"The Mummy's Tomb", released in 1942 was the second of Universal Studios revived "Mummy", series of films and followed on from 1940's "The Mummy's Hand". These decidely "B", efforts struck a real cord with war time audiences anxious for any kind of escapism that took them away from their day to day worries and there ended up being four films made in a period of little more than four years that revolved around a rampaging Mummy. Despite an excessive use of stock footage from the first film in its first 20 minutes and having an at times unimaginative story to tell "The Mummy's Tomb", is still my personal favourite of these 1940's Mummy films. While most of the performances in the film are standard for these kind of "B" horror efforts, the two villians in this story in the Mummy itself played by Lon Chaney Jr for the first time, and especially the new young sinister High Priest played by a perfectly cast Turhan Bey really make this a most enjoyable effort. The film definately has a low budget however as was often the way with Universal Studios horror efforts they somehow managed to give "The Mummy's Tomb", some rich and very eerie atmosphere that in my belief makes it a standout in the Mummy series of films.
Despite the very pedesterian direction by Harold Young the film's strong points rest solely in it's great atmosphere and the sense of eerieness that it manages to project. The haunting night shots and vivid musical score also help to really give "The Mummy's Tomb", some memorable visuals. I agree totally with past reviewers that there is far too much use of stock footage from "The Mummy's Hand" and from the classic "Frankenstein", however once its own story gets under way it becomes a reasonably chilling tale that of course doesn't offer too many surprises. The main characters of the film are a fairly bland lot and as in most of these types of productions its the "baddies' who are the ones that are of most interest. Dick Foran and Wallace Ford, the two holdovers from the earlier film are quickly dispatched by a rampaging Kharis (Lon Chaney Jnr) so centre stage is taken by John Hubbard in the role of Steve's son John Banning and Elyse Knox as his love interest. Both are not terribly exciting performers and the film is stolen from them in my belief by the perfectly cast Turhan Bey in the role of the new sinister High Priest Mehemet Bey. Instructed by the dying George Zucco to take on the task of ensuring the proper revenge on all members of the Banning expedition responsible for despoiling the tomb of the Princess Anuka, he is the perfect "B" villian and with his deep speaking voice and goodlooking swarthy looks he holds most of the interest in this story. The best parts of the film are his scenes with Kharis and in the climax of the story when he tries to claim Isobel (Elyse Knox) as his own bride.
"The Mummmy's Tomb", despite its small budget, is a very handsome looking production. Universal had a unique way of polishing the look of their second unit productions and "The Mummy's Tomb" is no exception. The eerie scenes in the graveyard, the temple sets and the night scenes with Kharis hunting down his next prey are extremely well done and the windy dark settings for alot of the story really set the scene for an enjoyable mystery. The idea of relocating the action to Mapleton in the USA is a great idea and the story has a logical flow to it as Turhan Bey brings Kharis over in a steam ship to carry out his revenge on the surviving members of the Banning exhibition who had returned to the USA. Bey's dialogue in instructing Kharis of his plans are very well done with alot of Egyptian lore used to make the proceedings that bit more authentic. Lon Chaney Jnr, son of the famed Lon Chaney of the silent era plays here for the first time Kharis, the man condemmned to eternal suffering for loving above his station. He would return in the role for the last two installments in Universal's Mummy sagas, "The Mummy's Ghost" and "The Mummy's Curse" both released in 1944. Given the obvious limitiations of his character Chaney does well in the part even managing to inject the essentially one dimensional character at times with elements of sympathy especially at the stories fiery climax.
While Universal Studio's Mummy films of the 1940's were definately not classic material they served a good purpose for war weary audiences sick of hearing about the real life horrors happening all over the world, these films still have a lasting appeal to old time horror movie addicts like myself. "The Mummy's Tomb" tells its story without the excessive gore and violence that always seems to be present in any modern horror tale s this little effort is a good way to spend 70 minutes. As stated it's my favourite of the Mummy cycle because of the especially enjoyable performance by Turhan Bey's as the chief villian of the story. "The Mummy's Tomb", most definately is old fashioned horror and makes great late night viewing preferably on a dark and windy night with the lights tuned down. Enjoy!