The Mummy's Hand
the mummy | mummy | the mummy's hand | christy cabanne | griffin jay | maxwell shane | dick foran | peggy moran | wallace ford | remake | universal | adventure | fantasy | united states | eduardo ciannelli | george zucco | cecil kellaway | charles trowbridge | tom tyler
Film: The Mummy’s Hand
Director: Christy Cabanne
Writer: Griffin Jay and Maxwell Shane
Starring: Dick Foran, Peggy Moran and Wallace Ford
Now I’ll be honest, I’m pretty new to these mummy films from the Universal era. I don’t think I’ve seen any of them aside from when Abbott and Costello Meets the Mummy which I did give a bit of vibe from that one here. I was shocked to see that this is actually a remake of The Mummy from 1932, which at the time of writing this, I haven’t seen as of yet. I jumped to this one due to it coming out in 1940 for my Journey Through the Aughts segment on my podcast. The synopsis is an ancient mummy is revived to destroy the invaders of the 3,000 year-old tomb of an Egyptian princess.
We start this off with a man on a train. Later we learn his name is Professor Andoheb (George Zucco). He to goes to meet his father who is the high priest of Karnak, played by Eduardo Ciannelli, to which he turns over his position. He is dying and can no longer do his duties. It is now that we learn the history of a Princess Anaka (Zita Johann) and how she died as well as why her lover, Kharis (Boris Karloff), tried to bring her back to life with tanta leaves. These are the key to immortality. Kharis was then punished with mummification while alive and is doomed to live forever, needing a broth from the tanta leaves every cycle of the full moon.
The movie then shifts over to a bazaar where Steve Banning (Dick Foran) is with his friend Babe Jenson (Wallace Ford). Steve is an archeologist and discovers a broken vase that seems to reveal information about where Princess Anaka’s tomb is. They’re out of money and need to return to the United States, but Steve convinces Babe to give him his emergency money to purchase it. He takes it to Dr. Petrie (Charles Trowbridge) who believes he’s on to something. They take it to Andoheb who disagrees and breaks it. Steve won’t take no for an answer. Dr. Petrie and Babe are with him.
They need funding for the expedition. This brings them to a bar where they meet Mr. Solvani (Cecil Kellaway). He’s a famous magician that is heading back to the States with his daughter, but Steve and Babe convince him to fund their expedition, making him a partner. Andoheb has a spy in the form of a beggar, Sig Arno, who informs him of what has happened. Andoheb goes to Mr. Solvani’s daughter Marta (Peggy Moran) in an attempt to prevent them from searching for the tomb. She fails though as Steve convinces her of what they’re looking to do.
The four along with a crew head out into the desert, but they’re not alone. There are some ‘accidents’ that delay their dig and they also find a former archeologist and his wife buried under the sand. This freaks out the workers, but not our heroes. Andoheb is there along with the beggar. There’s another part to all of this. If Kharis (Tom Tyler) is given too much of the tanta leaves liquid, he will be an uncontrollable monster that not even Andoheb could control.
That’s where I want to leave my recap for this movie. Where I want to start with my analysis is that I’ve picked an interesting time to view this movie. There are the protests that are speaking out against white supremacy and this movie to be honest is problematic for a couple different reasons. The first involves the story in that Andoheb is tasked with protecting Princess Anaka’s tomb. I love Egyptian history. Andoheb is protecting her tomb from being looted and brought back to the US and put on display. There were some major issues with things being taken and sold as they’re technically grave robbers. From that point of view, I agree with Andoheb trying to keep them from hiding where Princess Anaka is buried.
It is problematic though as he shouldn’t be murdering to do so. The mummy Kharis doing it is fine as that is his curse for all of eternity for what he did. Andoheb using Kharis to hunt down those that are trying to discover the tomb doesn’t make it right. He also snaps a bit to become your typical villain for the era. I was surprised that some characters were murdered in this movie. I’m in the middle of it with my feelings for the reasons above.
The other issue I have is the actors playing these characters who are supposed to be Middle Eastern. Ciannelli is from Italy, Zucco is from Manchester, Tyler is from the US, Arno from Germany and the other actors are from elsewhere. I can’t harp too much as there probably weren’t a lot of actors in Hollywood at the time to match the race of the characters needed. They did at least select people that weren’t necessarily white for the roles.
Speaking of these roles, I did think the acting was fine. Foran is your typical hero in these movies. He isn’t great, but he fits the role. Moran really doesn’t have much of a role in this movie. She comes off strong at first and that’s about it. She fades to being the damsel in distress which is a shame with how she enters the movie with a bang. Ford brings comic relief along with Kellaway. I didn’t necessarily enjoy the magician angle personally as it doesn’t add anything. Zucco is good as the villain, aside from him becoming the clinched, diabolical character these types of movies tended to have in the era. Tyler is good with his size for the role of the mummy. The rest of the cast is fine aside from this.
The last thing that I really wanted to go over would be the effects. Being that this is early Universal, we don’t get a lot of them. The make-up for the mummy was good. I did think that worked for me. They did well with their set pieces as well to make this look like we’re in Egypt. They’re kept simple which I think really helps. The cinematography was fine as well.
Now with that said though, this movie is okay in my opinion. It is problematic in who we look at as the hero and who the villain is. At the time it came out not so much, but looking at this with 2020 eyes. The casting is fine aside from the issues I laid out above. The look of the mummy was good in my opinion and the movie has a crisp runtime of 67 minutes. I will admit, I did want a bit more as some of the characters aren’t fleshed out. Aside from that, the soundtrack fit for what was needed, but it didn’t really add a lot in my opinion either. I would say this is just over average and just lacking elements to really be good.
My Rating: 6 out of 10