Saturday, June 1, 1974: The Mummy’s Tomb (1942) / Monster of London City (1964)

Synopsis: Retired archeologist Steve Banning (Dick Foran) is regaling his son John (John Hubbard) and John’s fiancée Isobel Evans (Elyse Knox) with the story of his strange expedition to Egypt thirty years earlier: how he and the members of his party found the tomb of the mummy Kharis and, breaking the seal, unleashed a horrible curse that brought the mummy back to life.

In a series of flashbacks, we are told how various members of the expedition were killed by Kharis, who was being controlled by the high priest Andoheb (George Zucco). In the end the mummy was destroyed and Steve and the surviving members of his expedition returned home.

John and Isobel find the story so fantastic that it isn’t clear if they completely believe it, but Banning claims every word of it is true.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, an elderly Andoheb is handing off his mummy-protecting duties to young Mehemet Bey (Turhan Bey). He tells the young man that the defilers of Kharis’ tomb still live; they must be tracked down and killed, and their line must be extinguished. Bey immediately makes plans to sail to Massachusetts, where the Banning family lives.

Once in America, Bey takes a job as caretaker in a cemetery, and from the caretaker’s cottage sets his plan in motion. Each night he gives the mummy the potion derived from nine tana leaves, which brings it to life. He orders the creature to kill Steve Banning. It shambles out to the Banning house and does so. The next night Bey orders it to dispense with Babe Hanson, another survivor of the expedition. This too the mummy accomplishes.

But a mummy’s work is never done, and we learn that young John Banning is on the schedule for the next night. Surprisingly, the ultra-disciplined Bey hesitates. He finds himself captivated by the beautiful Isobel, and disobeys his orders from Andoheb by sending the mummy not to kill John but to capture Isobel, and bring her to him. What he does not know is that the townspeople are becoming suspicious of him, and that Kharis is close to rebelling against his sacrilege….

Comments: While watching The Mummy’s Tomb, I found myself thinking back to the summer of 1999. In those days I lived in Saint Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood, just a few blocks from the 2-screen Highland Theater. Walking along Cleveland Avenue one afternoon I saw two magic words spelled out on the theater marquee: THE MUMMY.

“Oh boy!” I blurted out. “The Mummy!”

A woman walking a few paces ahead of me slowed and threw a quizzical glance back in my direction: grown men are not supposed to say such things in public. I lowered my head guiltily, then jaywalked across to the theater and bought a ticket.

The movie I saw that day was, of course, Universal’s “reboot” of the Mummy franchise, a “reimagining” that played more as a light-hearted action romp than a horror film: louder, busier, more violent and more expensive than the originals — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

This millennial Mummy reboot was certainly entertaining, informed by the same bubblegum sensibility that made Raiders of the Lost Ark go.
Nevertheless, I prefer Universal’s original take, as dull as its later entries sometimes were; as well as the Hammer mummy films that came along a couple of decades later.

Hammer films, it must be said, are an acquired taste. It’s important to encounter them at the right time and under the right circumstances, lest the blood-and-boobs formula obscure their gothic underpinnings. I first saw Hammer’s Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb at age 15; and seeing it I sensed that a new world was opening up to me.

Not a world of mummies or the supernatural — that was quite old hat for me. Nope, Valerie Leon had arrived in my life, and she was a different sort than the sugary girl-next-door types who had long inhabited American movies. Leon played a woman who smoldered with unfulfilled sexual longing. It just so happened that when I was fifteen, I was chosen to represent America in the global “unfulfilled sexual longing” competition, so I found her portrayal incredibly compelling; and at the same time I began to realize how prudish American movies were by comparison. We can see ample evidence of that prudishness in any Universal film of the era, but especially in tonight’s movie.

After all, each of the Universal Mummy sequels used sexual hunger as a plot device, but it was always expressed obliquely and never experienced by any of the women in the film. In fact the virginal female leads never display any interest in sex at all, beyond the occasional arch of the eyebrows designed to hurry her love interest along to the altar. The sexual longing in these films is entirely assumed by the hapless High Priests of Karnakh, a secret society so incompetent it can’t even keep track of one fucking mummy, and staffed by members so repressed that the appearance of a single attractive woman sends the most devout of them straight over the edge.

George Zucco’s Andoheb is the first to go bananas in The Mummy’s Hand, as he decides to abandon his vows because he likes the cut of Peggy Moran’s jib. Similarly, in The Mummy’s Ghost, John Carradine’s Yousef Bey decides that he’d prefer to wake up each morning next to Ramsey Ames, rather than a sarcophagus. In The Mummy’s Curse, Peter Coe’s Ilzor actually manages to keep his pants on, but assistant Martin Kosleck can’t. In tonight’s feature Turhan Bey is made the keeper of the tana leaf jar, but he fares no better: one look at John Banning’s fiance Isobel and he becomes a sex-obsessed wreck, turning Kharis against him when he opts to chuck his part in a 3,500 year-old mission in order to get laid.

This turn of events is foreshadowed early in the movie, when the newly-minted High Priest takes the job of a cemetery caretaker in Mapleton. The retiring caretaker is skeptical: why would a man want to waste his youth among the dead, when there is a whole world of living to be had? But the young man is adamant, insisting that he finds the cemetery peaceful. Like many religious fanatics, Mehemet Bey has drastically narrowed his life experience in order to avoid the temptations of the flesh. But he has outsmarted himself, because avoiding temptation has left him without the strength to resist it when it inevitably appears on his doorstep.
Which leads us to an almost archetypal scene in these movies: the High Priest of Karnakh has betrayed his vows in order to be with a woman, but he forgot to check in with the woman first. He has Kharis retrieve her the same way a black lab retrieves a downed mallard. Isobel wakes up, bound hand and foot, to see a stranger looming over her, delivering the Worst Pick-Up Line Ever:

It is your destiny to achieve the greatest honor that can come to a woman. You will become the bride of a high priest of Karnakh….for you I am going to forsake the teachings that have been handed down to us for generations without end….the secret that has kept Kharis alive all these years can be ours as well….after I have given you the tana fluid you will be immortal, just as Kharis is immortal.

