Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971)

Andrew Keir stars in Hammer's different but unimpressive Mummy film directed by Seth Holt. Optimum UK R2 DVD.

The Film

"It all seemed so real that I could hardly imagine that it had ever occurred before;
and yet each episode came, not as a fresh step in the logic of things,
but as something expected.".

Bram Stoker - The Jewel of Seven Stars

Young Margaret Fuchs (Valerie Leon) suffers from nightmares of ancient Egypt while a strange man watches from across the road. In the morning she is given an early 21st Birthday present by her father - a large ruby ring. Her fiancÚ Tod suspects it to be very valuable and shows it to his friend, an antiques dealer, who has an attack of shock when he sees Margaret. It transpires that Margaret's father was in a group, along with the antiques dealer, and the mysterious watcher, who opened up a tomb in Egypt decades earlier - the tomb of a notorious princess - at the very same moment of Margaret's birth. Now she has grown to exactly resemble the princess and mysterious deaths strike those who had been on the expedition...

Written by Christopher Wicking, Blood from the Mummy's Tomb is, like many of Hammer's later productions, an attempt to do something completely new with an old theme. In this case it is a mummy movie with no shuffling bandaged cadaver - instead we get an interesting storyline, based on Bram Stoker's obscure 1903 novella Jewel of the Seven Stars that explores the more occultish elements of Egyptian mythology. Unfortunately this is not nearly enough to fill out a feature length movie and the film's pacing is very slow throughout, yet the occult elements are only lightly touched upon, with potential for a lot more detail of the rituals (that one would expect if this had been a Dennis Wheatley adaptation for example). The killing scenes help to provide a little action but are quite predictable and the film has a rather tame ending and a disappointing conclusion, a real pity considering the incredible and shocking ending that Stoker originally penned.

After the decline of the Seven-arts co-production deal, Hammer's budgets were slashed and Blood from the Mummy's Tomb is clearly a victim of this - the film never escapes its very stage-bound feel and often feels more like a television production. Director Seth Holt sadly died during filming and his illness clearly hampered those parts of the film that he did helm, leading to a very mundane looking production. The only scene with any real flair is the killing in the asylum, helmed by the producer Michael Carreras who took over the shoot. Fortunately the special effects work is quite effective and this is certainly one of Hammer's gorier productions. The soundtrack is a pretty typical Hammer affair with the usual "Egyptian" themes.

Andrew Keir takes the top credit here in a role originally intended for Peter Cushing who was forced to pull out due to the ill health of his wife. Fortunately the Scotsman, called in after filming had already stared, fits the role well although the script leaves him bed-ridden for much of the runtime. The biggest role is played by the unusually attractive Valerie Leon in what is technically a double role (although as Queen Tera she just has to lie half naked in a coffin) and she gives a particularly strong performance. Mark Edwards who plays her fiancÚ (called Tod Browning in a not particuarly subtle reference to the Universal horror director) is sadly less impressive and certainly never seems to be the heroic lead that his part demands. James Villiers is perfectly cast as the slimy and mysterious Corbeck and although there are no familiar faces in the rest of the cast, performances are pretty decent.

Strong acting and a unique attempt to do something different with the Mummy mythos cannot make up for a lackluster script, cheap production and rather tepid direction. One for Hammer fans, but not particularly recommendable.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Andrew Keir - an occasional Hammer star who played the heroic scientist in Quatermass and the Pit (1967)
Valerie Leon - British beauty who appeared in six of the classic Carry On films and two Bond movies.
Directed by anyone interesting? Seth Holt - best remembered for his work on the Hammer thrillers Taste of Fear (1961) and The Nanny (1965)
Michael Carreras - a Hammer producer, he did direct their adventure films Lost Continent and Slave Girls
Any gore or violence ? Several quite bloody death scenes
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Hammer fans might find this of interest.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour.
Picture quality is strong with good detail and no damage. Colours are slightly paler than many Hammer films, but this is probably as per the original print.
Audio English mono - sounds fine.
Subtitles None.
Extras This disc includes:
  • Interview piece with scriptwriter Christopher Wicking and actress Valerie Leon. Some interesting comments on the making of the film. (9 minutes)
  • Picture gallery - behind the scenes and publicity stills. As a video file, set to the soundtrack. Contines into a radio spot, with promotional posters on screen.
Availability Available as a single disc or in the Ultimate Hammer boxset.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Available from Anchor Bay US, now probably OOP. Included a similarly strong print and the interview piece, also included TV spot and trailer (the first 10,000 copies included a bonus disc of Hammer trailers).
Cuts? Fully uncut. Print used is English language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 26th September 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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