Thursday, October 06, 2011

“Looks like somebody else was messing around with tana leaves.”

Universal returned to Mapleton in 1944 and resurrected Kharis for another go around, burning mansion be damned. Leaving the Banning family behind, the franchise takes it to new territory: A college campus. So will we be seeing a mummy undergoing fraternity hazings and doing keg stands? Of course not, but the results are still rather interesting anyway. Its The Mummy's Ghost, which doesn't actually feature any ghosts.

Mapleton is recovering from its last Mummy problem when the priests of Arkan (not Karnak anymore) send a new representative to America to recover the mummies of Kharis and Ananka, the latter being on display in the Scripps Museum. We then turn to Mapleton College, where a professor dabbles in translating hieroglyphics and brews up some tana leaves. Right as rain, he gets choked out by the mummy Kharis and the town goes into a fit over the new killings. One of the deceased professor’s students is dating an Egyptian student who starts to feel weird. She also tends to go into trances and wander around the campus and faints when she sees the mummy. Things progress along familiar territory when the priest sent to exact revenge falls for the girl, and then the movie ends on a real downer.

Tom Hervey: Robert Lowery is our “college aged” hero. He looks to be in his thirties at least. Anyway, he’s skeptical about mummies and the supernatural. He’s also got a cute little dog as a kind of sidekick, but a pet is not a substitute for a personality. Probably our blandest Mummy hero yet.

Amina Mansouri: Ramsay Ames plays our actual protagonist. Beautiful, but not really “Egyptian-looking,” she is actually the reincarnation of the Princess Ananka. Which explains why she goes into trance states when Kharis is near. Sort of. Anyway, she’s actually an interesting, sympathetic character since she’s mystified by all that’s going on and trying to do something about it.

Andoheb, High Priest of Arkan: George Zucco again, and again under the weathered, old-man makeup. Why is he a Priest of Arkan instead of Karnak? Who knows. Maybe their lease was up and they got a better deal. Anyway, he’s only in the beginning of the movie, but it is kind of amusing that he seems frustrated in the failure of his previous successor when appointing another.

Yousef Bey: John Carradine! Looking a little tanned! He’s the new priest sent to America to get Kharis and Ananka back. Interestingly, reclamation is the sole mission as opposed to the revenge angle. Needless to say, he too falls victim to the whims of lust and falls for Amina and would like to make both her and himself immortal, just like the last two guys tried. Still, the fact that its John Carradine means that he chews the scenery with exceptional relish. It also ends about the same too, with Kharis defenestrating him near the end of the film.

Kharis: Lon Chaney Jr. again and he seems more comfortable in the role. This time around Kharis is a bit more proactive, hiding out in some guy’s barn before Yousef arrives and being very, very adamant about taking Ananka, regardless of whatever body her spirit is in, home to her proper resting place.

Prof. Matthew Norman: Frank Reicher, who was in the last movie as a minor character doing forensic work for the police (maybe a live mummy limping around got him interested in Egyptology), returns in this one as somebody who can be the first victim of the mummy. His death is quite accidental, in that he dabbled too eagerly with the tana leaves and got a throttling.

This kind of shot has been in Every mummy movie so far.

Directed by Reginald Le Borg, makeup by Jack Pierce. Again, visually there’s not a whole lot of interesting flourishes, but the camera work is dependable and the makeup effects are great. The movie also makes liberal use of stock footage of Egypt and recycled footage from the Karloff film.

There is one standout scene in the Scripps Museum where Yousef sneaks around after hours and summons Kharis and a security guard gets in the way. It’s quite well done and Carradine’s smile as he sees Kharis sneaking up is nice and creepy, as is Kharis’ temper tantrum when he realizes that Ananka’s spirit is not with her mummy anymore. The last scene is also rather impressive, with Kharis carrying the body of Amina/Ananka into a swamp as he’s being chased by (you guessed it) an angry mob.

The screenplay is by Griffin Jay, Henry Sucher, & Brenda Weisberg, and here things are actually quite a bit more interesting than the last film. Sure, Tom’s as boring as a rock, but the merging of Amina with Ananka is genuinely an interesting development cribbed from the Karloff film. I also really liked the fact that after the professor’s death, the local police don’t waste any time in suspecting it could be anything other than a returned Kharis. That’s a nice bit of continuity there. What’s also fun is that the cops try to recreate the situation that got Professor Norman killed, only they plan to trap Kharis in a pit trap, since that’s the best idea they’ve got because they know bullets don’t work on him. Sadly they never get to use it, but the fact that they showed the cops being savvy enough to try is a nice touch. Sadly, the random continuity breaks persist, with the priesthood suddenly becoming that of Akran. Maybe they weren’t comfortable with Karnak anymore, since the actual Karnak was a real city and a seat of theological importance? I dunno.

Frank Skinner (uncredited) on musical duty, and the score continues to be good. This time the themes are changed up a bit and its more sweeping and a bit less melancholy.

The Mummy’s Ghost is better than the previous entry. Some interesting writing touches are done and Kharis displays more personality and then we get a genuinely unhappy ending. Definitely a step up, but it kind of requires seeing The Mummy’s Tomb to appreciate it more, continuity issues notwithstanding.

Wooden fences are no match for the might of KHARIS!

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