While you could accuse the majority of the sequel outings of the Universal Monsters gang of being noticably deficient in the originality gene, the continuing adventures of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man et al still managed to still be just different enough to hold interest, but dragging up the rear was the trailing leg of The Mummy. Never the most flexible of Universal’s horror output, the last couple of movies that featured the bandaged-wrapped rampager was starting to increasingly suffer from identikit syndrome but still managed to pull just enough out of the sarcophagus to keep things ticking over. With the latest offering, however, the lack of any new story finally caught up with the moldy form of Kharis in 1944’s The Mummy’s Ghost – the first of two Mummy movies Universal released in the same year – proved to be the beginning of the end for the slow moving sand shuffler.
Andohep, the High Priest of Arkam and instigator of the last two bouts of Mummy madness, is somehow still alive despite being all fucked up and old and is still in the business of sending acolytes to the States in order to tie up lose ends. This time he’s enlisted Yousef Bay to travel to the last known sighting of the undead Kharis who we last saw burning to a crisp in a house fire in Mapleton, Massachusetts – but not only does Bay have return Kharis and the body of the Princess Ananka back to Egypt where they belong. After being briefed on the proper usage of the tana leaves to control the Mummy, Bey heads off on his creepy busman’s holiday and proceeds to go about his business in a way that’s as humanly sinister as possible (these Priests of Arkam have an image to maintain, I guess).
Meanwhile student Tom Hervey – who looks all of forty seven, at least – is boning up on Egyptian history while trying to bone up with his girlfriend Anima who has Egytian history while his professor tries to unlock the mystery of the Mummy’s last rampage. However, the professor is about to get an uncomfortably close answer to his questions as Kharis rises again to start another rash of stranglings and the behest at a power mad Bey, however the people of Mapleton have been though this shit before and start taking appropriate measures.
Things take an odd – well, odder – turn when the body of the Princess Anaka disintegrates, which means her soul has reincarnated into another form, e.g Anima, whom Kharis naturally makes a beeline for. But Bey has made an all time classic Priest of Arkam mistake in that he’s a sucker for a pretty face and opts to do what every member of his order has tried to do before him and that’s trued to make a beautiful kidnap victim immortal as to be their Queen (Bay wants a bae, if you will). Will the townsfolk and Tom manage to halt this plot, or will Kharis himself, undoubtedly fed up of generations of cock blocking, finally take measures into his own moldy hands?
To be honest, it’s getting progressively tougher to review these Mummy sequels mainly thanks to the fact that original ideas are terminally short on the ground at this point. The beginning of the film is virtually identical to the previous movie, The Mummy’s Tomb, with George Zucco reprising his role again as Andoheb as he sends yet another subordinate to America who then proceeds to literally make the exact same mistakes every other villain has in the series and the fact that Bey is played by a heavily tanned John Carradine in a fez doesn’t help matters much.
The heroes are stunningly bland too – even compared to the endless production line of caucasian males – but the lead in this film literally is only involved because the girl his dating has a far more important role than he does and so he’s firmly locked into ineffectual rescuer role.
As the movie faithfully drags its dead leg to the beat of the drum of the painfully established story beats, a couple of things mercifully manage to go against the grain with the first being a slightly more rounded role for a returning Lon Chaney Jr who still seems weirdly underutilised in a role that previously seemed to have little to no nuance. Surely Kharis’ greatest weakness is that he suffers from incredibly poor management and so when the third straight Priest in a row neglects his duties for a woman he’s just met, he’s obviously gotten as sick of this shit as we have and finally goes off the reservation in a brutal push back for Mummy’s rights everywhere…
The other thing is the fate of Anima which leads to one of the more surprisingly down beat endings the series has ever had. After it’s been established the female lead is the reincarnation of Kharis’ lost love and Bey tries his highly inadvisable shot at love, Kharis carries an unconscious Anima off past one of the most useless mobs I’ve ever seen. Now exposed to her Egyptian heritage, Anima starts to age at the rate of Jon Voight during the 80’s and eventually her dessiccated husk is carried into the swamps where Kharis and Anaka sink to their incredibly depressing reunion while a distraught Tom impotently looks on and the townsfolk wonder what the hell all the fuss was about.
But apart from these small wrinkles in the bandages of the relentlessly established order, The Mummy’s Ghost is agressively business as usual and not even the typically high production values can stop the Mummy mold from rapidly setting in….