31 Weeks to Halloween: The Mummy's Hand (1940)
Out of the forbidden past... rises an ancient curse.. to destroy all who dare to learn... time's most amazing mystery!
Earlier in the year 1940, audiences saw the release of The Invisible Man Returns and just a few months later, Universal Pictures was back with another film in their monster franchise: this time a spin-off of the Mummy monster! The Mummy's Hand was the second Mummy movie to be released by the studio, and many people consider it to be a sequel to the original 1932 film, even though it contains zero references to the earlier film , as well as zero characters or anything associated with the plot line. While Boris Karloff was the "original" Mummy character, Tom Tyler takes on the role this time around and contrary to the 1932 film, you only see Tyler in the full Mummy garb - something a lot of first time viewers of The Mummy might expect, and don't receive. If you have come to see a true Mummy film, The Mummy's Hand would honestly be my first recommendation, over The Mummy; it is not unless you want to see the cultural significance or you want to do what we're doing and watching all the Universal movies that I'd recommend starting with The Mummy. As much as I love Karloff, The Mummy's Hand is filled with most viewers have come to see: a murderous rampage of a bandage-wrapped, ancient soul who has risen from the tomb! Tyler's role as The Mummy - known in the film as Kharis - is a thing of pure terror and will shock, scare, and scar you for years to come. And the entertaining, comedic, and engaging storyline written by Griffin Jay and directed by Christy Cabanne that adorns the iconic character makes The Mummy's Hand honestly one of the best spin-off films in the entire Universal Pictures franchise of classic horror films yet.
Believe it or not, the plot to the film has plenty of story in it, so allow me to sum it up very briefly: the film starts with the tale of the death of ancient Egyptian Princess Ananka, and how Kharis steals tana leaves to try and resurrect the Princess. After being caught, his punishment is to be buried alive out in the middle of nowhere in the desert, and the leaves buried with him. The tale says that the fluids from the brewed leaves is used to help keep the creature alive - it's essential his lifeline to life. Fast forward to then present day (1940), two dudes from Brooklyn are in Egypt doing archaeology work and are about to try and head back to the US when they believe they have deciphered the clues to where the Princess might be buried. They assemble a team and head out to the desert to try and find themselves a Princess! But what they end up finding is much, much more grim: the body of Kharis, that is now full of life! Will the Brooklynites - and the friends they've met along the way - escape the clutches of the dreaded Mummy, or will they succumb to his awesome mystical power?!
The film moves very quickly - clocking in at only 69 minutes - but it tells such a fantastic story in such a short amount of time! Immediately, viewers are thrown right into the heart of ancient Egypt and its lore. If the story alone doesn't impress you, the sets of this film will! Up until this point in the franchise, I think this film has some of the more intricate sets we've seen, besides maybe from the Frankenstein films. There's such beautiful sets that were assembled for this film, and so many great shots to see them in - if it wasn't for the film having so many Americans in it, you'd probably feel like you were actually in ancient Egypt! Our main characters Steve (Dick Foran) and Babe (Wallace Ford) only add to the greatness of the film with their witty comments throughout the movie. There's some pretty ridiculous comedy inside the walls of The Mummy's Hand, but it's that awesome 40's household comedy that is so pure and genuine that it's hard not to at least crack a smile at. Throw these two into the film with a Mummy, a few Egyptian workers and a beautiful girl named Marta (Peggy Moran), and you've got a recipe for one of the better lesser Universal Monster films we've seen in our countdown yet. It is a brilliant and fun film, probably the one I would recommend most outside of the big six. I loved love loved this movie! I thought Kharis looks terrifying and intimidating - as one should when you're an undead Egyptian - and his bountiful on-screen time is filled with some great action and adventure, and is a part of the reason one might argue it's better than the classic Mummy film. Check this one out!