An archeological expedition collects a buxom queen frozen in time, a nameless evil set free by a scientist’s thirst for knowledge…and power. Though Hammer promotes this as a classic Mummy flick, it eschews genre conventions and reveals the beautiful Valerie Leon in a dual role as the busty inhabitant of the Egyptian tomb and the nubile yet inquisitive daughter of Prof. Fuchs, who is repossessed by the seven deadly sins. Director Seth Holt’s formulaic production is ripe with interesting compositions, dramatic acting, rubbery special effects, and the inspiring cleavage of his leading lady: everything that makes a Hammer film rise above the typical genre dreck.
Prof. Fuchs gives his daughter an ancient ring for her birthday, taken from the severed hand of the perfectly preserved “mummy” who sleeps the sleep of undeath in his locked chambers: a mere scientific anomaly requiring his analytical skills or something more? Sexual obsession? Or is he a pawn to supernatural powers, kinetic forces beyond his understanding? Margaret discovers her father’s deadly secret and soon the other members of the expedition are being systematically murdered, each in possession of one of three familiars originally housed in Queen Tara’s tomb. Margaret is soon responsible for collecting these items, haunted by the baying of ghostly hounds, herself a fatal premonition. She gains power as the Queen comes closer to life, subsumed by the rise of the Egyptian Matriarch who seeks vengeance for those who disturbed her final rest.
Hammer’s set designs are wonderfully authentic for a genre flick, utilizing its low budget to great effect. Though the action remains indoors with few establishing shots, this helps create a claustrophobic tension that builds the story to a rather mundane climax. The use of close-ups of shredded throats and hands fulfills expectations but fortunately isn’t the focus: in other words, suspense is the main course while the gore remains a delectable dessert. It’s also nice to see homage to the great horror director Tod Browning with an evil character “borrowing” his name!
Finally, the roar of the Great Bear creates a mystical nexus that allows the Egyptian Princess to rise once again to dominate this modern world, but the love of a crippled father and the inner strength of his daughter silence this despicable overture.
Final Grade: (C)