Thursday, September 22, 2011

#412. The Mummy's Hand (1940)

Directed By: Christy Cabanne

Starring: Dick Foran, Peggy Moran, Wallace Ford

Tag line: "The tomb of a thousand terrors!"

Trivia:  During a flashback sequence, scenes from the 1932's The Mummy were used to tell the new story, which closely resembles the back story used in the first film

Though sometimes mistaken as a sequel to the 1932 classic, The Mummy's Hand is, in reality, a “re-imagining” of the original. Along with expanding the story to include a network of assassins and High Priests, The Mummy's Hand also introduced the world to a brand new mummy named Kharis, who, though lacking the grace and intelligence of Karloff's creation, remains a monster you wouldn't want to meet up with in a dark tomb. 

Steve Banning (Dick Foran) and Babe Jenson (Wallace Ford) are a a pair of Americans whose plans to strike it rich in Egypt have thus far fallen flat. Their luck changes, however, when Banning purchases an ancient piece of pottery from a Cairo street vendor, one that reveals the location of the tomb of Princess Ananka, believed to house a treasure trove of jewels. After convincing a down-on-his-luck magician (Cecil Kellaway) and his beautiful daughter, Marta (Peggy Moran), to fund their expedition, the small group sets off into the desert, seeking fame and fortune. But it won't come easy; the Princess's tomb has been guarded for centuries by a society of Egyptian High Priests, sworn to protect it with their very lives. Now headed by the highly-intelligent Andoheb (George Zucco), the priests also have at their disposal a powerful 3000-year-old mummy named Kharis (Tom Tyler), a creature being kept alive for one purpose: to defend Ananka's tomb from all intruders. 

The opening scene of The Mummy's Hand, when Andoheb relates the history of Kharis to a young priest, is told in flashback, and contains a number of scenes lifted directly from the 1932 original. Aside from this, there's very little to connect the two films. For one, The Mummy's Hand features a larger number of characters than its predecessor. Along with the usual avid explorer (Banning) and archaeologist to assist him (Dr. Petrie, played by Charles Trowbridge), there's Banning's friend and partner, Babe Jensen, who serves as the film's comic relief, cracking jokes from start to finish (with admittedly mixed results). Cecil Kellaway's magician, known as Solvani the Great, is also good for a laugh now and again, and Peggy Moran's Marta fills the role of Banning's romantic interest quite nicely. But the most drastic difference between The Mummy's Hand and the '32 classic is the addition of an entire secret society. Zucco does a fine job as Andoheb, the often unscrupulous High Priest who also poses as the curator of the Cairo museum, and at his disposal is an entire network of spies, many of whom are able to infiltrate Banning's group, posing as workers. In fact, the film often leaves you wondering who can be trusted, and who can't, introducing an added level of intrigue not present in the 1932 movie. As for the title character, Kharis is more along the lines of the “traditional” creature: a lumbering mute that exists solely to destroy, certainly a far cry from Karloff's Imhotep, who relied as much on his wits as he did brute strength. 

Though not nearly as well-known as the original, The Mummy's Hand spawned three sequels, all of which tracked the further exploits of the mummy, Kharis. Along with being a solid remake, The Mummy's Hand was also a nice jumping-off point for the entire series.

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