Column: The Vault of Secrets: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)

The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964). Directed by: Michael Carreras. Starring: Jeanne Roland, Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard, Fred Clark, Jack Gwillim.

Welcome back to the Vault of Secrets, where we’ll be unearthing another classic (or not-so-classic) vintage horror film for your delectation. Tonight’s film is the first in a string of largely-unrelated sequels to Hammer’s 1959 version of The Mummy. Produced, directed and written by Michael Carreras, who has a producer credit on seemingly the majority of Hammer’s cinematic output, Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb was called “low-grade horror” by Leonard Maltin. But even a “low-grade” Hammer movie is better than most movies from any other studio. While Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb may not have as much going for it as some of its contemporaries, it looks great and the Technicolor really pops, especially in early mummy scenes when a green light is played on the creature.

Carreras wrote the film under the pen name, “Henry Younger,” an intentional play on the nom de plume of another veteran Hammer producer, “John Elder,” or Anthony Hinds. It was filmed at Elstree Studios, rather than Bray. With the exception of Carreras and Hammer stalwarts Michael Ripper (as the world’s least-convincing Egyptian), and George Pastell (as a somewhat-more-convincing one), it lacked much in the way of Hammer’s usual cast and crew.

Without either Christopher Lee under the bandages or Peter Cushing outside of them, Curse instead makes up for it with supporting actors Fred Clark as a wealthy American entrepreneur and Jack Gwillim (who would later briefly play Van Helsing in the opening scenes of Fred Dekker’s Monster Squad) as a drunken Egyptologist. Fred Clark is actually this film’s secret weapon, as he’s basically playing a bald J. Jonah Jameson, to the extent that it was eerie realizing that the actor couldn’t possibly be J.K. Simmons. Honestly, given the number of Marvel characters who were inspired by Hammer actors, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that there was some connection.

Once those characters inevitably die off, we’re left with our bland protagonist and his blandly sinister romantic rival — and, of course, the requisite Hammer heroine, who would literally be the film’s only female character if nobody had housekeepers. In this case, the heroine is played by Jeanne Roland, who gets an “and introducing” credit even though two of her 14 film credits were previous to this one. She’d go on to appear in the original Casino Royale and be James Bond’s masseuse in You Only Live Twice. About the only thing I can hand to our love triangle is that when the sinister guy’s origin is revealed, we get a nice twist on the usual “reincarnated lover” shtick that crops up so often in mummy movies.

In all, Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb is a relatively unspectacular entry in even Hammer’s sequence of mummy films — not as classy as its predecessor, nor as lurid as the later Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb — but as I’ve said before and will say again, even a lesser effort from Hammer is better than the best you’ll get from most other studios. The version I watched is presented in a sharp, bright transfer in a four-pack with a couple of better flicks, including personal favorite The Gorgon.

That’s it for tonight, but be sure to join us next time when King Kong escapes!