Blood From the Mummy's Tomb
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Lensed in garish Technicolor and obsessed with star Valerie Leon's admirably ample bosom and sultry looks, Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971) is pure Hammer horror: equal parts chills and thrills, unfolding in an often helter skelter manner. For The New York Times that was part of the fun. "It is not so much a fiction movie as a stringing together of direful devices, but I can think of few more guiltily pleasant excuses for overstaying a lunch hour, avoiding duty, or merely escaping the sunshine on a summer afternoon," wrote reviewer Roger Greenspun, who was especially enamored with Leon's charms: "a 500 per cent knockout" he enthused. Margaret (Valerie Leon) is the reincarnation of the ancient Egyptian priestess Queen Tera. The daughter of a famous Egyptologist, Professor Fuchs (Andrew Keir), Margaret dreams nightly about an Egyptian queen whose hand is severed by her high priests in hopes of limiting her supernatural powers. But Tera's evil won't be stopped. In fact, Tera entered Margaret's body on the day of her birth, 20 years ago, the very day Dr. Fuchs entered Tera's tomb. When Dr. Fuchs gives his daughter Tera's ruby ring on her 20th birthday, Tera's yen for power comes alive in Margaret.
Aided by a nefarious member of Professor Fuch's Egyptian team, Corbeck (James Villiers), Margaret begins a campaign to claim Tera's power for herself. She assembles a group of ancient tomb relics that will allow her to bring Tera's sleeping powers to life, destroying everything--and everyone--including her own fiancé Tod (Mark Edwards), in a mad power grab.
Blood from the Mummy's Tomb was based on Dracula author Bram Stoker's 1903 novel Jewel of the Seven Stars, adapted again in 1980 as The Awakening starring Charlton Heston and directed by Mike Newell (Dance with a Stranger, 1985, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, 2010). The production was plagued by difficulties from the beginning, seemingly haunted by an Egyptian curse of its own.
Director Seth Holt, who began his career as an assistant editor at Ealing, and later directed the Hammer film Taste of Fear (1961, aka Scream of Fear) was selected by former film publicist and first-time producer Howard Brandy, to direct Blood from the Mummy's Tomb. But Holt died before the production could be completed, with only one week left for filming; he suffered a heart attack on February 14 at age 47, the result of alcoholism and poor health. Holt was replaced by Michael Carreras for the final week of production.
The bad luck extended to the film's cast as well. Star and Hammer Horror staple Peter Cushing, initially cast in the role of Professor Fuchs, withdrew from the film when his wife fell gravely ill. He was called away from the set on January 3 and by January 13, his wife, Helen Cushing, was dead. He was left inconsolable, reportedly telling the BBC's The Radio Times, "Since Helen passed on I can't find anything; the heart, quite simply, has gone out of everything. Time is interminable, the loneliness is almost unbearable and the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that my dear Helen and I will be united again some day."
Blood from the Mummy's Tomb enjoyed mostly positive reviews upon its release. The New York Times said "for almost its entire length tremendous fun, skillful, and wonderfully energetic." Variety's critic declared the film "polished and well acted." In a contemporary review, The Radio Times noted, "director Seth Holt tried to radically rethink the mummy genre, and largely succeeded in creating a fascinating fantasy with a uniquely menacing atmosphere dripping in delicious irony."
Director: Seth Holt (completed by Michael Carreras)
Producer: Howard Brandy
Screenplay: Christopher Wicking, based on Bram Stoker's Jewel of the Seven Stars
Cinematography: Arthur Grant
Production Design: Scott MacGregor
Music: Tristram Cary
Cast: Fuchs (Andrew Keir), Margaret/Tera (Valerie Leon), Corbeck (James Villiers), Dandridge (Hugh Burden), Berrigan (George Coulouris), Tod Browning (Mark Edwards), Helen Dickerson (Rosalie Crutchley), Dr. Putnam (Aubrey Morris).
by Felicia Feaster