The Mummy’s Hand (1940)

An archaeological duo, along with a magician and his daughter, get more than they bargained for while searching for the tomb of Ananka. They should have stayed in Brooklyn.

In an abandoned temple in Egypt, the elderly high priest from the cult of Karnak hands off his duties to his successor. He relays the story of Kharis, the living mummy, who’s kept alive by an infusion of tana leaves during a full moon. Kharis is meant to guard the tomb of the princess Ananka, and should anyone dare attempt to desecrate it, an increase in the amount of tana leaves will empower him to do whatever’s necessary to safeguard the crypt. The new high priest swears to the ancient gods he’ll fulfill his sacred vows.

MH1

In Cairo, archaeologist Steve Banning and his associate Babe Jenson have struck out on the discovery front, and Babe is ready to head back home to the States. Steve finds an urn in the marketplace, its inscription referencing the princess Ananka, and uses the last of their money to purchase it. All this is noticed by a nearby beggar. Heading to the Cairo museum, Banning shows the urn to a Dr. Petrie, who believes the piece is the real McCoy, but asks a colleague for a second opinion. The second man turns out to be none other than Andoheb, the newly minted high priest. He tuts that Banning got taken and bought a mass-produced souvenir. Handing it back, he drops it. Butterfingers, so sorry! Banning gathers the pieces and exits, with Petrie reasserting his belief in its authenticity and wanting in on any expedition to find Ananka’s tomb.

 

At a bar, Babe and Steve meet up with a stage magician, the Great Solvani, who agrees to finance their search. Solvani’s daughter, Marta, is none too pleased when she finds out. She confronts Steve and Babe, believing they’ve defrauded her father, an idea put in her head during a visit by Andoheb while her father was boozing at the bar. The Solvanis join the others in the expedition, and due to a lucky accident with some explosives, find the cave where Kharis is buried. The Egyptian diggers bail on the project, convinced the tomb is unholy and cursed. Lo and behold, higher on the mountain, the beggar and Andoheb observe the team entering the cave. Needless to say, Kharis is soon revived, and the killing of the tomb raiders commences.

The first mummy sequel, The Mummy’s Hand is a strange entry. The first half is comedic in tone, mostly through the characters of Babe and Solvani, and overall takes far too long to get to anything mummy related. George Zucco, as Andoheb, though great of voice, employs an over-the-top crazy-eye that’s downright distracting. Actor’s choice or director’s, it was a bad idea; fortunately, it’s abandoned in the more serious second half.

CrazyEye
BEWARE THE CRAZY-EYE!

The mummy wrappings are laughably bad, the lower portion looking like linen bandages slapped onto an over-sized pair of sweatpants. The mummy’s eyes and mouth were blacked out in close-ups, which does lend a creepiness, but the shots are so quick, blink and you’ll miss them. In profile and medium shots, they don’t bother with the effect, probably too expensive.

 

I’ve got questions about the Karnak cult member/beggar; it’s just too convenient that he’s always where he needs to be. Is Andoheb setting Westerners up to be killed while looking for the tomb? Seems that way, especially when Banning and company find the remains of a couple who went looking a few years earlier. Speaking of Andoheb, he decides to make Marta and himself immortal with the tana leaves, so they can be high priest and priestess for all eternity. This comes so far out of left-field, it’s in the parking lot.

MH6

Not surprisingly, the black-and-white cinematography is good, especially during most night scenes. I enjoyed the sections when they first entered the tomb and discovered Kharis, along with them trying to puzzle out the unusual burial. Visually, the most impressive part of this movie was the interior of the temple when shown in the last reel. It’s a sprawling set piece, with a huge, vaguely Egyptian looking centerpiece.

Not my favorite mummy sequel, but if watching the cycle, an important one. It changes Imhotep and Anks-en-amon to Kharis and Ananka, includes the tongue removal for blasphemy explanation, and introduces the tana leaves. A brief epilogue lays the groundwork for the next installment, The Mummy’s Tomb.  Although the second half is better, the first half of The Mummy’s Hand tried my patience. ** out of 5 stars (or 4 out of 10)

 

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