I’ve never exactly been sure how mummies made it into the pantheon of great movie monsters. They stumble around in their dirty bandages and all, but they just don’t seem as scary as some of the others. Today’s movie is 1971’s “Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb,” but it doesn’t feature the sort of mummy we’re used to. This one is Hammer beauty who prefers revealing outfits to bandages.
Margaret Fuchs (Valerie Leon) is a beautiful young woman, but she’s been having some strange dreams lately. She sees herself as an Egyptian princess, asleep in some sort of trance like state while a group of strange guys perform a ceremony which involves chopping off one of her hands and feeding it to the dogs. Then a sandstorm comes and rips out their throats. Oh, and then the hand crawls around on it’s own. When she awakes, there’s a bloody scar on her wrist.
Her father, archaeologist Julian Fuchs (Andrew Keir), is a bit concerned, but decides the way to comfort Margaret is to give her a birthday present a few days early. It’s a giant ruby ring that, strangely enough, is just like the one worn by the hand that crawled around in her dream. She also tries to take comfort in the bed of her man Tod Browning (Mark Edwards). Named for the director of “Dracula” and “Freaks” perhaps? Anyway, when Tod shows the ring to a colleague of his, Geoffrey Dandridge (Hugh Burden), he freaks out…even more so when he catches sight of the lovely Margaret.
It turns out that Dandridge was one of several explorers who, along with Margaret’s father, discovered the tomb of the Egyptian princess Tera. In the tomb, they found the perfectly preserved body of the princess…minus the right hand. Each member of the party took various relics from the tomb back with them to England, including Tera herself. Fuchs even had a secret replica of the tomb built in his basement to house the Egyptian beauty. Oh, and it just so happens that Margaret was born at the moment the tomb was discovered, and now, as an adult, she is the spittin’ image of Tera.
Before long, Margaret begins to have moments where she’s not exactly herself. She seems to become possessed by Tera who seems to have her heart set on taking out the team that robbed relics from her tomb, one by one. At various times, the relics which depict Egyptian creatures like snakes and jackals come to life and attack the explorers. This is all to the delight of one of the team members, Corbeck (James Villiers), who does all he can to encourage the transformation in Margaret and bring about the resurrection of Tera.
“Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb” is based on the novel Jewel of the Seven Stars, by Dracula author Bram Stoker. It is a production that was plagued with difficulties. Hammer mainstay Peter Cushing was originally cast as Professor Fuchs, but had to leave after one week when his wife Helen fell ill. She would pass away ten days later. When the film reached it’s final week of filming, tragedy struck again when director Seth Holt suffered a fatal heart attack. The shoot was finished by Michael Carreras.
This film has most of the marks of the great Hammer films, slick production, creepy atmosphere, bright red blood, and, of course, a beautiful leading lady. What’s interesting is that it’s a totally different take on a mummy story than what we’re used to. The story does have a few weak moments…chief among them is that it does take a bit too long for things to really get going. However, the story is original enough to keep the viewer engaged.
Valerie Leon appeared in supporting roles in many films, she was a Bond girl twice, but this is one of her few leading roles. One has to wonder why since she really does a great job here. The scenes where she is being controlled by Tera’s spirit are especially effective. She just oozes evil. Very scary and very sexy. Though she is probably more often listed among the great Hammer beauties, she may deserve a place among them great hammer monsters, as well.
Though there is no mistaking that “Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb” is a Hammer film, it may also be one of the more atypical films in their horror cannon. This is not your normal mummy movie, and it is worth seeking out.