The Mummy’s Ghost / The Mummy’s Curse

The Mummy’s Ghost / The Mummy’s Curse (1944)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Lon Chaney Jr., George Zucco
Extras: Theatrical Trailers, Production Notes, Biographies & Filmographies

It seems that successful horror films always generate multiple sequels and this fact was just as true back in the 1940s as it is today. 1932’s ’The Mummy’ was one of Universal’s great moneymakers and firmly established the linen-wrapped rambler as one of the four classic movie monsters (the others being Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man). As a follow-up to the original movie, Universal greenlighted what came to be called the Kharis series of four new mummy films. The third and fourth installments of this series are ’The Mummy’s Ghost’ and ’The Mummy’s Hand.’

’Ghost’ takes place on a New England college campus where a pair of students come face to face with the mummy of Kharis (Lon Chaney, Jr.), a lowly commoner who dared to love a princess and paid for this forbidden love with his life. Resurrected by Egyptian high priest Yousef Bey (John Carradine), the mummy comes to campus in search of the lovely (and I do mean lovely) Amina Mansori (Ramsey Ames) who just so happens to be Princess Ananka reborn. It’s ’The Dover Boys Meet the Mummy’ with a smidgen of ’Lassie Come Home’ thrown in as well (don’t ask, just watch).

’Curse’ picks up where the previous film left off except that the mummies (Lon Chaney, Jr. and Virginia Christine) have somehow found their way to Cajun country where some shady archaeologists are planning to unearth the star-crossed lovers and put them in a museum. Of course the creatures must first lay waste to the local populace before going on permanent display. ’Curse’ isn’t nearly as much fun as ’Ghost’ and the inclusion of a stock 1940s Hollywood racial stereotype for the film’s lone African American character doesn’t help matters.

Both films are presented in their original <$PS,full frame> formats and both feature fairly sharp black and white images. ’Ghost’ suffers from more physical damage to the film elements as evidenced by the constant nicks and blemishes that pepper the transfer. ’Curse’ is in much better shape but lacks the deep black levels of its predecessor. In both cases the video is certainly watchable and much better than what one would find on a late night television broadcast. It’s just a shame that no real restoration work was done for these second-tier horror films.

Audio in both cases is a standard <$DD,Dolby Digital> 2.0 mono mix. The soundtracks are fairly clear and only exhibit a bit of hiss and distortion. As is to be expected, there is little dynamic range but the music and sound effects never feel too constrained by this fact. Dialogue is always understandable which is really about all one could hope for in this case. A Spanish mono mix is also available as are English and French subtitles.

Extras include theatrical trailers, in-depth production notes, and cast and crew biographies and filmographies for both movies.

There is also one little quirk about the menu system that can be confusing. The viewer must select one of the two films immediately upon inserting the disc and then the only way to get back to this first screen is by pressing the ’Title’ button on the DVD remote rather than the more typical ’Menu’ button. It works just fine once you know the trick.

’The Mummy’s Ghost’ and ’The Mummy’s Curse’ are very pale imitations of the original mummy film. The mummy is a monster that seems to be creepier the less it is seen. Whereas Boris Karloff’s mummy was only rarely seen and secretly stalked its victims, the Lon Chaney, Jr. incarnation is front and center and boldly ambles about town. This lends more of an unintentional comic air as the mummy isn’t exactly the swiftest of the movie monsters and one wonders why his victims don’t just break into a brisk canter and easily outpace the foot-dragging killer.

But that isn’t to say that the two films are not enjoyable. On the contrary, anyone who grew up watching the Saturday morning creature features will certainly have a soft spot for these classic (I use the term loosely) horror films. The very short runtime also makes them much more bearable than they would have been as full-length feature films.

as wise to issue this third round of their Classic Monsters series as double-feature discs as the ’Classic’ in the title is becoming somewhat questionable. Audio and video quality are passable and for an entertaining night’s viewing fans of the genre can’t go wrong with this double helping of Kharis on the loose.