The tomb of Ra-Antef, son of Ramesses VIII, is discovered in Egypt by several Egyptologists and the project's backer, an American showman (Fred Clark), wants to exploit the mummy as a traveling sideshow. The situation is complicated by a smooth arts patron (Terence Morgan) whom members of the expedition meet on the vessel returning to London.
"The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb" (1964) is the second of four Mummy films by Hammer; the others being "The Mummy" (1959), "The Mummy's Shroud" (1967) and "Blood from the Mummy's Tomb" (1971). While they all have similar plots, each can be enjoyed as a standalone movie and I prefer this one to the overrated first flick, which overdid it with the dull Egyptian rituals and citations of sacred scrolls, amongst a couple other flaws. I also prefer it to the minor cult-favorite "Blood from the Mummy's Tomb."
While towering Christopher Lee made for the most terrifying mummy in the first film, there's more to a mummy flick than the monster. This one throws in a spirit of high adventure with the ship voyage, as well as a thought-provoking back story that is slowly revealed (I'm talking about the story of Ra and his brother), which explores the problem of immortality while stuck in a fallen world. It may sound good at first, but is it really? In other words, eternal life is only agreeable in a redeemed Universe.
On top of this is the subtle romantic triangle between John (Ronald Howard), Annette (Jeanne Roland) and Adam (Terence Morgan). A critic referred to Annette as a "wanton hussy," but she is actually classy and cultured. Her betrothal to John obviously isn't set in stone in light of her comments to Adam. Plus it's clear that John isn't very interested in Annette while the well-to-do and cultured Adam slickly woos her; and it doesn't hurt that Adam is the more handsome of the two men by far. You don't have to be an Einstein to see why Annette starts to veer toward Adam. Meanwhile she's not portrayed as having casual sex with anyone, so I'm not sure how exactly she could be accused of being a hussy. Roland, incidentally, is part Burmese and went on to play Bond's curvy masseuse in "You Only Live Twice" (1967).
Elsewhere Fred Clark's character, Alexander King, is a well-developed and entertaining individual. On the surface he's a crass, money-obsessed American promoter but, underneath, he has a spirit of joie de vivre and you can't help but see that he truly wants to share the marvels of Egyptology with the common person. In other words, his motivations aren't entirely selfish; he WANTS to share and educate, albeit in an entertaining and convenient manner, not to mention make loads of lucre doing it. His encounter with a prostitute on the streets of London also reveals a warm heart in a (seemingly) throwaway scene. Lastly, when he comes face-to-face with the mummy, there's initial shock and marvel, but then a smile of carny glee.
This all reflects exceptional writing that makes "The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb" one of the best in the Hammer series and, arguably, the best.
The film runs 1 hour, 21 minutes, and was shot at Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, just northwest of London.
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