Aw, what a sweet-talker, this guy.
You’ll note that the tana fluid device, which was never that convincing to begin with (exactly nine leaves to bring the mummy to life? What if the leaves are broken, or of different sizes?) is given a new angle: now if any human drinks the tana leaf fluid, they become immortal too. I can see the ad campaign now — TANA LEAVES: THEY’RE NOT JUST FOR MUMMIES ANYMORE. No word from the High Priests of Karnakh as to how they came by this information, or how mummy-like a human imbibing tana leaf fluid becomes.

Monster of London City


Synopsis: Actor Richard Sand (Hansjorg Felmy) has been enjoying great success in the title role of the play Jack the Ripper on the London stage. While the show is a hit, the violent script is considered quite shocking even by the jaded standards of 1964, and has earned the disapproval of polite society. The disapproval only grows when a copycat murderer begins killing prostitutes in the seedy Whitechapel neighborhood.

Richard has been seeing a lot of young Anne Morely (Marianne Koch) lately, and she has been falling for him. She brings him to meet her uncle, member of parliament Sir George (Fritz Tillman), but he is dead set against Anne getting mixed up with an actor — especially one who stars in as unsavory a play as Jack the Ripper. Sir George makes it clear that he much prefers young Dr. Greeley (Deitmar Schonherr), whom Anne has also been seeing.


But Anne has already decided that it’s best to break it off with Dr. Greeley, even though she knows it will mean the end of his friendship with Richard.

Unbeknownst to Anne, Sir George dons a billowing topcoat and slouch hat — exactly like that of the Ripper both on stage and out in the streets — and sneaks out of his house through a secret passage late at night.

Richard is becoming increasingly burned-out from the Ripper role, and he begins to wonder how long he can continue playing the part. But his agent Maylor (Kurd Pieritz) is adamant that he continue.

Meanwhile, comical private detective Teddy Flynn (Peer Schmidt) and his zany girlfriend Betty Ball (Charikila Baxevanos) set out to find the killer’s identity, drawn to the case by the large reward.


As the death toll mounts, Sand becomes the police’s prime suspect in the Whitechapel killings. Which only makes sense, especially when we learn he had spent time in a mental hospital in his youth.

But there are other suspects: where is Sir George going late at night in his mysterious get-up? Why doesn’t Dr. Greeley seem upset that Anne has thrown him over for Richard? And to what lengths will Maylor go in order to garner publicity for the show — especially when it is revealed that he wrote the show himself under a pseudonym and seems to be obsessed with Jack the Ripper lore?

Comments: Hoots of derision rained down on your humble and lovable horror-movie chronicler when he announced the appearance of a West German krimi on the evening of Saturday, October 30, 1971. While readers were willing to allow that a movie called The Door With Seven Locks was likely broadcast that evening, it could not have been the West German version from the early 1960s as the TV listings in the Minneapolis Tribune for that day suggested. Instead, readers insisted, the adaptation shown that night was most likely the British production The Door With Seven Locks from 1940, released stateside as Chamber of Horrors.

Even at the time, I was suspicious that the listing service had given us the right movie. But what to make of the listing for tonight’s movie, which is not only a krimi, but one that’s never had another film adaptation?

Nope, there’s only one Monster of London City, old chum, and this is it. So buckle up, we’re going for it.


The West German studio Rialto is fondly remembered for its output of entertaining crime thrillers in the early 1960s, nearly all of them based on Edgar Wallace novels. Monster of London City is an atypical example of the genre. It’s not based on an Edgar Wallace novel, it’s not directed by Alfred Vohrer, and Klaus Kinski is nowhere to be found in the cast. Instead, it’s an original story written by Bryan Edgar Wallace — Edgar Wallace’s son — and directed by Edwin Zbonek.

It’s not regarded as a top-tier krimi, possibly because of its shaky pedigree. But there are other reasons why critics tend to look askance at it.

While it has many of the hallmarks of a classic Edgar Wallace thriller (murderers with incomprehensible motives, leisurely police investigations, countless red herrings, zany comic relief) the plot doesn’t have much in the way of twists and turns. It’s really a showcase for a gaggle of eccentrics, any one of whom we’re asked to believe might be the modern-day Jack the Ripper.


Nevertheless, it’s quite an entertaining little film, with lots going on in every scene, and its fast pace is helped greatly by the cast, who tackle their parts with manic zeal. While it’s clearly a low-budget effort, the production values are solid and the exterior scenes at times manage to convey more atmosphere than you’d expect with this kind of movie.

Marianne Koch stands out as Anne; Koch is best-known for co-starring with Clint Eastwood in the ur-spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars (1964). Kai Fischer is also memorable as streetwalker Helen Capstick, who accuses the police of slow-walking the case because the victims are prostitutes. Dietmar Schonherr does very well as Dr. Greeley, and the character actors who populate the smaller roles are all interesting and engaging.

As distinctly minor as Monster of London City is, it’s worth a watch. Probably not the film to start with if you’re looking for an introduction to the krimi subgenre, but a solid entry nonetheless.

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