Saturday, October 31, 2020

Happy Halloween for 2020!

Happy Halloween everyone! I had a busy month watching all of the classic Universal horror films, but it as a fun time finally getting them watched, and have ticked a massive blind spot from my cinematic bucket list. Now I'll have to finally watch all the Hammer movies I've missed over the years!

For my Halloween, I did all my usual things, watching spooky stuff, enjoying many snacks, etc. I also made up some lolly bags and went around trick or treating, both to take candy, and to give some out. I ended up mainly giving at the one place. A kids' party, where they swarmed me like little sharks. By sheer luck there were just enough bags there for all of them, except one girl, so I had to sacrifice a Snickers bar to keep her happy. I eventually got enough lollies to make for a nice sugar-filled night, and soon had a curry bubbling away on the stove for dinner too, so I was satisfied. And the year's pumpkin observed all night long, lit up from the inside...

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Monster Mashes (1943 to 48)

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

4 years after his death, Larry Talbot's rest is disturbed after some careless graverobbers break in and  moonlight floods his tomb, returning the melancholic monster to life. After making short work of the crooks, Larry tries turning himself in, but the authorities don't believe in his condition, so he goes on the run to take care of it himself, hoping that faraway Dr. Frankenstein can help him...

With the inception of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, a new chapter was born in the Universal saga. Before this point, each series had been self contained, but from this point on, the sky was the limit.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man overestimates our patience. Most of the movie is just people sitting around talking. There's precious little werewolf action, and even less of Frankenstein's Monster. The only time the duo even fight is the very end of the film, by which it's too little too late.

The movie is paced pretty well to begin with. The whole first act is interesting, and sets up the plot well, in a friendly way to new viewers.

A highlight for me (though not for others) is the Faro-la Faro-li musical number, which acts both as some local colour, and has a great counterbalance with Larry's struggle, even causing him to freak out.

More disappointing is the climax, which only seems to happen because it had to. The writers must have been in a pickle how to begin the spectacle, so they just decided to randomly blow things up and have a scrap, the monsters get swept up, then the movie just ends, with no real resolution. It's extremely disappointing!

As for its status as a sequel, this is far more of a Wolf Man follow-up than to Frankenstein. Its connection to the first movie are little though. It's years after, Larry's father's since died, and his love interest has presumably married her other fella. Also his hometown has somehow shifted to Wales, yet everyone still speaks with a British accent.

As for its ties to the Frankenstein series, it's a little spotty. The story's set in the same town that Ghost was, though that plays no role. There's also an Elsa, but it was a little unclear if she's the same Elsa from Ghost, or a different one, and whether or not she's the daughter of the original Frankenstein. There is also nothing made of Ygor being the new monster, despite being played by Lugosi this time (in what seems like a natural casting choice, since Lon Chaney obviously couldn't play the monster this time round). I am curious how he ended up frozen though, considering he was last seen in a burning building.

The film is set in the same town from Ghost, and everyone is pissed off at Ludwig as if he created the monster. He didn't, he just had it forced upon him, then two days later he died, I would hardly say that makes him culpable for every horror the Frankenstein name ever caused. "What does Mannering need machines for? Remember Dr. Frankenstein? He ordered machines too!". Geez, what are they gonna do next, burn the M.D. at the stake for being a witch? The worst is the moustached Vazek, who openly advocates blowing up a dam and drowning everyone in the castle.

The characters here are decent, and frankly they'd better be considering they take up most of the screentime. The main hero is of course the Wolf Man, and he is in desperate need of a hug. Poor Larry Talbot can't ever catch a break! Maleva the gypsy woman appears again, and acts as a sympathetic presence, very much the heart of the film alongside Larry. She vanishes at a couple of points though, including the ending, so we never really find out what becomes of her.

The other protagonist is scientist Dr. Mannering. It's interesting how he goes from being a skeptic at the beginning, then the next time we meet him he's been tracking Larry, and not only believes he's a werewolf, but has witnessed the death left in his wake, and is pissed! It's refreshing to see the skeptic find evidence and instantly believe his eyes, rather than spend an hour doubting constantly. He's also able to answer a telephone without expositing to the audience too, which I appreciate, even if it isn't nearly as funny.

The cast do a fine job here, with Lon Chaney Jr. once again doing a good job as Larry Talbot.

Poor Bela Lugosi got the short end of the stick with this film. It's bad enough that the monster barely appears, but he's reduced to stumbling around and waving his arms like an idiot. This was because the monster was originally meant to be blind, but this was dropped at the last minute, making Lugosi look like he's overacting. His  talking was also dropped, reportedly due to test audiences finding the monster speaking Hungarian to be silly. Pahhh, what's so silly about a European monster sounding European? Pricks. As for his performance, he does a fine job with what he's given, and I applaud that the 61 year old was able to go through the arduous make-up process and play a role like this.

