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The Mummy's Ghost / The Mummy's Curse

Classic Monster Collection: Series Three

  • Dracula's Daughter / Son of Dracula
  • Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man/House of Frankenstein
  • The Mummy's Ghost/The Mummy's Curse
  • The Mummy's Hand/The Mummy's Tomb
  • Son of Frankenstein/Ghost of Frankenstein
  • Werewolf of London/She-Wolf of London

  • A look back....
  • After The Mummy's Hand and The Mummy's Tomb, it was no surprise that the saga continued. Good thing, too. The Mummy's Ghost (1944), the third installment of the Kharis series, is arguably the best of the three sequels to The Mummy's Hand.

    It begins soon after the events of The Mummy's Tomb. In Egypt, High Priest Andoheb (George Zucco again, not inconvenienced by his death in the previous movie) sends Yousef Bey (John Carradine) to Mapleton to bring back the musty lovers — the undead Kharis and the verydead Princess Ananka — for proper re-entombment in their homeland. It turns out that Ananka's remains are on display in the Scripps Museum in Mapleton, Mass. The bad news begins when Bey discovers that the remains have mysteriously dematerialized, meaning that Ananka's soul has reincarnated into another form. Conveniently, she's a local beauty, Amina Mansouri (Ramsay Ames), an Egyptian exchange student studying with Mapleton Egyptologist professor Norman (Frank Reicher). At last, Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr., still not giving a damn) isn't just a tool in the hands of vengeful priests — now he has his own girlfriend at stake, and our undead prince is nothing if not loyal. Yet again, Kharis's appointed priest decides to keep the girl for himself, and Kharis isn't going to let any mere mortal mess with his lady. Kharis's self-determination in continuing his 3000-year-long date leads to one of the most eyebrow-raising endings in Universal Monster history.

    (Two points of horrorgeek trivia: professor Norman teaches at a university that by all evidence could be H.P. Lovecraft's Miskatonic U. in nearby Arkham. And in 1959 England's Hammer Films condensed the Kharis series in their own superior and stylish film, The Mummy, starring Christopher Lee as Kharis and Peter Cushing as Banning; a Hammer classic, it concludes to fine effect by remaking the ending of The Mummy's Ghost.)

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    By now the Kharis series had grown tired, repeating the weak plot points of other Universal sequels and again retreading footage from 1932's The Mummy. The Mummy's Curse (1944) brings it all to a close in bizarre yet nonetheless mundane fashion. Here the setting is inexplicably moved to the swamps of Louisiana (or else Mapleton, Mass. has been overrun by Cajuns and other bayou accoutrements).

    It's 25 years after The Mummy's Ghost, giving the entire series an internal chronology of 55 years while never leaving the 1940s. A swamp-draining operation is beset by superstitions of a mummy allegedly buried in the bog years before. Before you can say "jambalaya," Kharis is back, and now so is Ananka. This time she's given flesh by Bettie Page-lookalike Virginia Christine, who gained a sort of immortality decades later as TV's matronly Mrs. Olson of Folgers Coffee fame. As ever, one wonders how Kharis can keep grabbing victims who need only walk briskly the other way. Once again, Egyptian priests have Kharis under their control (or so they think), and set up operations in a long-abandoned monastery high above the swamps. As yet another Egyptian priest falls prey to misplaced lust, Kharis decides that he's had it with all these priests keeping him from simply resting in peace with his beloved. He ends his torment in one final bring-down-the-house hissy fit.

    Ananka's resurrection scene is one of the finer moments of the Kharis series, and Curse offers a film history lesson in period black stereotypes, but otherwise there's little to recommend this final outing. You can bet that Lon Chaney Jr. was glad to chuck those mummy wrappings once and for all. Although this is the last of Universal's Kharis films, the mummy (not Chaney) made an appearance in Universal's exploitative comedy, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Years later, Chaney appeared as the mummy, along with Karloff's Frankenstein Monster, in a 1962 episode of television's Route 66. For its initial release, The Mummy's Curse was double-billed with House of Frankenstein.

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    As with the disc of Hand and Tomb, the quality of these "Mummy Double Feature" films is perfectly adequate both visually and aurally. No restoration was done, so blemishes, flecks, some fading, and other signs of wear are present, but if you're familiar with these movies through the old TV prints you're bound to notice significant improvement. Detail is adequately sharp and the black-and-white contrast is good to excellent. Both movies are in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Few compression artifacts are evident. The audio is clear and clean enough in its original limited-range monaural (2.0). Audio tracks come in English and Spanish, plus English captions and French subtitles.

    Each film's theatrical trailer is here, plus several click-through screens of Production Notes (seems that Chaney devised a brilliant solution for his need to occasionally take a wee drink of something stronger than tanna leaf tea while bound in that costume), Cast & Filmmakers biographies/filmographies, and promo material for the Universal Horror Double Feature Series. Keep-case.

    —Mark Bourne

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