“For who shall defile the temples of the ancient gods, a cruel and violent death shall be his fate, and never shall his soul find rest unto eternity. Such is the curse of Amon-Ra, king of all the gods.”
Remember The Mummy (1931)? Remember how much time, attention, and detail went into that movie? Remember how great Boris Karloff was as the multi-faceted villain and how well he played against the heroes played by Zita Johann, David Manners, and Edward Van Sloan? Well, you can say goodbye to all that, because today we’re talking about the cheap, lazy, and disappointing The Mummy’s Hand (1940).
The Mummy’s Hand does not continue the story of The Mummy, but instead recrafts its mythology for a brand-new story brought to us as a B-Movie.
The luck of unsuccessful archeologist Steve Banning (Dick Foran) and his friend Babe Jenson (Wallace Ford) changes when they come across an ancient vase that may just show the location of Princess Ananka’s tomb.
They take the vase to the Cairo museum to be inspected by two elite archeologists, Dr. Petrie (Charles Trowbridge) and Andoheb (George Zucco). Petrie believes the vase to be genuine. Andoheb says it’s a fake.
Steve, Babe, and Petrie decide to go to the dig site and try their luck anyway. There’s only one problem: money. Luckily, Steve and Babe run across a supposedly wealthy American magician, Solvani (Cecil Kellaway), who loans them the needed $2,000 for the expedition.
Solvani’s daughter, Marta (Peggy Moran), insists on going with the guys as she’s wary of this deal, convinced it’s some sort of scam.
Danger awaits our heroes as they uncover the tomb of high priest Kharis (Tom Tyler), who attempted to bring his lover, Princess Ananka, back to life through the power of then-sacred and now rare (and fictional) tana leaves.
Kharis had his tongue cut out and was mummified alive. He has been kept semi-alive through the tana leaves, and he is made to walk among men again should anyone attempt to defile the princess’s tomb.
Pulling Kharis’s strings are the descendants of the Egyptian priests. Unbeknownst to our protagonists, the leader of the priests is Andoheb.
There are certainly similarities between this and The Mummy, but The Mummy’s Hand is mostly its own story. Thumbs up! The story The Mummy’s Hand comes up with is unfortunately worse than the Karloff film. Thumbs down!
The Mummy was about romance and good vs. evil, the twisted Imhotep determined to bring back his great love, Princess Ankh-es-en-amon, at any cost. The Mummy’s Hand has none of the pathos that came with the earlier story.
The Kharis mummy doesn’t even come to life until the last 20 minutes of the movie. When he does, he’s merely an pawn of Andoheb. He has no personality, and nothing about him is memorable.
Our heroes are made up of stereotypes (the heroic male lead, the feisty female, the dimwitted comic relief, and the eccentric), but they do their jobs just fine (well, okay, I guess the lead is a bit boring). The best of the lot was Solvani. He’s a ridiculous character but a charming one.
Sadly, the protagonists remain ignorant of the very alive mummy for most of the film, our male lead not coming face-to-face with him until the last three minutes.
Most of the film feels like a first act. It leaves little room for us to get to know the protagonists and care much about their possible demise.
So haphazard is the movie’s finale that an important plot point that would normally be given 20 or more minutes to develop is crammed awkwardly into the last five minutes just to elevate the tension a little more.
Even as a B-Movie, The Mummy’s Hand could be a lot better. It’s cheap, disposable entertainment that doesn’t provide enough scares or laughs to make its existence that worthwhile.