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Saturday, 3 March 2012

VALERIE LEON: HAMMER FILMS: 'BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB' REVIEW AND GALLERY


CAST:

Valerie Leon: Margaret Fuchs / Queen Tera. Andrew Keir: Professor Julian Fuchs. James Villiers: Corbeck. Mark Edwards: Tod Browning. Hugh Burden: Jeffrey Dandridge. George Coulouris:  Berigan. Aubrey Morris: Dr Putnam.  Rosalie Crutchley: Helen Dickerson.
PRODUCTION CREW:
Director: Seth Holt. Uncredited Additional Scenes Directed by Michael Carreras, Screenplay: Christopher Wicking, Based on the Novel Jewel of the Seven Stars by Bram Stoker. Producer: Howard Brandy. Photography: Arthur Grant.  Music: Tristram Cary. Music Supervisor: Philip Martell. Special Effects: Michael Collins. Makeup Supervisor: Eddie Knight. Production Design: Scott MacGregor. Production Company: Hammer Film Productions.


Based on Bram Stoker's novel The Jewel of the Seven Stars, Hammer's fourth and final mummy film is perhaps their best. Believed to be evil and possessing great powers, Queen Tera is buried in ancient Egypt by a group of high priests. They think that a ruby ring (bearing the design of "The Big Dipper") she wears is the secret to her powers, so Tera's hand is severed and she's sealed in the tomb. However, as the priests exit the tomb, they all have their necks mangled by an unseen force.


Centuries later, Professor Fuchs (Andrew Kier) and four other English archaeologists (James Villiers, Hugh Burden, George Coulouris and Rosalie Crutchley) desecrate the tomb. The breathtaking Tera is still remarkably preserved and her wound still oozes blood, while the severed wearing the rings remains not far behind. Back in England, at the moment that the tomb is opened, Fuch's wife dies while giving birth to their daughter, Margaret (Valerie Leon). Twenty years later, Fuchs harbors the Queen in his basement while other expedition members hold other relics from the tomb (a jackal's skull, statuettes of a cobra and a cat) and lead very sorted and agonizing lives--one of them (Coulouris) winds up in an insane asylum.


On Margaret's 21st birthday Fuchs gives her Tera's ring as a gift. This opens up a can of worms as Margaret has continuous nightmares and eventually becomes possessed by Tera's spirit. When Fuchs becomes mysteriously ill, a conniving member of the expedition, Corbeck (Villiers) enters the picture. He plans to use Tera's power for his own selfish purposes by partnering with Margaret to gather the remaining relics, much to the dismay of Tod (Mark Edwards), her archeology-studying beau. One by one, the Queen's spirit is responsible for a number of mysterious deaths, all having their throats minced in the same manner that the Egyptian priests perished centuries earlier.


BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB was directed with flair by Seth Holt who unfortunately died of a heart attack before completion (the shoot was completed by future Hammerhead Michael Carreras). Holt's previous Hammer efforts were SCREAM OF FEAR (aka A TASTE OF FEAR) and the Bette Davis vehicle, THE NANNY, both psychological thrillers. Here he delivers a gothic Hammer (though set in modern day), that's not atypical of their usual output. Visually splendid, the characters are rather cold and humorless, the settings suggest both seclusion and doom, and although dabs of graphic violence are offered throughout, this is the closest that Hammer has ever come to a Val Lewton impersonation.


The voluptuous Valerie Leon is perfect in the role of Tera/Margaret (with the help of a double who is also seen in a flash of rear nudity), furnishing the character with a combination of beauty and evil, stunningly captured on film (her voice was re-dubbed by another actress--presumably the same actress who re-dubbed Madeline Smith in THE VAMPIRE LOVERS). The well-rounded cast of character actors--a consistent attribute in Hammer films--walk through it all with dignity, including Villiers as the snotty and determined Corbeck, Kier as the weakening professor, and Aubrey Morris (the principal in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE), as a smiling family physician who falls victim to Tera's curse. The effects are pretty good overall (except for when Edwards evidently rubs a blood sponge on his neck to reveal a fatal wound), and technically, there's no real mummy in the film (unless you consider the final shot of disturbing irony).

BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB was released in the U.S. by AIP, often on a double bill with the abridged Jess Franco fiasco NIGHT OF THE BLOOD MONSTER, and sometimes with Hammer's DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE. The film was heavily cut to secure a PG rating. Anchor Bay's uncut DVD presentation is another stunner, giving us a flawless, crisp presentation letterboxed at 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced. Colors look sumptuous, and the mono sound properly emphasizes Tristram Cary's eerie score while dialog remains clear as a bell.

There are some nice extras, including a mini documentary called "Curse of Blood From the Mummy's Tomb"--a clever title not only for the death of Holt, but for the fact that Peter Cushing (originally set to play Fuchs) had to abandon the project after learning the news of his wife's passing. This includes interviews with screenwriter Christopher Wicking and star Leon who proudly admits to getting more fan mail now than she did 30 years ago. There is also a rarely seen British trailer, a TV spot, a still gallery (with lots of publicity stills of Ms. Leon), as well as radio spots accompanied by images of poster art from different countries.

There is an "Easter Egg" on the disc. On the "Extras" menu, click on the red ruby that Hugh Burden is holding and you'll see some stills of Cushing's brief time on the set! Travis Crawford writes the liner notes included in the 4-page insert booklet. The first 10,000 copies of this disc include a Hammer trailer collection DVD, included inside the packaging.

Review: George R Reis
HERE
Images: Marcus Brooks

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