Egyptology Circa the Brits

Riding into Egypt, both American and British profiteers shrug off the locals. “They’re all alike,” spouts the crude showman Alexander King (Fred Clark), dismissing any warnings about unearthed mummies via racially tinged dialog. Hammer Studios used Egypt for its evocative locale and mostly disfigured history, same as Universal.

The difference between Universal’s Mummy and this 1964 production is one of time. Boris Karloff’s role benefited from public hysteria surrounding the real world discovery of King Tut’s tomb. Over 30 years later, that’s lost, and so it is that Hammer found themselves stuck, same as Universal’s meandering sequels: A tattered rag-covered, shambling killer doesn’t offer much to work with.

Occasionally creative in its framing… Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb can’t escape routine

Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb is better away from the undead monster, albeit crowded and disjointed. Villains come in multiple forms, although each twisting their own ideologies regarding relic thefts from foreign lands. Hopelessly casting obviously white actors in dark face paint to appear vaguely Middle Eastern aside, the script shows genuine concern over more western civilizations snatching historical goods for profit. All of the begging and pleading from Egyptians go unheeded, meaning the ensuing chaos happens only due to greed and indifference toward outside cultures.

It’s surprisingly layered too, one man hoping to display the corpse in a museum, but taken aback when he’s outbid by Clark’s exuberant promises. Either way, taking this artifact represents a loss to Egyptians, to which even the educated paleontologists fail to see. Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb delves into a political argument before unleashing stabbings and choke holds to service its horror roots.

Once reanimated, the Pharaoh smashes a bunch of windows, at least offering a glimmer of excitement until it’s questioned why no one simply runs past (or away from) their killer given the noisy introduction. Weakening censorship standards allows for increased violence, including hands cut off at the wrist, blood and all. The Pharaoh smashes a victim with a statue too, the camera holding to show four blows to the head, the gruesome sound effective enough to ignore the off-screen impact.

Occasionally creative in its framing, even daring at times given the long, complex takes, Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb can’t escape routine. Were this under Universal’s banner and sold as a modern sequel to their own series, not much changes. At least the script shows a willingness to explore public discourse concerning artifact robbery.

Video

Licensed through Columbia, this carries the look of an older master, mostly via the visible sharpening. Edges carry a distinct digital harshness, not helped by the color fringing native to the print. Luckily, this doesn’t mar a natural, well resolved grain structure, even through some low grade filtering. Sharing Revenge of Frankenstein’s disc, there’s enough room for the pair as to not impact either film negatively.

Spotty damage and dirt create few problems, nothing outside of expectations given the age. Some gate weave intrudes too. A newer master/restoration clearly isn’t happening, so Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb exists as is, and that’s more than passable. Decent enough resolution resolves fine detail. Not always significant amounts, if enough. Facial texture stands out when the camera zooms in. Wide shots wane in comparison, but helped by the jump to HD.

Well calibrated brightness gives the imagery life. Strong contrast perks this presentation up, inconsistent black levels not always so assertive. Still, there’s depth and dimensionality. Strong color provides fine primaries, especially the Egyptian costumes and gold artifacts.

Audio

Adequate DTS-HD renders the score’s highs without trouble. While loose, bass does make a show during certain action scenes. Drums nicely throb to accentuate the kills.

Clarity is high enough to pick up on Jeanne Roland’s dubbed voice compared to the precise, clean lines from others. No hiss, static, or popping happens.

Extras

Nothing.

The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb
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Movie

While at least trying to explore greater cultural concerns, Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb falls victim to its own generic plotting.

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