For a movie with such an amazing name and premise, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is a sadly disappointing affair. It's got little to recommend it, though still worth checking out for what it is.

House of Frankenstein

After an earthquake damages a prison, the mad Dr. Niemann escapes alongside his hunchbacked assistant Daniel, and hijacks a touring monster caravan, full of authentic memorabilia, including Dracula's body. Niemann revives the vampire to do his dirty work, then sets about completing his research and taking revenge on all those who crossed him...

In some ways, House of Frankenstein is an improvement on its predecessor, but it also falls into many of the same pitfalls, and some entirely new ones! For a start, the plot is  disconnected, feeling more like two short films haphazardly stitched together. Despite the promise of a monster mash, Dracula never interacts with the others, dying long before they ever appear. He only dies 25 minutes in!

From the point when Niemann and co. take centre stage again, things do improve, though fall to the wayside once again. The film never really knows what to focus on, and none of the characters get enough time to shine. The monster doesn't come to life until the final minutes, and Larry's death scene comes before that point! He dies anticlimactically, with no brawl, and almost no werewolf action either!

The climax is pretty inevitable, and despite taking its sweet ass time doing what it should've done ages ago, it's a pretty enjoyable time, that wraps up the remaining loose ends in a decent enough way, with the mad Dr. Niemann meeting a suitably sticky end.

The film has quite a few missed opportunities, though they are at least tempered with good stuff. For example, the murder of the carnival man is an effectively creepy scene, but a monster ringmaster had such potential, yet he's dead in 2 minutes.

The romance between the hunchback Daniel and Gypsy girl Ilonka is botched. At first they seem to hit it off, despite his disability, but the moment strapping young Larry Talbot comes onto the scene, she's instantly horny for him, and ignores Daniel. Then when he tries telling her Larry's a werewolf, she screams "You're mean! And you're ugly! I hate you, I HATE YOU". Jeez, what a bitch! A far cry from the message seen in Hunchback of Notre Dame! Granted, Daniel is a homicidal maniac and pretty undeserving of a nice girl, but still!

The love story between Ilonka and Larry meanwhile is utterly dull, because he has all the charm of a dying limpet. The man won't stop whining, and he never smiles! At least the movie is aware of this to a degree, as Ilonka tries cheering him up out of his gloom, while Dr. Niemann is actively pissed off by his incessant moaning.

The characters in the first story are markedly more bearable. Simple of course, and the guy is very doofy, but they're not bad, and the girl is a charmingly morbid spirit! As she says of the night in one scene, "It's like being wrapped in the arms of a gigantic ghost". A wonderful sentiment, sister!

The acting here is a highlight. Boris Karloff returns to the Frankenstein series, in a different role as a mad doctor this time. He does marvellously, always entertaining! John Carradine is good as Dracula, though it's hard getting used to someone so different to Bela in the role. Lon Chaney Hr. is his usual self as Larry, which is both good and bad. The remainder of the cast are all fine too, including J. Carroll Naish as the hunchbacked villain.

Ultimately House of Frankenstein is a failure as a film. It has a lot of potential, but just about every ounce of it was botched.

House of Dracula

Mild-mannered Dr. Edelmann is working on secret experiments in his cliffside home, developing a formula that can help reverse bizarre mutations. This leads both Dracula and the Wolf Man into his care, and the body of Frankenstein's monster is also discovered. Things go better than expected at first, until Dracula's evil impulses lead him to throw a spanner into the works, turning the doctor mad and beginning all new horror...

House of Dracula is a lazy movie right from the title. I swear I have never been able to get these movies straight. The movie itself isn't much better. Any pretense of continuity is done away with, as the deceased Dracula and Larry Talbot are both alive again, not to mention the monster (though he is at least found in a swamp, if not the same one).

With its scant hour long runtime, it's a good thing that  gets off to a quick start, not wasting any time. It still manages to bore though, never really doing anything new. Anything unique it does bring to the table goes mostly unexplored.

The movie tries to have its cake and eat it too, explaining away all the supernatural afflictions with science, despite the clear magic behind them. Dracula's blood having a parasite in it wouldn't let him turn into a bat, nor does pressure on the brain explain how a man can spontaneously grow a fur coat, not to mention literally coming back from the dead.

A problem the movie faces as it chugs along is the absence of a villain. Since the doctor here is wholly benevolent, and Dracula is trying to go steady, there's no conflict. So to solve this the writers undermine the plot they were trying to explore, and just have Dracula randomly be evil again halfway through. It feels less like him succumbing to evil impulses, and more like the writers got a bit lazy.

In the last act, we have a Jekyll and Hyde style villain, with Dr. Edelmann becoming transformed into a demented mirror version of himself. This is a neat development, and leads to some good moments.

