October 4, 2012 by abbyo
It’s fall! Hooray! We’ve reached the season where everything’s pumpkin-flavored and candy corn-colored, my favorite time of year. And because it’s October, everything is covered in a faint patina of fake blood, which makes things even better.
In times past, I’ve devoted this blog to horror movies during October, and that’s not going to change. However, I am going to do things a little differently this year. I’m forsaking the usual categories to focus solely on the output of one single studio all month long. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for geysers of red corn syrup, dated fashion and British accents as we explore the world of Hammer Films!
Hammer was a British film studio that started making pictures as early as 1935. Over the years they’ve produced films in a variety of genres, but became well-known for their horror films, which dominated the studio’s output in later years. Hammer is famous for cheesy, blood-soaked b-movie masterpieces, movies like “The Curse of Frankenstein” and “The Horror of Dracula” that made Christopher Lee a household name. The company stopped making films in the mid-80s, but re-emerged in 2010 with “Let Me In,” the high-profile English-language remake of the Swedish vampire film “Let the Right One In.” In the last couple of years, Hammer has released a handful of other genre movies, including February’s “The Woman in Black.”
The movie I’m reviewing today, “Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb” comes from 1971, towards the tail end of Hammer’s golden period. If you’ve seen “Don’t,” Edgar Wright’s awesome fake trailer entry in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s “Grindhouse,” this is the style of movie it’s directly parodying.
“Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb” is a movie very much in this vein (tee hee). It’s less interested in quality filmmaking than it is in just having a goofy, bloody good time. It’s not exactly top-notch, even by Hammer standards, but it checks off all the boxes. You want a pouty heroine with more breasts than sense? You got it. You want cryptic messages deciphered by tweed-clad old men? This movie has that, too. And, for a bonus, we get a couple of eerie sequences shot in a poorly-run mental institution. That, friends, is great value. Funnily enough, the only thing “Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb” doesn’t have is an actual mummy, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The story starts with what appears to be the embalming of an Egyptian queen, Tera (never mind the fact that she’s visibly breathing in the opening shot). After preparing her, for some unexplained reason her embalmers chop off her right hand, and promptly throw it outside. Once they do, a violent wind rises up and rips out everyone’s throats. This, it turns out, is Tera’s awesomely gruesome M.O.
Fast forward several thousand years. An aging Egyptologist gives his daughter Margaret an ancient ring for her birthday. Upon receiving this ring, strange things start happening to Margaret. She grows a brain, and a will of her own, for one thing. But also, mainly, she can kill people at will using (you guessed it) a sudden, violent wind that rips people’s throats out. Also on the scene is a shady former colleague of Margaret’s dad’s, who, several years back, helped her father discover Tera’s tomb, and is interested in re-animating her. It turns out that Tera isn’t dead after all (and certainly not a mummy), but merely sleeping, keeping her body perfectly preserved through the magic of astral projection and sort-of reincarnation in Margaret (it probably doesn’t hurt that dad keeps Tera’s body in the basement, which is hella creepy).
This being a Hammer production, the gore is a big factor. That bright red fake blood is required to be in almost every scene, no matter how ridiculous it looks. My favorite example is the constant cut to Tera’s wrist stump, which never stops bleeding and, it would seem, has never stopped bleeding over the CENTURIES she’s been encased in a tomb. The endless series of death scenes are also loads of fun, since after a while you can see them coming from miles off. As soon as that wind whips up, you know someone will soon be kissing their larynx goodbye.
Margaret also makes for a completely silly heroine. Her main talents are breathing heavily and wearing nightgowns that double as push-up bras. She’s not even very good at killing people, since it’s technically a centuries-old evil queen who’s doing it, and not her.
But the best scenes by far are the ones that take place in the mental asylum where a former colleague of Margaret’s father’s has been committed. I say this not because the scenes are super-cheesy, but because they’re the only parts of the movie that are legitimately scary. He’s attended by two cruel orderlies who enjoy tormenting the patients as much as they seem to like flirting with each other. Here’s a clip:
See what I mean? That’s the stuff of nightmares, right there. I’m almost glad that there are only a couple of scenes like this in the whole movie, otherwise it might be too much to take.
“Blood from the Mummy’s tomb” does have some standout aspects, but ultimately lacks the tension and suspense needed to really make it great. The movie’s at its best providing atmospheric creepiness and hilariously dated, politically incorrect gender treatment. In terms of Hammer’s history, this one is nowhere near the classics, and the conspicuous absence of Hammer stars Lee and Peter Cushing make the movie that much less fun to watch. But it does fulfill the most basic requirements of a scary movie. If you like your horror surprise-free, this one is right up your alley.