A couple of comical, out-of-work archaeologists (Dick Foran and Wallace Ford) in Egypt discover evidence of the burial place of the ancient Egyptian princess Ananka. After receiving funding from an eccentric magician (Cecil Kellaway) and his beautiful daughter (Peggy Moran), they set out into the desert only to be terrorized by a sinister high priest (George Zucco) and the living mummy Kharis (Tom Tyler) who are the guardians of Ananka^Òs tomb. Written by
Jeremy Lunt <email@example.com>
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You are very beautiful... so beautiful I'm going to make you immortal. Like Kharis, you will live forever. What I can do for you I can do for myself. Neither time nor death can touch us. You and I together for eternity here in the Temple of Karnak. You shall be my high priestess.
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This is Universal's introduction of what would become the defining cultural image most people recall when they think "mummy"--Prince Kharis, a shuffling brute who never shed his bandages & dragged a bum leg behind him. Supposedly his right arm was also useless, yet it never hampered him when it came to the task of scooping up some nubile woman--clad in a form-fitting white gown--in his arms.
A secret order known as the "Priests of Karnak", keep the mummy alive by feeding him a brew made from the ancient tana leaves during the cycle of the full moon so that he may bring death to any infidel who dares to violate the tomb of Princess Ananka. In the film's opening section, in which Kharis' origin is being explained & a new high priest is being anointed, a tantalizing little nugget is thrown out by the screenwriters: Kharis must never be fed more than nine leaves per night or he will become an uncontrollable killing machine. Unfortunately, this potential plot-twist never goes anywhere in 'Hand' or the subsequent sequels.
To my surprise, the first Kharis outing is able to overcome the woefully unfunny antics of Joe Pesci look-alike Wallace Ford and the standard dry-as-toast performance from the male lead & be an entertaining 67 minutes of classic B-horror. George Zucco--The King of Poverty Row Horror--turns in a perfectly sinister performance, and Tom Tyler makes for a more than adequate monster, in a role not requiring a whole lot of dimension or nuance.
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