In terms of monster fights, House of Dracula disappoints just as greatly as the last. No, Dracula isn't killed 25 minutes in without meeting the other monsters...He's killed unceremoniously 45 minutes in, without meeting the other monsters. As for the Wolf Man, he gets a couple of minor outbursts early on, totalling half a minute, then Larry is cured and literally never transforms again, not even in the climax. 

And lastly, discounting the brief shots of him strapped to a table, the Frankenstein monster appears for only one minute! He knocks one man over, and does literally nothing else. Even his death is a disappointment, as it's just reused stock footage from Ghost, meaning the monster's final death scene in the series's last entry is just stock footage.

The climax is a bit of a downer, since all this revolutionary work goes up in smoke, and poor Nina suffers an unfortunate fate, but at least Larry Talbot finally gets a happy ending.

The film opens up with Larry alive once again, and still cursed. This raises the question of why he doesn't just take his condition to the authorities. They won't believe he's a werewolf at first, but when they see him transform they'll have all the evidence they need. Thankfully Larry has his moments here, even if he is a gloomy gus.

The local villagers are the most villainous they've ever been here. Without a Frankenstein to justify their raving, they're really just harassing a random doctor for 'daring' to have a clinic. They've got zero justification to think he's mad, and the only reason he does turn mad is because a vampire secretly transfuses evil blood into him!  In one scene they put up a machine for the doctor, then have the bloody nerve to whine just because they're not immediately pulling the thing down! What the fuck did you expect, dumbasses?!

Nina the hunchbacked assistant is nice, and it's cool seeing the deformed assistant be not only female, but a good guy this time! It's refreshing, and I hoped she'd get a happy ending. The doctor's other assistant and Larry's love interest is alright, and serves her parts well, from capable scientist, to would-be victim of Dracula's hypnosis, and the Wolf Man's bride-to-be.

The actors all do good turns here, with Onslow Stevens impressing, and Jane Adams having a unique role. Carradine gets more to chew on this time, but poor Glenn Strange is wasted.

House of Dracula is even more of a disappointment than its predecessor, and is only worth watching to complete the series...

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Postal workers Wilbur and Chick deliver a couple of mysterious crates to a wax museum of horrors. These boxes supposedly contain the remains of the real Count Dracula, and Frankenstein's Monster. This is proved unfortunately true when they come back to life, almost scaring Wilbur to death. He tries telling Chick what happened, but isn't believed, until werewolf Larry Talbot comes onto the scene, bringing dire warnings...

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is lauded as one of the most popular horror-comedies of all time, as well as one of the greatest Abbott and Costello films, and one of the best Universal monster movie, which it served as a coda to. A lot of expectation to live up to! For most people it does, but I didn't enjoy it that much. It's by no means bad, but I guess there were just a few things about this that bugged me, and ultimately brought the experience down. I felt that movie focused a little too much on Bud and Lou and not enough on the monsters, who drive the plot, yet get comparatively little screentime. The movie's already a decent length as it is, so being longer probably wouldn't be the answer, but better pacing and writing, in my opinion at least.

The final battle is interesting in that we don't actually see a lot of it, but are on the periphery as Bud and Lou are trying to avoid it, unsuccessfully. On one hand it's pretty annoying that a lot of the film's only monster battle is offscreen, but I think this still works in its own right, especially given the monster brawls that had become plentiful in previous Universal outings.

The ending to ...Meet Frankenstein really bugs me though. There isn't one! It just stops after the climax, quite abruptly. I find it disappointing, though the wonderful parting joke is enough to lessen the blow, and make sure you leave the film with a smile on your face.

The characters here are mixed. The biggest problem is that there are too darn many of them! There's the main duo, the three monsters, Sandra, and the two young lovers. The latter two are the ones who feel the least necessary. Neither really do much, despite their seemingly important roles (lab assistant in the spooky castle, and dogged insurance investigator, respectively). Wilbur and Chick are both fun, with just the right level of childlike naivety, and skepticism, with neither overstaying their welcome.

The Frankenstein Monster gets to do the least, since he's strapped to a gurney for most of the film, only getting to really cut loose in the last few minutes. The Wolf Man is more active in his furry persona, but not by a whole lot since he's gotta revert back to good old Larry Talbot, who's a decent cipher to the supernatural events, even if a little crazy at times. Dracula gets the most, what with being the master villain.

Sandra is an interesting character. For a start, she's fictional Lou Costello's shockingly attractive girlfriend, so you just know she's got to have some sort of ulterior motive. And boy does she ever! (You know how it is, when the girl who dotes on you so much is really only interested in using your brain to revitalise a bedraggled monster). She even orders Dracula around! When Dracula gets ornery at her later on, you believe her when she says her will is as strong as his. Unfortunately the screenwriter evidently didn't, as she's successfully hypnotised, and spends the remainder of the film as a mindless dummy, only to be killed unceremoniously at the end...Well, I say unceremonious, but I mean on a character level. Visually it's quite spectacular! And shockingly final for such a goofy comedy!

