Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Mummy's Revenge (1973): or, Never Slip a Mummy the Tongue


It's no secret that Karl Freund's 1932 Universal Monsters classic The Mummy shares a LOT with Tod Browning's triumph of the previous year, Dracula. Boris Karloff's Imhotep/Ardath Bay and Bela Lugosi's vampire count are both creatures of ancient evil who find themselves in modern London, chasing down their reincarnated loves while dealing with the inconvenient intelligence of Edward Van Sloan and the pretty-boy uselessness of David Manners. Except for the opening tomb-crawl and the lack of a bug-eating servant, Imhotep really has more in common with Dracula than with any of the foot-dragging brutes in Universal's string of quality-dwindling sequels.

No stranger to repurposing monster lore to fit his unique cinematic vision, Paul Naschy took a similar tack when scripting his sole excursion into the land of the pharoahs, 1973's The Mummy's Revenge (La Venganza de la Momia), paying attention to his character's Egypt-specific lore while also infusing him with the characteristics of other cinematic monsters. And since the well-established Naschy Monster Mantra is always "MORE IS MORE IS MORE," he didn't stop with Dracula--he used elements of no less than five classic monsters together with one of his own most celebrated characters to create a Fusion Mummy that is pretty much unlike any other.

Shortness of breath was the Ceremonial Corset's main drawback.

We open in the court of Amenhotep (you see what he did there?), a brutal despot from a forgotten dynasty. From a portentious voice-over we learn that the Pharoah (Naschy, of course) and his wicked consort Amara (Rina Ottolina) rule over Egypt with extreme cruelty: "Amenhotep murdered beautiful young women, satiating his shameful, repugnant appetites!" Like you do. Of course we get to see a few of these unfortunate nubiles strung up in chains (CHAINS!) in the Pharoah's court and sacrificed in various ways. Later we learn that far from being the jaded entertainments of an all-powerful emperor, the sacrifices have a far more sinister purpose:
"Amenhotep, monstrous pharoah of Egypt, wrought the most horrendous tragedies on its people, making an alliance with the forty-two evil spirits of the unknown...Employing them for his own despicable crimes, drinking the blood of virgins and eating the flesh of his fellow man at diabolical banquets, he honored these same renegade spirits..."
If all that blood-drinking and flesh-eating sounds familiar, it should...but we'll get to that in a minute. For now the important thing is that the High Priest of Amen-Ra (who looks disturbingly like a slightly made-up Sir Ben Kingsley), spurred to action by the King's atrocities and the people's suffering, has Armana stabbed and slips Amenhotep a paralyzing poison before cursing him to the anceint Egyptian's worst fear: denied entrance to the world of the dead, Amenhotep is doomed to eternal life in his earthly form. Unbowed, the paralyzed king swears his descendants will carry out his will and bring him back for his revenge. Not exactly cursed from the pyre, but the same principle, obviously.

"I'll give you 15 for the grapefruits. How much for the dildo?"

Time passes. Eventually the tomb is discovered by a team of American archaeologists financed by the British Museum of Natural History, Stock Footage Wing, including repeat Naschy collaborators Jack Taylor (Dr. Jekyll and the Wolf Man) and María Silva (Curse of the Devil). Wearing enough eye-liner to make Ozzy Osbourne blink twice, Taylor quickly transports the golden Paulcophagus and accompanying hieroglyphic scroll back to London for further study. At a dinner party hosted by wheelchair-bound Dr. Landsbury and his young daughter Elena (Ottolina again--you see where this is going), Taylor spills the beans on their important find while Egyptian professor Assad Bay (Naschy again) listens with keen interest.

Of course unbeknownst to his colleagues, Bay is a direct descendant of Amenhotep, and with the help of his eeevil and completely SMOKIN' HAWT lady-friend Zenifer (ice-queen extraordinaire Helga Liné) plans to resurrect his forebear in exchange for the limitless power and immortality Amenhotep will doubtless grant him. And how will they accomplish this dastardly feat? By sacrificing seven virgins to the 42 Unknown Evil spirits, mixing their blood with crushed tana leaf tea, and feeding it to the Pharoah's mouldering corpse.

Of course seasoned Jacinto-philes will recall that Paul and Helga had teamed up memorably just a couple of years earlier in the classic Horror Rises from the Tomb as blood-drinking, flesh-eating eeevil aristocrat Alaric de Marngac and his lover Mabille, who likewise needed the blood of seven innocents in order to regain their diabolical powers after centuries of living death. Yes, de Marngac is the Dracula to Naschy's Mummy, right down to Paul's dual role as both the evil ancestor and his modern-day descendant.

