TITLE: Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb
YEAR RELEASED: 1971
DIRECTOR: Seth Holt
CAST: Valerie Leon, Andrew Keir, Mark Edwards, James Villiers, Hugh Burden, Aubrey Morris
SIMON BALL reviews Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)
Ancient Egypt and deathly curses are inextricably linked and if ever a mummy film was cursed it was Hammer’s Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb.
Originally conceived as a vehicle for Peter Cushing, he completed one day’s filming before being called away to care for his terminally ill wife Helen. Cushing’s shoes were competently filled the Scottish actor Andrew Keir, a Hammer regular who had taken the lead in Quatermass and the Pit in 1967, but then five weeks into shooting director Seth Holt suffered a massive heart attack on set and died in the arms of actor Aubrey Morris. Fortunately Hammer executive Michael Carreras was able to step in and complete the film.
Based upon Dracula author Bram Stoker’s second most famous story The Jewel of the Severn Stars, we are in fairly familiar territory. In Ancient Egypt a group of priests entomb Tera an evil witch queen. Fast forward to Egypt in the 1940s Professor Fuchs (Andrew Keir) and his team of archaeologists open Tera’s sarcophagus to discover her perfectly preserved body. Perfect that is aside from the severed hand that the ancient priests threw to the jackals outside, but has subsequently crept back inside the tomb (yes we get a little bit of creeping hand action going on here). Simultaneously in London Mrs Fuchs dies in childbirth. Her baby girl has a birthmark on her wrist exactly where Tera’s hand was severed.
Fast forward to the present (well 1971 as that was when the film was released in a double bill with Hammer’s gender bending Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde) and baby Margaret (Valerie Leon) is all grown up into the spitting image of Tera, not only that but the Prof has installed Tera’s Mummy in a basement shrine at their house. You know this isn’y going to end well. Fuchs gives Margaret the ruby ring that once adorned Tera’s severed hand. The ring bears the image of the seven stars which when they arrive at that precise conjunction will facilitate Tera’s rebirth and as luck would have it that night is fast approaching.
Aided by Corbeck (James Villiers) Fuchs’s former expedition mate, the spirit of Tera manifests itself through Margaret to take back the grave goods essential to revive her body from the other Fuchs’s expedition members. Naturally this involves a lot of blood letting and every murder is accompanied by blood oozing from the stump of Tera’s arm as she rests in her coffin. That night as Corbeck reads the Scroll of Life over Tera’s mummy Margaret reasserts control of her mind and together with her father kill Corbeck, but too late because Tera has reawakened. In the struggle that ensues the basement shrine collapses in on itself. Cut to a bandaged woman in a hospital bed, the sole survivor, the others crushed beyond recognition. Only her eyes are visible, is it Margaret or is it Tera?
As 1970s horrors go this movie is a lot of fun, it’s certainly a lot better than some of Hammer’s other sexed up permissive era efforts like Lust for a Vampire . Margaret was Valerie Leon’s only lead role. Having cut her acting teeth in the Hai Karate aftershave adverts and a number of Carry On films she did two Bonds, a Pink Panther and some TV before marriage and retirement. Famed for her cleavage she spends a lot of screen time in Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb in very low cut nightdresses, though for the one nude scene a bum double was used as Leon had a no nudity clause in her contract.
There are a couple of in jokes to watch out for in the movie. Margaret’s boyfriend (Mark Edwards) is called Tod Browning, just like the director of Universal’s Dracula and there is an estate agent board outside Corbeck’s deserted house with the names Neame and Skeegs, who are of course Production Manager Christopher Neame and Production Supervisor Roy Skeggs.