The Mummy's Hand

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For the Mighty Max cartoon episode, see The Mommy's Hand.
The Mummy's Hand
The Mummy's Hand Insert.jpg
U.S. Insert Poster
Directed by Christy Cabanne
Produced by Ben Pivar
Written by Griffin Jay
Maxwell Shane
Starring Dick Foran
Peggy Moran
Wallace Ford
Cecil Kellaway
Eduardo Ciannelli
George Zucco
Tom Tyler
Cinematography Elwood Bredell
Edited by Philip Cahn
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release dates
  • September 20, 1940 (1940-09-20)
Running time
67 minutes
Language English
Budget $80,000[1]

The Mummy's Hand is a 1940 black-and-white horror film, produced by Ben Pivar for Universal Studios. Although it is sometimes claimed by fans as a sequel or follow-up to The Mummy, it does not continue the 1932 film's storyline, or feature any of the same characters (except the Pharaoh Amenophis), and its plot suggests rather an unacknowledged remake of the earlier mummy film, that is, a reboot. It was the first of a series of four films all featuring the mummy named Kharis, the follow-ups being The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Ghost and The Mummy's Curse. Tom Tyler played Kharis in this film but Lon Chaney, Jr. took over the role for the following three sequels.

Plot[edit]

The film begins with the Egyptian Andoheb (George Zucco) traveling to the Hill of the Seven Jackals in answer to the royal summons of the High Priest of Karnak (Eduardo Ciannelli). The dying priest of the sect explains the story of Kharis (Tom Tyler) to his follower. The tale closely parallels that of the original film, except that Kharis steals the sacred tana leaves in the hope of restoring life to the dead Princess Ananka. His penalty upon being discovered is to be buried alive, without a tongue, and the tana leaves are buried with him.

The leaves are the secret to Kharis' continued existence. During the cycle of the full moon, the fluid from the brew of three tana leaves is to be administered to the creature to keep him alive. Should despoilers enter the tomb of the Princess, a fluid of nine leaves will restore movement to the monster.

Meanwhile, down on his luck archaeologist Steve Banning (Dick Foran) and his sidekick, Babe Jenson (Wallace Ford), discover the remnants of a broken vase in a Cairo bazaar. Banning is convinced it is an authentic ancient Egyptian relic, and his interpretation of the hieroglyphics on the piece lead him to believe it contains clues to the location of the Princess Ananka's tomb.

With the support of the eminent Dr. Petrie (Charles Trowbridge) of the Cairo Museum, but against the wishes of Andoheb, who is also employed by the museum, Banning seeks funds for his expedition. Banning and Jenson meet an American magician, Solvani (Cecil Kellaway), who agrees to fund their quest. His daughter Marta (Peggy Moran) is not so easily swayed, thanks to a prior visit from Andoheb, who brands the two young archeologists as frauds.

The expedition departs in search of the Hill of the Seven Jackals, with the Solvanis tagging along. In their explorations, they stumble upon the tomb of Kharis, finding the mummy along with the tana leaves, but find nothing to indicate the existence of Ananka's tomb.

Andoheb appears to Dr. Petrie in the mummy's cave and has the surprised scientist feel the creature's pulse. After administering the tana brew from nine leaves, the monster quickly dispatches Petrie and escapes with Andoheb, through a secret passageway, to the temple on the other side of the mountain.

The creature continues his periodic marauding about the camp, killing a native overseer and eventually attacking Solvani and kidnapping Marta. Banning and Jenson set out to track Kharis down, with Jenson going around the mountain and Banning attempting to follow the secret passage they have discovered inside the tomb.

Andoheb has plans of his own. Enthralled by Marta's beauty, he plans to inject himself and his captive with tana fluid, making them both immortal. Jenson arrives in the nick of time, and guns down Andoheb outside of the temple, while Banning attempts to rescue the girl. However, Kharis appears on the scene and Banning's bullets have no effect on the immortal being. Marta overheard Adoheb tell the secret of the tana fluid and tells Banning and Jenson that Kharis must not be allowed to drink any more of the serum. When the creature raises the tana serum to his lips, Jenson shoots the container from his grasp. Dropping to the floor, Kharis attempts to ingest the spilled life-giving liquid. Banning seizes the opportunity to overturn a brazier onto the monster, engulfing it in flames. The ending has the members of the expedition heading happily back to the United States with the mummy of Ananka, and the spoils of her tomb.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The And You Call Yourself A Scientist website places The Mummy's Hand in its historical setting among the franchises based on Frankenstein's monster, Count Dracula, and the werewolf: "It was The Mummy, however, that leapt rather than slid into the realm of the franchise." In place of "the serious, often disturbing, carefully-crafted works that had kept Universal in business throughout the 1930s" were now "B-movies – literal B-movies: short, inexpensive films destined for the bottom half of a double-bill, and intended not to frighten or provoke, but merely to entertain by providing a few mild thrills... as what today we would certainly call a 're-boot'."

