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Mystery And Imagination: CURSE OF THE MUMMY (TV) (Guy Verney, 1970) ***
Bunuel197631 October 2011
This is the third version I have watched of Bram Stoker's "Jewel Of The Seven Stars" but the first to be made and second-best in quality. Tops is still Hammer's BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1971; the title here being almost identical to their earlier entry CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB {1964}!), while THE AWAKENING (1981) – which I first caught in my childhood – did not live up to my memories when I re-acquainted myself with it not too long ago. For the record, there is yet another adaptation out there called LEGEND OF THE MUMMY (1998)!

Being a TV movie, it is a studio-bound affair but, even if the action is restricted to just a couple of indoor sets, the essence of the tale comes across well enough. The plot is pretty simple, what with the title telling all: what is interesting here (and, of course, the other renditions of the source material as well) is that, rather than having various characters being killed by a revivified mummy, the daughter of the archaeologist who desecrated the tomb of a Princess of Ancient Egypt (for whom she also happens to be a dead-ringer!) becomes possessed by her. One of the major differences – by the way, this was scripted by respected British film critic John Russell Taylor – from the Hammer version (which was a production fraught with problems and was shot almost contemporaneously) is that the Corbeck figure in this case is not an out-and-out villain (he is more of a misguided associate rather than a power-hungry usurper!). On the other hand, when we enter the proceedings, the Professor (as incarnated by Graham Crowden, he is made up to look far older and play it a lot more eccentrically – complete with a whole list of what and what not to do in case he perishes – than either Andrew Keir in BLOOD or Charlton Heston in THE AWAKENING, sporting as he does a fearsome beard!) is already ailing, though he eventually recovers, jolting the other characters when he does! Isobel Black is not bad in the central role but no match for the sensuous beauty of Valerie Leon (an ex-"Carry On" alumnus!), while her boyfriend is not a hip modern type as in the Hammer picture but rather old-fashioned hero Patrick Mower (flanked by a likewise standard depiction of a British Police Inspector).

The realization of the curses, shown in the other movies, are obviously not possible here: we only get a greenish emission of gas that is prone to put one in a coma. However, the gruesome severed hand – which is a pivotal plot point (since the Professor's daughter has unaccountably always carried the mark of the cut on her wrist!) – does come into play. The climax, too, is modest (indeed, rather confused so that I had to view it again afterwards!) but the whole proves eminently engaging and the film, one of the few to survive from this intriguing fantasy series (and, judging from the two that followed it, about the only one to be available in color!) reasonably representative of the quality British TV was capable of delivering during its Golden Age.
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