Helga: a Perfect 10

Derivative? Maybe, but if you're a fan of the earlier film you won't scoff at the opportunity to see one of the greatest evil couples in cinematic history at it again, and Osiris be praised, Naschy and Liné are more than up to the task. It's not long before the pair have chained and tortured three finishing-school girls to get enough blood to jump-start the mummy. Soon the ceremony is complete (worth the price of admission for Helga's OMG HAWT Egyptian Nymphet garb, complete with headdress, Bo Derek-style braids, and a midriff-baring top displaying her frankly STUNNING navel in all its glory), and the corpse of Amenhotep walks among the living again.

The Pharoah has lost none of his beefiness despite 3000 years in the grave, and Paul wastes no time letting his audience know this is NOT your grandfather's lumbering pile of bandages. Neither slow-moving like Kharis nor shying away from human contact like Karloff's wrinkled spectre, the risen Amenhotep stalks through the museum, crushing a guard's head like a melon before heading out into the London fog to seek a proper body to house the spirit of Amarna--because like Alaric de Marngac, his first order of post-resurrection bidness is to reincarnate his WOMAN.

It's here that Naschy really fires up the stove for some fusion-cookin', as Amenhotep goes on a KILL-CRAZY RAMPAGE throughout London in search of the remaining virgins he needs to solidify his powers and raise Amarna from the dead. First he spies on a honeymooning couple through the window of their cottage, watching the girl undress before eschewing stealth completely to BURST THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR DANINSKY-STYLE, grab the flummoxed groom by the throat, and splatter his brains against the wall with a mighty flex of his dessicated triceps! After delivering this first virgin back to the temple, Amenhotep creeps through the foggy moors of Hyde Park, stalking another victim and again acting like some kind of awesome Werewolf/Mummy hybrid.

That's going to leave la marca.

But that's not all--next we see him walking nonchalantly by the Thames, scaring the bejeezus out of a London streetwalker (Jack the Ripper), leading two Bobbys on a merry chase through the fog-shrouded streets (Mr. Hyde), and descending into the shadowy sewers beneath the city where the feeble police are no match for his cunning and strength (Phantom of the Opera). Later Amenhotep somehow finds his way to some stables where he surprises a young couple in flagrante de hayloft, tantalizing with the possibility of an upper-story Mummy LEAP ATTACK but opting instead for a pitchfork spear to the young lover's gut. Why he kidnaps this obviously un-virginized chick is unclear; obviously this is a mummy who lives by his own rules.

Relations get strained between the Pharoah and his mortal servants. Inspecting the bodies Assad and Zenifer have procured on their own, Amenhotep expresses his displeasure by crushing each corpse's head like a cherry cordial, giving us several shots of pulped heads (complete with jutting teeth and what looks like actual sheep's eyes) that are miles above any of the other gore fx in the flick. When Zenifer starts planting the seeds of doubt about the Pharoah's good intentions toward them, Assad must choose whether to serve his master or stick with his girl.

Naschy's Buffet Du Babes

Of course Jack Taylor and his girlfriend soon get suspicious of Assad Bay, thinking he's faking the mummy attacks in order to revenge the looting of his country's tombs. Their investigation leads them further and further into danger; meanwhile, Amenhotep discovers Amarna's spitting image in young Elena, and so kills her father and one of the old man's servants (with a museum-quality pole-axe!) in order to get her in his rotting clutches. This leads to a scene in which it is strongly implied that Elena, hypnotized in her bedroom by the charismatic corpse, engages in a little between-the-sheets necro-boogie with her past-life love. How often does a movie mummy get laid? About as often as a hunchback, I'd wager.

Kiss of the Mummy

There are a lot of not terribly sensical but nontheless entertaining scenes scattered throughout the last half of the movie, including Elena's guilt over her father's paralysis, a few shifty-eyed corpses, dandyish footman livery, Taylor's investigation interrupted by a tree being struck by lightning, the wimpy archaelogist somehow employing a grappling hook to get himself and his girlfriend into Naschy's abode, Amenhotep shaking off bullets to the chest, arms, and face, and in the most unrealistic scene in the flick, Jack Taylor besting Naschy in a fist-fight. Which took me right out of the movie, I have to say--I can buy all the rest, but that shit would just NOT HAPPEN.

It all leads to a confrontation in the temple during the final ceremony that is typical Naschy excess (read: excellent) complete with a telegraphed face-turn, liberal use of a weaponized hanging kettle (aka HOT SOUP WRECKING BALL!), and the deployment of every mummy's kryptonite--a burning torch--leading to the expected fiery cataclysm.

Amenhotep wonders whether he remembered to put the jackal out before locking up 3000 years ago.

