Sunday, November 25, 2012


Hard to believe, but in a few days (November 30) it will have been 3 years since Spanish horror film icon Paul Naschy (aka Jacinto Molina) passed away. One of the great things about Naschy’s work is it is plentiful (100 acting credits to his name) and so diverse.  Sure, he is best known for his Waldemar Daninsky werewolf series, but the man has touched nearly every genre. This is what makes Naschy great, especially if you are in one of those “I can’t decide what to watch” fits.  That is where I found myself the other night, shuffling disc after disc into my DVD player with nothing placating that movie-viewing itch I was having.  Then I grabbed this and all was well in the world.

THE VENGEANCE OF THE MUMMY opens in ancient Egypt with Amenhotep (Paul Naschy), Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, ruling as a dictator over his people (nerd voice: they never say which Amenhotep as this period actually had 4 pharaohs with that name). To establish his cruelty, they show him and his bride, Amarna (Rina Ottolina), delighting in the torturing of three young women.  This has to be stopped and Am-Sha, High Priest of Amen-Ra, gets a servant to poison their wine.  With Amenhotep paralyzed, he is mummified and told his spirit will never be allowed to cross over into the afterlife and instead will lurk for eternity in the shadows.  Damn, Am-Sha ain’t playing around.

Fast forward a few centuries where his tomb gets discovered by Professor Nathan Stern (Jack Taylor) and Abigail (Maria Silva).  They take their findings back to the British Museum of Natural History where they share their findings with Sir Douglas Carter (Eduardo Calvo) and his daughter Helen (Ottolina again). (A firm date is never established but the style of dress suggests early 20th century.)  Of course, if you have an actress playing a double role, you know she is going to be the object of someone’s affection/attention later in the film.  This happens when an Egyptian man named Assad Bey (Naschy again) and his accomplice Zanufer (Helga Line) show up at the museum to check out this magnificent mummy.  Naturally, Bey is the descendent of Amenhotep and steals the body in order to bring him back to life. The rather elaborate process involves needing the blood of 3 female virgins (no wonder they didn’t set it in modern times). The mummy (Naschy once again under the make up) is resurrected and gets a twitch in his crotch bandages when he sees Helen, realizing he can use this dead ringer as a vessel for the soul of his old flame.  So now we'll need 7 more virgins to get her soul switched.  Stern begins to suspect something is not right and takes his fears to a police chief, who can’t be bothered (seriously, this guy is the least effective British officer ever and that says a lot).  So it is up to Stern and Abigail to stop these mummy worshippers.

THE VENGEANCE OF THE MUMMY certainly ain’t your daddy’s mummy.  Like he did with his werewolf films, Naschy has infused the script with his own style while paying tribute to the films that came before that he admired.  The film uses quite a bit from the Universal MUMMY series (especially the ritual involving leaves from a plant), but also grabs a bit of the style from Hammer’s THE MUMMY (1959) as well (the bandaged bad boy in this resembles the Lee incarnation the most).  Surely Naschy’s spin is nastier though and this might be the first gory mummy movie in the history of cinema (I wouldn’t count the Egyptian influenced BLOOD FEAST [1963] as a mummy movie).  Also, it might be the first film I've seen where the mummy seduces and kisses his leading lady.

Director Carlos Aured – who did four films with Naschy – offers up bloody stabbings and throat slashing.  There is even a guard who gets his head crushed.  Best of all, there is a sequence where the mummy smashes the heads of the virgins and the gore effect is something that could easily work today, nearly 40 years later.  Check it out:

This is also a handsomely mounted production by Aured.  Filmed widescreen, the movie has some really great locations. The house that Assad Bey does his rituals in is quite an ornate place and has enough age on it that it is downright spooky at times.  The filmmakers even managed to fit in some actual location shooting in London.  Sure, a lot of it is just establishing shots (like the earlier Naschy film 7 MURDERS FOR SCOTLAND YARD), but they do manage to get in one scene with Taylor and Silva conversing on the Thames with London Bridge in the background (don’t ask me why, but they decided to start this shot with a modern day cargo boat pushing by).  Seriously, you couldn't wait for it to pass?

Unfortunately, you have to take the good with the bad.  This Naschy feature is surprisingly light in terms of nudity as the only exposes breasts we see belong to Mr. Molina.  “Refund,” I hear you scream. Seriously, that is an egregious sin, especially when you have hotties like Helga Line involved.  I also have to question any film where Jack Taylor beats Paul Naschy in a fist fight.  A mummy returning from the dead?  I can totally believe that.  Taylor cold cocking Naschy with a 1-2 combo?  C’mon, Carlos, I can only suspend my disbelief by so much.  Finally, the really nice version of this out on DVD omits a scene (where the mummy interrupts a honeymooning couple and bashes the husband’s head against the wall before stealing his bride) that can be found on the Unicorn VHS tape (titled THE MUMMY'S REVENGE).  Of course, the presentation of the DVD will definitely make you feel better as viewers get a lot more picture information.  Here’s an example:

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