnation than anything. The final image is a great visual and teed up a sequel that, due to poor box office returns, sadly never materialized.
Hammer produced so many films that it can be easy to start writing off the lesser known ones like this…just as it’s easy to call titles that aren’t that great underrated. I think this falls somewhere in the middle of it all…and at least from what I hear it’s better than The Awakening, the 1980 Charlton Heston version of Stoker’s story. There are definitely things to improve in Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb but I can’t help but wonder if that change of directors didn’t figure into some of the confusing plot shifts in the final act (a main character leaves a room and dies in such a strange way it feels like a dream) so it’s possible to give the film a pass on that. Though she’s inexplicably dubbed, Leon is a lovely lead and there’s a slow-motion shot of her walking toward her evil double in the middle of the night that’s truly haunting but also beautiful at the same time. If you can find this one, I say give it a go because you might be surprised at how much you like it.