Sun 30 Aug 2009
THE MUMMY’S TOMB. Universal, 1942. Lon Chaney Jr., Dick Foran, John Hubbard, Elyse Knox, George Zucco. Director: Harold Young.
THE MUMMY’S GHOST.. Universal, 1944. Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Robert Lowery, Ramsay Ames, Barton MacLane, George Zucco. Director: Reginald Le Borg.
THE MUMMY’S CURSE.. Universal, 1944. Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Coe, Virginia Christine, Kay Harding, Dennis Moore. Director: Leslie Goodwins.
The Mummy (1932; reviewed by Steve way back here) is one of the great romantic films, and The Mummy’s Hand (1940) is a snappy little programmer, but the three Mummy films with Lon Chaney Jr. are the plodding, proletarian work-horses of the Monster Movie.
Slow-moving, badly-cast and sloppily-written, they have always struck me as examples of what a day-to-day Grind a Monster’s life must be. Kharis stumbles along playing out his curse with no joy, no sign of satisfaction, preying on the Old and Slow-Moving like he was stamping out Widgets on an assembly line, which is a very apt description of the way these films were produced.
Ben Pivar, the producer responsible for the series, was by some accounts a man of legendary Bad Taste, a filmmaker whose idea of Art was a story that could incorporate as much stock footage and as few sets as possible.
Indeed, his Mummy movies seem to be made up mostly of clips from earlier films, like youngsters devouring their parents.
Yet the Kharis films taken as a whole, convey a theme of surprising perversity: alone among Movie Monsters, Kharis fulfills his destiny. He destroys the defilers of Ananka’s tomb and twice reclaims his reincarnated Princess.
Yet, like the hero of a David Goodis novel, he never succeeds on his own terms. Each film ends with him joylessly sinking back into the grimy milieu from whence he came at the start, no wiser, no happier, and no longer loved.
Which is a pretty odd message to come from a low-brow producer like Pivar. Just a pity the films themselves are so damn boring.