The comedy here is spot-on! The dialogue flies by at a breakneck pace, and is almost hard to keep track of sometimes.
 "You’re making enough noise to wake up the dead." "I don’t have to wake him up.  He’s up."
"Whenever the full moon rises I turn into a wolf." "Oh, pal. That's all right. I'm sort of a wolf myself!"
"What was that?"-"The wind."-"It should get oiled."
"Dracula is Dracula! And Sandra's gonna use my brain to make a bigger dummy out of the other dummy."

The movie looks fabulous! It's got an abundance of spooky old scenery, including an old castle that just so happens to be on an American island. There are a few moments of animation, such as the fun credits, and moments of Dracula's bat transformations, which are pulled off quite well, and are visualised seamlessly (I suppose they had to animate backwards to synchronize it with Lugosi's movements). The music also sounds great. The score gets across both mirth and genuine atmosphere.

Lastly, the acting. The titular boys are great! Costello can get a little shrill and loud at times, but is otherwise really talented, as is Abbott, who plays off him perfectly. Meanwhile, Lon Chaney Jr. returns as Larry Talbot/the Wolf Man, as does Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's Monster (his third outing), and Bela Lugosi returns to the role that made him famous, 17 years later.

While I'm not the biggest fan of this film, it's still a classic, and I highly recommend you seek it out!...


The idea of combining these characters must have been a no-brainer. Who doesn't wanna see all these monsters going at it? Unfortunately the people behind it somehow managed to screw it up! There are two ways you could go with such a movie. 1, try and build on previous continuity, and tell interesting themes and develop your characters. That's the 'highbrow' route, to make these on par with the earlier Universal outings. Failing that, if you have zero interest in making such things, you could instead just shoot three monsters pummelling each-other senseless for an hour, and nothing more. Seems like a no brainer, right? But unfortunately, not only are the plots to all three of these movies inconsequential and dull, but they don't even satisfy on a popcorn level either. In fact the amount of monster fighting decreases as each movie comes! This reaches ludicrous degrees in House of Dracula, and really makes you question what the point was. Boris Karloff himself wasn't a fan, calling them monster clambakes, and I totally see why.

The lead is always Larry Talbot. He is a mopey Mildred, and I understand why, but it can be a bit tough to watch sometimes. Dracula is very weak and underused  And the Monster itself is almost a non-presence. We get a nice selection of other characters though., from mad doctors, to hunchbacks.

The continuity is pretty fast and loose, and these movies are more The Wolf Man than Frankenstein, though it always references the Doctor and his monster, with his secret notebook magically shifting from place to place.

The bright spot is Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Not only did it give us what's regarded as one of their best films, giving them a renewed popularity, but as an entry in the Universal canon it's one of the best. It's a shame these movies are as disappointing as they are, but I at least applaud the idea, and we did get a worthwhile final entry, which is a relief...

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Mummy (1932 to 44)

The Mummy

In 1921, an exciting discovery has been made in Egypt, of a pristine mummy, and the sacred scrolls of Thoth. However, when one of the dig team reads aloud the incantations, the mummy comes to life and takes the scroll, driving the man insane. 10 years later, the mysterious Ardeth Bey directs an archaeological team to the burial site of Princess Anck-su-namun. He is hailed as a gracious benefactor by the team, and wins the admiration of the beautiful Helen Grosvenor, but the stranger has ulterior motives, both for the mummy of his beloved, and for Helen...

The Mummy still stands strong today as a horror classic. With its dark atmosphere, ancient trappings, and interesting story, there is much to enjoy. The film gets off to a brilliant start, and one that's sure to creep you out. From there on it sets the plot up well, giving you a bit at a time, until we have the full picture.

The last act feels a little drawn out in places, perhaps because the pieces are all there ready for the climax, but it's not yet time, so everyone has gotta kill time till it happens, and the movie decides to re-enact scenes from Dracula, with Helen's plight mirroring Lucy's. Once we do get to the climax though it's great stuff, not disappointing (although the end's a tad abrupt).

The dialogue here is great stuff. Ardeth's Bey's poetic speeches are passionate and soulful, while we have some darkly amusing lines too ("Looks as if he died in some sensationally unpleasant manner."). While it's a serious movie, there's enough of a sense of humour here to give it extra life, without ever going overboard.

Onto the characters, Helen is an emphatic soul who dislikes the modern era, and finds much more romance and mystery in the ancient days. I can emphasise! Young fellow Frank is ok, though in one scene he's a whiny bitch just because the Egyptians get to keep their artifacts. I'm glad he gets told off!

