Tuesday, September 8, 2015


"A severed hand beckons from an open grave !"

     Thanks to a couple oft printed stills in Famous Monsters this film became somewhat of a holy grail for me circa 12 years old, as Valerie Leon's buxom reposed "mummy" complete with a severed hand crawling across her mummy tummy (that sure wasn't Lon Chaney Jr. lying there) was forever ingrained in my little monster mind and consequently throughout the years I've always tried my best to like Hammer's BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB. Released in 1971, it truly seemed to be a cursed production as leading man Peter Cushing was forced to drop out after one days filming because of his wife's illness and director Seth Holt died of a heart attack one week before filming was to be completed whereupon Hammer executive producer Michael Carreras completed the film.
     Hammer never seemed to have much luck with its mummy franchise after the masterful THE MUMMY from 1959 (which is my favorite Hammer and Chris Lee's best performance IMO) as they seemed to discover much the same thing that Universal discovered in doing their cycle - with that even the mummy itself being a frightening visage of horror, there really isn't a whole lot you can do with him (or her as the case may be). The basic & predictable premise of a shambling undead creature killing various slow moving victims was brought painfully to the forefront in Hammer's lackluster 1964 CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB while 1967's THE MUMMY'S SHROUD though also fairly reviled has always been a guilty pleasure for me. It chalks up some pretty inventive mummy kills, has a couple of strong female leads and contains an exquisite performance by the incomparable Michael Ripper.

      Based upon the "other novel" by Bram Stoker The Jewel of the Seven Stars (which was also the basis for 1980's THE AWAKENING) BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB was probably looked upon by Hammer as the chance to take the mummy mythos into some different territory and get away from a resurrected & pissed off monster in bandages knocking off people who desecrate a tomb. Stoker's novel is a pretty good read (I prefer it over Dracula) and with its blending of Victorian Egyptology, mystery and mysticism it could be an intriguing basis for a movie - which makes it a bit strange that the movie versions a all fall a bit flat.
      By 1971 Hammer's fortunes were starting to sag a bit as the studio endured a string of rather iffy films along with increased competition for their patented Gothic horrors, but they did turn things around a bit with the likes of TWINS OF EVIL, COUNTESS DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL and VAMPIRE CIRCUS. Looking to perhaps to revive the mummy franchise they cast Peter Cushing and cranked up the publicity machine with the desirable form of Valerie in her eye popping Egyptian formal wear front & center (which seems to have the subject of about a gazillion stills).
     In spite of a sarcophagus full of issues, BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB has a fair number of things to like as it features a strong performance by the ever reliable Andrew Keir (filling the nearly impossible shoes of Cushing), nice work from some familiar British character faces, in addition thanks to Hammer ace cinematographer Arthur Grant its a handsome looking production and of course there's the exotic beauty of Valerie Leon.

     For their adaptation Hammer updated Stoker's novel to a contemporary 1971 setting - which does work better here then in DRACULA A.D. 1972. Archaeologist Professor Fuchs (Keir) leads an expedition into Egypt to locate the cursed tomb of an evil  princess. Locating the resting place of the Princess Tara ( Valerie Leon in a dual role) they remarkably find her perfectly (and I mean perfectly) preserved body. Earlier we were shown a flashback (the first of several) that show the princess being entombed with her hand being cut off and thrown to a pack of jackals by a group of priests. The now ravaged hand scuttles across the desert and the priests have their throats bloodily torn out by an unseen force outside the tomb.
     At the same time the archaeologist team is entering the tomb back in London Fuch's wife dies giving birth to a daughter. Along the perfectly preserved body of Tara they also find her bloody stump and disembodied hand both oozing blood (shown in glorious close-up). The entire group seemingly falls under the spell of the evil princess with Fuch's taking Tara back to his London home, even building a replica of her tomb in his basement where she lays in state. Fuch's also insists each one of them take one of the artifacts from the tomb for safekeeping.

    Flash forward to 1971 with Fuch's now matured daughter Margaret (Leon) becoming increasingly agitated by strange dreams (along with being a dead ringer for Tara down in the basement) with a strange man watching the proceedings from an a vacant house across the street. The stranger is Corbeck (a smarmy evil performance by James Villiers), another member of the archaeological team who is determined to initiate the resurrection of Tara through the mind and body of Margaret. To kick start this process the other relics must be collected which the periodically possessed Margaret does by killing off the other members of the expedition by an ever increasing number of throats being bloodily ripped out including her doctor played by the wonderful British character actor Aubrey Morris (who passed away this past July 15) and who sports an unbelievable pair of glasses.  
     As the bodies begin to pile up (causing seemingly not much concern to the cast or the absent police) Margaret's boyfriend (Mark Edwards from HORROR ON SNAPE ISLAND) who is named Tod Browning (!) tries without much success to figure out what's happening to her while her father (Keir) who was wounded in throat by an earlier encounter with Tara's spirit climbs out of bed occasionally to utter warnings to the cast or haul away the stray victim.


    Bringing something different to the mummy table (although the open ended closing shot shows us a wrapped Margaret and/or Tara in the hospital), it's a shame this isn't a better movie as lurking in the plot is the making of a classic latter day Hammer. The supporting cast is wonderful but the leads fall a bit short. Keir is a wonderful actor (he's my favorite Quatermass for is work in 1967's QUATERMASS AND THE PIT) but he doesn't really work in this role. Although to be fair it was thrust on him at at the last minute but he lacks the pathos and humanity that Cushing would have brought to the role as Keir seems to be half off his rocker from the get-go.
      I'm the first to admit that Valerie Leon (a veteran of several of the CARRY ON... films) does make for one heck of a mummy (she also fills out a sheer nightie magnificently) but for the dual role of good Margaret/evil Tara she leaves a bit to be desired as her vacant blank expression throughout makes it hard to tell with what personality we're dealing with at any given time (although to be fair as with Hammer's tendency Leon was dubbed). She does have an undeniable exotic look about her (among the other assets that caught Hammer's eye), however one wonders what someone such as Barbara Shelly (even though she had moved beyond Hammer at this point in time) could do with this role or perhaps even Linda Hayden.
     One of the more gorier films in the Hammer canon as it shows blood spurting severed wrists and pulsating throat wounds (although the throat thing does get rather repetitious), the film would have worked better if it played up the mysticism of Stoker's story instead of just focusing on an ever increasing body count. Leon refused to do any nudity for the role (a mantra she always held on to - and for which I've always sort of admired her for), however there is some fleeting nudity delivered by an obvious body double. Valerie was offered the role in Hammer's never made VAMPIRELLA project (for which she would have most assuredly looked fantastic in) but turned down the role because of the nudity content.



  1. Shoot man, that first screen grab was enough to make me want to see it! But it is a shame about the refusal of nudity by the lead.

    1. That shot was what hooked me as a 12 year old.

  2. I don't think I've seen this one - and I think possibly that was due to the 60's Hammer Mummy movies - both of which were pretty lackluster after the awesome 1959 Hammer movie. I will definitely give it a watch if it's available. I wonder if I have it in the video vault? Is it on any Hammer sets?

    1. Hi Craig,

      It came out years ago on DVD from Anchor Bay when they were doing the Hammer stuff. I haven't seen it anywhere else.