Sunday, 15 July 2012

Blood From the Mummy's Tomb (1971) - Review

As the horror genre was becoming ever-more contemporary Hammer was desperately - and, in the end, incorrectly - trying to set its pictures in the present day. Blood from the Mummy's Tomb represents just such an attempt. The Mummy franchise had for so long, and so effectively, utilized a historical setting to tell its story, so by pretty much eschewing history Hammer and director Seth Holt took a huge risk.

A risk that, sadly, doesn't come off. The issue here is with Valerie Leon, it's a flat performance. Acted with sincerity, but without charm, her Margaret holds back the final results seeing as it's the main role. See, she plays Margaret Fuchs who, on her birthday, is given a ring by her father Professor Julian Fuchs (Andrew Keir) that incites an ancient Mummy that was brought back from one of Julian's archeological expeditions. Once Queen Terra (the Mummy) gets going she starts to take control of Margaret, forcing her to kill. One member of said Archeological expedition, the villainous Corbeck, is dead set on exploiting this evil. Corbeck, played by James Villiers, is as subpar as Leon as he seems to be trying to emulate Peter Cushing's Van Helsing but has none of his icy coldness.
In fairness to both, however, the script isn't eye-opening and for significant periods there seems to be very little said at all. One triumphant sequence, in which an inmate is driven to insanity by a model snake (bear with me), sees Holt tilt the camera left and then right down the hospitals corridors until we find ourselves trapped within a close up of the patient. All the while Tristram Cary's melodic - but still frightening - score grows louder.

While fast editing adds to the sensation that these people are being watched by some over-bearing, all knowing presence. Trouble is, we don't ever really see this presence and in the few cases when we do, it's underwhelming. Also, for all Holt's visual flourishes, the narrative is murky, it's unclear what's going on half the time.

Overall, it's not the worst of the later-day Hammer's, but it's certainly not the best. Instead it's a salutary reminder that Seth Holt's early death was a real blow to British cinema.
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