Oh boy, here we go; The Mummy’s Ghost and The Mummy’s Curse were quite a slog to get through and serve as a return of sorts to the classic mummy formula that started the whole genre. I recall that when I sat down to rewatch these films, prior to writing this review, I could not remember at all what had happened in them. I remembered something about reincarnation and the mummy being reanimated in a swamp at one point and that was about it. That being said, upon finishing both films, I was left with a warm fuzzy gratification that the Kharis series had reached it’s conclusion. Since the two films are basically telling one story, I thought that it would be fitting to include them both in the same review.
With both films being released in 1944 and both starring Lon Chaney Jr. in the title role again, Ghost and Curse serve as a satisfying conclusion to a rather unsatisfying series. While the Kharis series was enjoyable in its own right, it simply got repetitive after awhile and the viewers suffered for it by having to be reminded of the history behind Kharis and how the priests of Karnak control him through the use of tana leaves over and over again. Not only that, but moviegoers must have been clamoring for more at this point than a monster run amok. They may have been looking for something with a little more depth to it; and between the two of them, The Mummy’s Ghost and The Mummy’s Curse may have delivered.
Luckily these films don’t waste anyone’s time with a lot of backstory. Ghost gives a condensed version of Kharis and the Banning’s story before getting things started properly. Gone are the adventures of the Bannings and their various offspring; Ghost gives the viewer a return to the classic mummy story of a love that has endured for thousands of years. The cult of Arkam (not Karnak this time around for some reason) has been sent to America once again to return the Princess Ananka to her rightful resting place in Egypt by utilizing Kharis. This time, however, something happened that nobody saw coming; Ananka has been reincarnated in the body of a beautiful girl by the name of Amina.
The film is definitely derivative of its predecessors in that there are an unusual number of subplots going on which kind of makes getting a linear story out of this film a difficult task. There is a storyline with the local authorities solving a murder and subsequently trying the trap the mummy. There’s also, of course, a romantic subplot between Amina (Ananka) and her boyfriend Tom. Thrown in is the plot of Amina having to deal with her reincarnation as Ananka and the frequent blackouts and kidnapping that this entails. Like in the last movie, the priest, Yousef Bey, must deal with his internal conflict of staying true to his mission and his lust for Amina which takes up enough of the film to constitute its own story. Mix all of this together with the film trying to explain itself and you are left with a confusing mess which made me realize why I forgot what this movie was about in the first place.
All plot lines converge at the climax when Yousef gives into his temptation and attempts to run away with Amina only to be killed by Kharis. Having finally been reunited with his lost love, Kharis makes a run for it in an attempt to escape an angry mob lead by Tom who is trying to rescue Amina. While carrying Amina away, Kharis is chased into a swamp and drowns taking Amina down with him and leaving poor Tom in tears. Without any further ado, the movie ends with a happy ending for Kharis who was finally reunited with his lost love and a heartbreaking ending for Tom who wasn’t quite quick enough.
Picking up right where The Mummy’s Ghost left off, The Mummy’s Curse now finds us in the Deep South for some reason. This is something that has always bothered me. All of the previous Kharis films have taken place in Massachusetts; but now, since they want Kharis to be resurrected in a swamp, we suddenly have to be hundreds of miles to the south in Cajun country. While this isn’t entirely effective to the overall plot of the film, it is very distracting to someone who has been watching all of the Kharis films up to this point. But at least the filmmakers got some mildly offensive racial stereotypes out of the film’s new setting.
Anyways, a construction crew working on the draining of a swamp accidentally unearth Kharis. A new duo of priests named Zandaab and Ragheb take possession of Kharis and resurrect him in an attempt to find Ananka. Meanwhile, without any of the characters knowledge, Ananka also digs herself out of the swamp in what is truly an eerie scene. It really is unnerving to watch Ananka dig herself out of the ground and stumble into the water to wash herself off; the only thing I can relate this scene to is a zombie movie which the black-and-white filter makes all the more enjoyable.
And so, with both living mummies lurking about, the local Cajun population and construction crew are left to pick up the pieces and try to solve the mystery of why people keep dying and just who this beautiful woman wandering around the swamp is. The whole time Kharis seeks out Ananka who doesn’t seem to be aware of who she is. She shifts back and forth between her modern persona and that of Ananka with little to no rhyme or reason. It seems as though anytime she is exposed to something of Egyptian descent, she shifts to the mind of Ananka; a mindset that only a little misogynistic shaking can snap her out of. Yet anytime she sees Kharis, who is about as Egyptian as one can get, she runs away. As confounding as this is, it continues throughout the bulk of the film.
Finally, in the third act, Kharis catches up to Ananka and whisks her away to an abandoned monastery which the priests of Arkam are using as a base of operations. A struggle ensues between the priests as they fight over a woman named Betty who has been shoehorned into the plot for little more reason than to wrap the film up. Ragheb kills Zandaab in the struggle and as Kharis tries to kill the former for his crimes against the gods the whole place is brought down in the process. The whole Kharis series comes to a rushed end with Kharis finally being killed, in a cave-in of all things, Ananka reverting back to being a dead mummy and the priests of Arkam being killed in the cave in as well.
Now when I said that the two movies provide a satisfying ending to the Kharis series, that is more to say that it is satisfying that the series is finally over. Universal could have brought back Kharis a hundred more times since these two films ended in the same fashion that all the others have through the years, but they seemed to know when enough was enough. What makes these final two films stand out is a return to the plot devices of reincarnation and lost loves. Seeing Ananka struggle between her former life and her current life definitely adds a little more depth to the movie when compared to its predecessors and hearkens back to the classic Karloff version which started the whole genre.
In closing, the Kharis films were enjoyable if you like campy horror films that don’t make much sense. The viewer is, at times, left confused as to what is going on since the movies aren’t very good at explaining themselves. The sets and costumes are, in true Universal fashion, the stuff of legend and just about make up for the lack of story. I would highly recommend the Kharis films to anyone interested in Universal horror; however, do not go into them expecting to see more of the greatness that was the Boris Karloff Mummy as you will be sorely disappointed.