Ardeth Bey, alias Imhotep, is a great antagonist. Cultured, polite, yet just somehow off. His character is fleshed out well, though his relationship with the long-dead princess he seeks to restore. You really feel for him when he's unable to perform his ritual because all these pesky museum guards get in the way! The fact that we feel such sympathy with the villain of the piece is a testament to Karloff's acting skills, and to the writing present.

Boris Karloff is an amazing lead here. Visually distinctive as the unnaturally tall and thin Ardeth Bey/Imhotep, he is unforgettable, getting across both malevolence and sympathy in equal measure. Zita Johann is good, though she overacts a little in the climax. David Manners is a fine hero, and Edward van Sloan thankfully feels different enough from his portrayal of Van Helsing to stand out.

The effects in The Mummy, courtesy of make-up legend Jack Pierce, are wonderful. The titular creature took hours of preparation, and lots of discomfort for Karloff, but by his own admission it was worth it for the unforgettable image. My only complaint is that for all that effort, we see so little of it! The mummy appears for all of 30 seconds, then is never seen again! I understand that less is more, but surely we could've at least gotten a little more of Boris in bandages before his make-over into Ardeth Bey! Speaking of, the make-up for that form is just as impressive, in different ways. He looks more visibly human, yet wrong somehow. His skin is dry and ancient, and his stature helps make him into an imposing figure.

The direction here is great. The sets are lavish and Karl Freund gives them life, with many scenes shot from good angles too, giving things more than a simple point-and-shoot vibe.

Like Dracula before it, The Mummy is a very quiet movie, with little incidental music to speak of. Even the main theme could be considered a cop-out, as it once again plays Tchaikovsky. Whether you like this really depends on whether you like Swan Lake (I do!) or how recently you saw Dracula (they're taking the piss!).

While it has some flaws here and there, these do little on the overall impact of The Mummy. It's remained a classic for over 80 years, and will continue to do so, with its fantastic acting, iconic imagery, and memorable chills...

The Mummy's Hand

Archeologist Steve Banning and his friend Babe Jensen are stuck in Egypt, searching for the next big find that gets them enough money to go home. They soon have it when a mysterious ancient vase is found, detailing the location of the Princess Ananka's tomb. The duo manage to convince travelling magician The Great Solvani to back their expedition, much to the ire of his levelheaded daughter, but soon the group are on their way, unwitting of what horrors lie in the desert...

The Mummy's Hand is pretty good as far as sequels go, even if it's not a patch on the original. It decides against continuing the story from the last entry, which is a relief, as you wouldn't want that dragged up again when it was all resolved completely. Instead we are introduced to a new mummy, Kharis, and the cult that serves him.

The movie is only 67 minutes long, and the whole first half is just set up. It's around the 40 minute mark when we finally meet the mummy, and he gets moving. There are some spooky moments, tension, and a pretty good climax. The mummy is an imposing villain, and his defeat isn't too easy.

The plot here doesn't make much sense, in the same way the Mummy film starring Brendan Fraser doesn't make sense-Why would you curse a mummy by giving him eternal life and wicked superpowers? These stupid cults are creating their own problems here! If they'd just bopped the criminals on the noggin and chucked 'em in a tomb, there'd be nothing to worry about!

The mummy has this complex backstory, but it ultimately amounts to nothing. He's just a lumbering monster, killing because some asshole in a fez is pissed off at some Americans. The shifty professor has more personality, trying to sabotage the expedition and keep his cult's secrets.

Steve Banning is an alright hero, although in one moment I was finding myself wanting to prod him. "Say, why would anyone wanna get buried away out here for?" Precisely because of grave robbers like you, asshole! The line about silly native superstitions got on my craw too.

Comic relief in horror films can often be hit or miss. Sometimes it's cringey and breaks the mood, other times it works splendidly. Babe is a mix of both. He's fine for the most part, if for no other reason that there are no scary scenes in the first two thirds, but there is one moment near the end where some ill-judged humour spoils a moment.

Marta is a fun dame, with plenty of spunk. She's a bit of a skeptic, but within reason, not still being a doubting Thomas after seeing the mummy. Her changing relationship with the guys is done well. Steve gets a funny romantic line to her: "You mind if I say I think you're a swell person?".

There are a few little touches that homage the other entries in the Universal canon. Whether they're cute or clumsy will depend on the viewer. I liked them, for the most part, though not all hit the mark.

The cast here is nice all round. Dick Foran is a fine male lead, having chemistry with both his co-stars. Peggy Foran is spunky and feisty, but also sweet. Wallace Ford meanwhile is amusing in his part, as is Cecil Kellaway. George Zucco is great fun as the evil priest, relishing his role. Tom Tyler takes the reins from Karloff, in a surprising change of pace from the western hero. He does what he can, but there's no dialogue or character to his performance. Just mindless grunting.