The writer continues:

The Mummy's Hand ... devotes its opening ten minutes – out of a total running-time of only sixty-seven – to re-working the story of The Mummy into more usable terms. The scale on which the production is operating is also immediately evident. As would its three succeeding series entries, The Mummy's Hand saves costs by using and re-using long stretches of footage from The Mummy, invariably including the flashback sequence wherein Ardath Bey, the resurrected form of the eons-dead High Priest Imhotep, shows Helen Grosvenor, the reincarnation of the Princess Anck-es-en-Amon, the history of their lives and deaths. This footage actually includes shots of Boris Karloff, although it is not obvious unless you are really looking for him; while for the close-ups, and to alter as needed various aspects of the story, newly-shot scenes featuring Tom Tyler are interwoven with the recycled material... He was cast in this, his only horror film, because of his height and angularity of build, which were felt to make him a reasonable visual substitute for Karloff.
...The opening credits to this film contain three dead give-aways to its nature, in the names of director Christy Cabanne and screenwriters Griffin Jay and Maxwell Shane. Cabanne was a former writer and stage director who had graduated to silent film acting and from there to directing; over time he would become one of the most prolific directors in the history of Hollywood. Jay, meanwhile, had learned his trade writing serials; while Shane, although he would go on to produce the Boris Karloff TV series Thriller, had his greatest success writing radio comedies. What the three men had most in common, however, was not their vision or originality, but their ability to work quickly, efficiently and inexpensively. They were, in short, exactly what the new owners of Universal Studios were looking for in 1940... It is, therefore, not surprising that both the characterisations and the action of The Mummy's Hand are rendered in broad strokes – and nor is it that we should find amongst the supporting cast an Odious Comic Relief in the form of Babe Jenson, played by Wallace Ford.[2]

Design[edit]

And You Call Yourself A Scientist remarks that "Ananka's long-lost tomb is, apparently, not only an easy camel-ride from Cairo, but clearly visible from the road! The tomb itself is a wonderful piece of eye-candy, but it comes as little surprise to learn that, like the footage from The Mummy, it was recycled from another production, in this case the James Whale-directed Green Hell.[2]

Critical response[edit]

The film holds a 67% "Fresh" rating on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 9 reviews, with an average score of 5.8/10.[3]

Film critic Bosley Crowther wrote for The New York Times, "It's the usual mumbo-jumbo of secret tombs in crumbling temples and salacious old high priests guarding them against the incursions of an archaeological expedition, led this time by Dick Foran, Peggy Moran and Wallace Ford. While the scientists busily explore dank passageways and decipher weird hieroglyphics on tombs and chests, jackals howl outside, the native work-gangs mutiny and the mummy is always just around the corner. Once or twice Miss Moran makes a grimace—as if she had caught an unpleasant odor—and screams. Otherwise every one seems remarkably casual. If they don't seem to worry, why should we? Frightening or funny, take your choice."[4]

Graeme Clark, comparing the movie with Boris Karloff's and granting 6 out of 10 stars, writes, "This was no eerie love story across the millennia, this was straight fright fare with Universal Studios' least loved monster, here in the form that viewers would know him best, shambling, strangling, single minded and mute. A nice touch is that his eyes have been blacked out for his closeups, giving him an undead look. However, more than half the short movie is over before we get to the creepy chase scenes..."[5]

And You Call Yourself A Scientist says, "As a film in its own right, The Mummy's Hand is a brisk and fairly efficient effort, mixing occasional welcome flashes of imagination with equally enjoyable absurdities. ... On the positive side, the screenplay of The Mummy's Hand contains scattered reminders of earlier Universal horror films, with various cries of, 'It's alive!', and a reference by the old High Priest, in response to the howling of a jackal, to, 'Children of the night!'"[2]

In Popular culture[edit]

The Mummy's Hand has been featured on Rich Koz's Svengoolie show.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Michael Brunas, John Brunas & Tom Weaver, Universal Horrors: The Studios Classic Films, 1931-46, McFarland, 1990 p229
  2. ^ a b c "The Mummy's Hand (1940)". And You Call Yourself A Scientist. December 14, 2009. Retrieved December 26, 2015. 
  3. ^ "The Mummy's Hand". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 26, 2015. 
  4. ^ Crowther, Bosley (September 20, 1940). "Movie Review: The Mummy's Hand (1940)". The New York Times. Retrieved December 26, 2015. 
  5. ^ Clark, Graeme. "Mummy's Hand, The". The Spinning Image. Retrieved December 26, 2015. 

External links[edit]