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  Mummy's Hand, The Hieroglyphic HomicideBuy this film here.
Year: 1940
Director: Christy Cabanne
Stars: Dick Foran, Peggy Moran, Wallace Ford, George Zucco, Cecil Kellaway, Tom Tyler, Eduardo Ciannelli, Charles Trowbridge, Sig Arno
Genre: Horror
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Egyptian professor Andohep (George Zucco) is summoned to a remote and ancient temple by his father, a high priest (Eduardo Ciannelli) who is dying and wishes to pass on some sacred information to him. The old man tells a tale of Kharis (Tom Tyler), once the high priest of the temple centuries ago, who was buried alive when he tried to steal the life-giving Tana leaves with the purpose of reviving the recently deceased Princess Ananka, who he had been deeply in love with. The professor learns that he must keep the site of Ananka's tomb safe from any prying eyes - grave robbers or archaeologists who might be on the lookout for some lucrative finds, but that's not going to be as easy as he might hope...

Written by Griffin Jay and Maxwell Shane, this was the follow up to the nineteen thirties Boris Karloff film The Mummy, but aside from featuring the same heavy, the similarities ended there. This was no eerie love story across the millennia, this was straight fright fare with Universal Studios' least loved monster, here in the form that viewers would know him best, shambling, strangling, single minded and mute. A nice touch is that his eyes have been blacked out for his closeups, giving him an undead look. However, more than half the short movie is over before we get to the creepy chase scenes, before that we have to endure the set up which sees unemployed archaeologists and adventurers Steve Banning (Dick Foran) and his sidekick Babe Jenson (comic relief Wallace Ford) stumble upon a broken but archaic pot in a Cairo marketplace.

The pot looks authentic and its symbols appear to point to the location of Princess Ananka's tomb, but they decide to make sure and visit the city's museum to get the artefact's significance confirmed. One professor is very excited by the find, but another tells them it is a clever fake and "accidentally" drops it, smashing it into pieces. Who would do such a thing? Why it's our old friend Andohep, trying to keep the nosey parkers off the trail. All this is to no avail, however, as they've made up their minds and now have to find funding for their expedition. Ending up at a local tavern, Steve and Babe meet a travelling magician, The Great Solvani (Cecil Kellaway) and strike up a deal over a few drinks.

All is going well until Solvani's dimpled daughter and assistant Marta (Peggy Moran) is told what is happening. She thought they were headed back to the States with their earnings, and is furious when Solvani tells her that he's spent their money already. As you can see, there's a pretty convoluted plot to get the main characters to the location of the tomb. Marta heads over to the hotel where Steve and Babe are staying and fires a revolver at their bathroom door, the bullet holes (more than there are bullets in the gun - neat trick) making the shape of a heart, to demonstrate her displeasure. Anyway, it's all too late, and off they go to track down the resting place of Princess Ananka, which they do remarkably easily.

Meanwhile, as their party digs up everything in sight, and even uses dynamite (not very precise, is it?), Andohep and his right hand man are watching and waiting to unleash the power of Kharis, whose sarcophagus Babe has inadvertantly uncovered. It's that night when the Mummy makes his move, fuelled by the Tana leaves; for such a throwaway movie, a lot of thought has gone into the folklore surrounding its supernatural baddie, roping in stuff about the full moon and too many Tana leaves turing Kharis into an unstoppable force - he has only been given enough to get him killing, and is not in perfect working order.

Although the villain, Andohep actually has a point: why should these Westerners be allowed to stomp all over sacred sites? They're only in it for the money, after all. Until Kharis makes his entrance, The Mummy's Hand is strictly run of the mill, with lame humour abounding, but once he gets his act together in the last half, the action never lets up, making this the strongest of the Kharis movies. He even gets in on the carrying the girl around business when he seizes hold of Marta, and Andohep promises to give her eternal life. There's no reincarnation subplot this time - there probably wouldn't be room for it. As can be seen in comparison with the drab Lon Chaney Jr efforts that followed, a little flair in the presentation can lift the whole film. Incidentally, you can spot where footage of the previous Mummy movie has been unsubtly edited in.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Christy Cabanne  (1888 - 1950)

American director and former actor who began directing in 1912 after working as an assistant to D.W. Griffith. Turned in an astonishing 152 films over the next 30-odd years (he directed 24 films in 1914 alone!) and worked largely as a director-for-hire on low-to-medium budget studio movies. His most notable films were The Mummy's Hand for Universal and Scared to Death, Bela Lugosi’s only colour film.

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