The effects here are pretty good. Not quite as good as the first but still impressive in places, and a perfect representation of a mummy! The blacked out eyes are a cool touch too, done in a creative way by scratching the film. There are also some janky stop motion wolves in one scene.

The sets meanwhile look grand! They must've cost a pretty penny..for the movie that they were made for, which wasn't The Mummy's Hand. Universal recycling whenever they could get the chance!

There's a gratuitous amount of stock footage used from the original Mummy. Some of it fits reasonably well, despite the obvious pilfering, but other spots, like when the ancient Egyptians bury Kharis, uses the footage of Imhotep's burial. Then the narration says they moved his body for no reason other than  wouldn't match the stock footage.

The Mummy's Hand is a pretty alright sequel, all things considered, and is aided by its cast and sense of humour.

The Mummy's Tomb

30 years after Kharis was destroyed, all is well at the Banning estate until somehow the ancient monster returns, intent on wreaking a final vengeance against those who tried to destroy him...

The Mummy's Tomb represents an immediate downgrade from the previous entry in the series. The first ten minutes of this 60 minute film is a flashback to the last. This is astonishingly lazy, and serves as a cheap excuse to pad the time. And as a whole sixth of the movie, it certainly does! When it finally ends, the heroes from the last are all killed off, in a disappointing and almost mean way. By the time the focus is on the new heroes, there's very little time left for us to get to know them, or for any interesting plot to develop.

The story never gets more complicated than Kharis wanting revenge on the Banning's, which isn't the worst idea for a plot, but it's a bit basic, and never used for anything really entertaining.

Something I did like is how despite initial skepticism, the authorities readily and genuinely believe that an undead mummy is responsible for the mayhem, even holding a press conference openly admitting this. The townspeople ought to take a chill pill though. Even though they've got the mummy surrounded and cornered, they still gleefully set fire to the Banning homestead, while the heroes are still there, too!

The characters are ok, though never reach the personality of the previous entry. Steve now has an older sister, who's randomly Scottish, and looks old enough to be his mother. She's also not that cut up about her brother's violent murder. It's also funny hearing these characters talk about old age, when it's only been a couple decades.

The cast here is alright. Dick Foran is ok in his old man makeup, while Peggy Moran's character is already deceased. Wallace Ford does a surprisingly serious turn here, delivering the film's best performance. It's a shame he couldn't be around for more. It's a real surprise seeing John Hubbard-Mr. Brown from The Mickey Rooney Show, here a strapping young leading man! He does well with what little he has.

George Zucco's performance as the elderly Andoheb is laughably bad due to the old man voice he's forced to affect, and the poor make-up. Lon Chaney does what he can. He also shared duty with a stuntman, noticeable when the mummy loses 50 pounds in longer shots.

The effects are less impressive. The mummy is a bit of a downgrade this time. The costume is fine, but the mask is a bit cheaper. It looks perfectly fine for a random mummy film, but when compared with what came before it lacks. Not only is there an overabundance of flashbacks, but stock footage taken from Frankenstein too, with the torch-wielding mob.

The greatest cost-cutting measure is the change of setting, from Egypt to America. Now I don't mind a mummy film with a more urban western setting, but you've gotta handle it well, or you run the risk of feeling cheap and boring. After all, who expects to see an ancient mummy casually wandering suburbia without falling over laughing? Thankfully 1940s New England is the perfect setting for mummy tales, perhaps because of these films.

The Mummy's Tomb isn't without merit by any means, but it's also nowhere near as good as it could have been, and largely disappoints.

The Mummy's Ghost

In the New England town of Mapleton, fear about the Mummy resurfaces when a noted Egyptologist is found murdered after making a discovery about the ancient Tanna leaves. Young college student Tom is concerned about his Egyptian girlfriend Amina, who has been gradually changing in an unexplained way, her hair going white and her skin drying. The key to the mystery is the Princess Ananka, whose body currently resides in the local museum...

The Mummy's Ghost is more of the same. It's not as lazy as the previous film, but it is a lot more exhausted, as we see the same things all happen again. It's not all bad. The movie is well made enough, and entertains, provided you haven't just watched the others, and it even does a few unique things, but it's all too little too late.

This is the first film where the mummy appears consistently, thank goodness. Not that I mind a monster being used sparingly, but when you're watching a simple b-picture, it's perhaps best to just get what we came for. Focus on fun more than artistic quality.

The setting is used well here. While we don't see as much of the college campus as we should (who doesn't wanna see a mummy wreaking havoc with all the co-eds??), it's decent, and we get an alright feel for the town in general. I love that there's no skepticism anymore. When the first victim is discovered, and there's mould on the neck, the two men just give each-other a glance and go "The mummy!".