The Mummy's Revenge has only been released once or twice in the US, on videotape, and according to the indespensible Mark of Naschy website, neither version is the true "hard" export version--you can tell there are several places where sex and gore scenes have been cut, and what's left is so suggestive you can't help but wish for that uncut print to turn up. (Don't hold your breath, though--the website further states "This 'hard' version is so elusive and sought-after that even Naschy himself has hunted for it.") As usual director Carlos Aured captures many effective compositions, with the opening Egyptian scenes and the atmospheric shots in the museum being standouts. And Naschy's script--well, MORE IS MORE IS MORE.

As for the acting, Naschy is in top form as usual, both as the modern day schemer Assad Bay and in the Kharis-style zip-up bandage suit as Amenhotep. His take on the Mummy as less a heartbroken romantic who risked his soul and lost it for love, and more a force of sadistic, sexually perverse evil steeped in the powers of the occult, is one I hadn't seen before, and a refreshing change. (However, the Pharoah's English dub voice here--all gruff and cartoon-villany--is unfortunate.) Liné is Naschy's perfect match as usual, cold and calculating, seductive and dangerous, elegant and ruthless. And enough cannot be said about the way she wears that Egyptian outfit. ZIGGITY ZANG. As for the rest, Taylor is wooden and stern as usual, and the remaining cast members perform their roles without distinction.

I'LL BE IN MY BUNK.

It may be true that I never saw a Naschy film I didn't like, but The Mummy's Revenge really brings the gravy. Fusion-monsters, self-referentiality, implied perversity and periodic flashes of disturbing gore, and a total WTF ending, all tied up with typically Naschyan plot developments and Helga Liné's navel to boot? What's not to like?

As if there were any doubt: 3+ thumbs. You can find this movie at various places on the internet, though sadly not on any official DVD release yet. Sacrifice a few virgins to Amen-Ra and see if we can change that, m'kay?

It's Good to Be the King


7 comments:

Tenebrous Kate said...

See, THAT'S the Ancient Egypt *I* am interested in, not the sorta-stodgy-and-stagnant one of real-life history that crushed my childhood dreams of scouring the sands of the Sahara in search of buried AWESOME. Everything I needed to know about eyeliner I learned from mummy movies, and it looks like I still have a lesson to learn here! Extra double bonus points for Ms. Line looking *stunning* in Cleopatra garb. Take THAT, Liz! *rrrooooowr*

The Duke of DVD said...

A superb review as always, dear Vicar! This movie has a little bit of everything, doesn't it, minus the leap attack that almost was. Did you count the number of head-crushings in the movie? It must be a lot.

Extra kudos for inventing a word that will now enter my everyday vernacular: Paulcophagus.

Jenn said...

I've never seen anything with Paul Naschy I didn't like either and I can't BELIEVE I haven't seen this one yet! Because seriously, no one does a monster mashup like him! It's going on my 'to buy' list post haste. Now I don't know which I'm gonna prefer - Naschy as Pharoah or Naschy as Hombre Lobo?

The Vicar of VHS said...

@TK--This flick is all about the eyeliner, no doubt. Jack Taylor sports the most audacious example, and he's not even supposed to be Egyptian! As to my girl Helga--I thought I was in love before, and then she busted out the navel on me and made my devotion that much more devout.

I...like navels. A LOT. ;)

@DukeofDVD--there were at least 5 head-crushings in the flick, counting the Jackson Pollack-job Amenhotep did on the bridegroom (pictured). As to the Paulcophagus, it's really a thing of beauty, and if it still exists on our plane, I'm sure it will find its way to your trophy hall eventually. Dibs on sleeping in it when I stay over, though. ;)

@Jenn--Indeed, Paul gives so much joy with his gleeful monster mashes, he should really be counted an international treasure. Don't feel bad about not having seen this one, though--it's one of the rarer monster flicks Naschy did. It's available from several gray-market outlets, though--you might try Trash Video or Shocking Videos and see what you can find. And if you haven't seen "Horror Rises from the Tomb" yet, it's a great one, and will increase your appreciation of La Momia. :)

Aaron said...

Is there an English version of this? The only ones I can find are in Spanish with no subtitles.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Hi Aaron!

There is an English-dubbed version available through sites like Trash Palace (it's listed here: http://www.trashpalace.com/collectorsmovies/horror2.htm) and Shocking Videos. Be warned though--the voice they dubbed for Amenhotep is *not* as scary as it could have been, sounding more like a constipated Dick Cheney than a 3000 year old villain. ;) Happy hunting!

Richard of DM said...

I finally got to see this one yesterday (based on your review). And it's totally fucking awesome. The moment where he bashes the faces of the lovely female sacrifices... I was all :o

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