Thursday, December 30, 2010

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)

Though nominally the last entry in Hammer’s mummy series, this turgid thriller doesn’t feature the series’ usual imagery—instead of a fellow shuffling along in head-to-toe bandages, this one’s about an ancient Egyptian princess whose spirit possesses a modern-day Englishwoman. Adapted from a Bram Stoker novel called The Jewel of the Seven Stars, the picture has atmosphere to spare but very little narrative momentum. Most of the characters are bewitched or conspirators, so nobody does much of anything to stop a series of murders; as a result, bad things happen without noticeable dramatic impact. The filmmaking team also insists upon visually consistent deaths even when the visuals don’t suit the circumstances—all the murder victims die by having their throats ripped open, including the unfortunate gentleman who falls backward through glass doors. Um, his throat got cut how? Logic and physics were never of paramount importance in Hammer productions, of course, and the movie delivers the requisite elements: heaving bosoms, supernatural claptrap, Technicolor gore. But it’s all rather tedious, because none of the performers attack their roles with the vigor one gets in better Hammer flicks. (Peter Cushing, who left the production when his wife died and was replaced with journeyman actor Andrew Keir, is sorely missed.) Long-limbed leading lady Valerie Leon is striking, especially when prancing about in low-cut nightgowns, but she’s utterly vapid, and among the supporting cast only peripheral freakazoids register. A pervy-looking doctor who wears gigantic Marcello Mastroianni sunglasses at night appears in a few scenes, and toward the end of the picture an effeminate man with painted nails shows up briefly without explanation. One keeps hoping for moments as gruesome as the opening, which features a disembodied hand crawling through the Egyptian desert, but by the time this discombobulated movie cuts to the same static shot of a glistening sarcophagus for the umpteenth time, the whole enterprise has become thoroughly dull.

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb: LAME

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