Tom is a milquetoast hero, good looking but boring, and barely does a thing. Amina has the more interesting arc, and it culminates in a gripping fashion by the end, though in a way that doesn't do much for her actual character. She falls unconscious 10 minutes before the end and never wakes up again. High priest Yusef is a decent antagonist, and his inward arguments are amusing to watch, coming across less like he's having an internal dilemma and more like he's got a split personality! The rest of the cast is fine, though underused.

By the closing minutes, the movie reaches a surprisingly bleak conclusion! From a storytelling perspective it's a bit unsatisfying (not to mention depressing), since the heroes went to all this trouble for nothing, but I'll let that slide, since it took serious guts to end it how they did.

Ramsay Ames is good as Amina, though we don't really get to see how she acts normally, as the girl spends the whole film frightened out of her wits. John Carradine makes for a breath of fresh air, and is a fun antagonist. Poor Lon Chaney is once again forced to don the Mummy costume, and would even get hurt during a filming accident, no doubt souring him even more to the role.

The Mummy's Ghost exemplifies all the good and bad of this series. It almost breaks new ground, and it's a perfectly fine movie if watched in isolation, certain problems aside, but when seen as part of the series, it shows all the flaws that continuously dragged it down...

The Mummy's Curse

In the Lousiana swamplands, local workers are frightened senseless by a recent series of murders. They are convinced it's the work of the mummy, and it's not long until the shambling monster is sighted, as is a mysterious young woman with no memory of her life...

Despite the previous entry seeming to finally end the series once and for all, the very same year saw the release of the fifth entry in the series, The Mummy's Curse.

Having been submerged in a swamp in the last film, Kharis is dredged back up...despite being in Massachusetts before. Myself I like the change of pace. I prefer the New England setting for a 'modern' mummy film, but when you've just sat through 2 films that utilise it, it's a nice treat seeing a scenery change to somewhere like New Orleans.

The biggest problem here is the lack of story and pacing. Half an hour in and not much has happened. The film has only set up the bare basics of the plot, and yet we've already reached the halfway point. The villain's big plan isn't to get revenge, or to reunite Kharis with any artifacts, but instead just to get him at rest with his love...which they already were, meaning the entire film is just wasting our time, beginning just to end again if that makes sense.

Much of the middle and last act is just the mummy and quarry running in and out of tents, again and again. The climax is the only real fun part of the whole movie. The lighting's a bit confusing though. In fact, during the fight with the hero and Ragheb, I thought Ragheb won, the two blend together that much!

The ending is the least impressive part of the film, because it solves nothing. Kharis and the high priest are dead again, but when the hell has that ever stopped them? They'd probably just get right back up again. The mystery girl is also dead once more, which really makes the whole affair pointless. She rose, threatened to have an interesting character arc, but then just drops dead, her story incomplete. The End.

Kharis has always been a bit of a useless lump, but here even moreso! This is perhaps the very film that gave rise to all the jokes making fun of mummies. He's unable to perform the slightest tasks! Just about the only indignity he avoids is being unravelled by a flushing toilet.

The main hero Jim is boring and doesn't do much. The love interest is nice enough. The girl is the most interesting, and I liked her, though nothing is made of the fact that she is Amina from the previous film. It's like the writers knew the vague outline of how the last film ended, but with none of the actual details.

It is funny how upon finding her, the best idea is to hire this traumatised amnesiac as a secretary! Speaking of that, when she rushes in begging for help (a mummy is chasing her), the doctor just casually tells her that she should stop being hysterical, and no-one can help her in this state of mind. Oh my god, what a bastard! I'm glad he's strangled by a mummy.

Besides Kharis, the antagonists take the form of a new high priest (expertly going undercover with fez) and his assistant. The plot is so minimal and their contribution so small they could easily have been excised altogether. The other human villain is the nasty foreman, who's intent on being skeptical, despite the mummy's rampage literally being public record. Unfortunately he survives the film.

It's the supporting cast who really give The Mummy's Curse life, from the playful and kinda sultry French barmaid, the cheeky Spanish client, and the black worker, with his hilarious catchphrase "The mummy's on the loose and he's dancin' with the devil!". It's a shame all these people die, leaving us with the dull main leads. If only they'd cut out the mummy altogether and made this a small-town comedy, maybe it'd have been a lot more fun!

Lon Chaney Jr's final performance as Kharis is more of the same. Fine as far as a random film goes, but pretty un-distinctive. There are some amusing moments too, such as when his constant bad arm and limp disappear the second he needs to pick someone up. It's also amusing how in every movie Kharis loses a bandage during a chase, leaving a clue for the heroes. He shouldn't have any left at this rate!

Overall, The Mummy's Ghost is the series's final disappointment. It just proved once and for all that this series had nothing more to offer if the writers weren't going to put any effort into it.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy

Bud and Lou are out in Egypt searching for some opportunity, when they seek to apply for a job with Professor Zoomer. Unfortunately they find him dead, murdered at the hands of a cult devoted to protecting their sacred mummy Klaris. Between the cult, a ruthless band of crooks, and an undead mummy, and the two clumsy oafs survive the curse of Klaris?...

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy is a breath of fresh air to the fledgeling series. It has far more identity than all those sequels put together. Funnily enough, for all that freshness, this was the 36th Abbott and Costello vehicle, and their penultimate one before they retired from movies for good. Maybe the film was an exhausted commodity on its original release, but now, 70 years later, it's a delightful treat!

There are plenty of great comedy setpieces present, from the body switcheroo, to the snake charming sequences, and the pair's mind-melting 'pick vs shovel debate'. As for the comedy routines, some are new, while others are classic, but presented in a new way. It's enough to feel cosy and familiar, without feeling lazy.

The story here is a good one. It's pretty basic, but this isn't an issue since it's a comedy, and not held to the higher standards of serious horror. It's fun watching all these parties stumbling around in search for treasure, and it's just as enjoyable seeing all the villains' plans coming to naught because of these two intrepid dopes! I'm a little unsure why the cult get off scot free in the end, but it makes for a funny wrap-up, so I don't mind.

The only problem is that the mummy barely appears! We first meet him pretty early on, and he's just alive like it's no big deal, with very little explanation. Then he disappears for almost an hour, only returning for the climax. It's a shame his appearances are so fleeting, because those scenes are great! All in all, the mummy isn't the most important thing in the plot, but at least the film acknowledges it, so it is honest.

The effects here are decent. The mummy is less complex than previous ones, just a boiler suit wrapped up in bandages. This is a little noticeable, but not poorly so, and it's good to see the mummy having a little more freedom of movement. The giant lizard is less convincing, but still adorable.

The sets meanwhile are great! Whether they were designed for this or leftover from a previous production, there's a lot to admire, from the ritzy Egyptian nightclubs, to the ancient dig sites, and the ornate temple.

The film has some nice song and dance sequences sprinkled throughout. They all make sense in the plot, all are fun diversions, and they never drag on too long too. The choreography can get pretty wild too!

The acting here is all good. Bud and Lou can do these kinds of role in their sleep, and never fail to entertain. While they are given actual names in the end credits, the two leads are just referred to in the movie by the actors' real names. Which is for the best really, as they only talk with themselves for the majority of the runtime, and their names just don't come up much when chatting with the gangsters or cultists.

Marie Windsor is a deliciously evil femme fatale, while Michael Ansara and Dan Seymour are good henchmen. Richard Deacon is a fun presence as the cult leader, coming across as amusingly nerdy in the usually regal role. Eddie Parker (Lon Chaney's stunt double in previous entries) makes for a decent enough mummy. And lastly, Lou's teenage daughter Carole makes a sweet cameo!

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy is a great time to be had, whether you're a fan of comedy, horror, or Egypt!


The Mummy series is a somewhat fractured one. The first movie stands alone, not only in its stellar quality, but in continuity. The sequels are all off in their own world, focusing on different villains, different heroes, and a different mummy. The first of them is by far the best, while the others just copy the exact same plot, beat for beat, with only minor differences. Ghost does have the most daring ending, even though it is depressing.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that Kharis's vengeance is so specific! While Dracula will go after anyone, and the Invisible Man sees the whole world as an enemy, the Mummy will only go after you if you broke open this one specific tomb, and that's it. He has no motivation of his own, and is basically just a living weapon. With every new movie they [struggle] to keep the series going, despite writing themselves into a corner. Based on the specific rules of the curse, Kharis should be at rest by the end of each film, with no reason to return, yet he always does. Ultimately, the biggest problem to come out of this is that there is no reason the cult needed to reanimate a 3000 year old mummy to commit murder, when they could just do it themselves. Much is spoken of of Kharis's destiny, but he means nothing.

The priests don't fare much better, always stock villains. They each get the same introduction, recycled to the point where George Zucco passes on the mantle and dies in two movies in a row (after already having been killed in his first movie), and each befalls the exact same temptations, making me wonder what the gods must think of their useless cult.

Boris Karloff is a wonderful mummy, in both forms. He get the most depth, as he eschews the bandages early on, and passes himself off as a normal human. Tom Tyler and Lon Chaney on the other hand are a little unremarkable. It's not their faults, they just get so little to work with. Chaney was reportedly not fond of the experience, and its easy to see why. It consists entirely of stumbling around and growling, and nothing more.

Problems aside, the Mummy series still holds plenty of fun, even if it's of the basic variety. My only recommendation (beyond prioritising the first film, and the Abbott and Costello entry) is to not watch all the entries in a row, as it will only highlight the existing issues. If you want some ancient Egyptian themed horror, these will satisfy...