Originally posted during 2019's Countdown to Halloween...
It wouldn’t be a Countdown to Halloween without a Paul Naschy film and the recent Blu-ray release of The Mummy’s Revenge (1975) from Ronin Flix was a perfect opportunity to include one. The title is appropriate because, in most mummy movies that I recall, the titular creature is a sympathetic character, a man who was punished simply for being in love. Here, though, he’s a bad guy from the start and is holding a fully-justified grudge.
In the 18th Dynasty, Amenhotep (Naschy) was a brutal pharaoh, murdering women to satiate his appetite. His reign was a “hallucinatory nightmare of blood and horror.” However, he had a “powerful enemy” sworn to punish him. He’s poisoned, mummified while still alive, and placed in a sarcophagus inside a tomb where he’ll stay until the end of time… or until a couple of eager archaeologists discover it centuries later.
Similar to Karloff’s 1932 original, Naschy plays a dual role, appearing in “present day” as a villain that’s meant to facilitate Amenhotep’s resurrection, Assad Bey. Of course, nobody knows that’s why he’s there, until he’s ultimately investigated and pursued as the bad guy, perhaps more so than the monster itself. Nobody wants to believe the truth. Also, similar to nearly every other mummy movie, Amenhotep’s ancient love is reincarnated into a present-day beauty.
Although sometimes a little soapy, the relationships of all these characters drive the plot forward. The archaeologists, Nathan Stern (Jack Taylor) and his wife, Abigail (Maria Silva), have a professional relationship with Sir Douglas Carter (Eduardo Calvo), whose daughter, Helen (Rina Ottolina), is the reincarnation of Amenhotep’s true love, Amarna. Helen suffers from the guilt of thinking she caused the accident that placed her father in a wheelchair.
Completing the core cast is the stunning Helga Line as Zanufer, Assad Bey’s right-hand girl that seems even more evil and sadistic than Bey himself. The Mummy’s Revenge has a higher body count than most mummy movies. The rituals to raise Amenhotep, then later turn Helen back into Amarna, require the blood of many young women. They’re abducted, chained in the villain’s lair, and sliced open to collect the sticky red fluid in pretty goblets.
Naschy’s mummy is somewhat unique in appearance and demeanor. First of all, he’s a little stocky; mummies are usually tall and thin. His wrappings aren’t just cloth strips; they include sturdier straps of some kind, making him a more fashion-conscious creature. He’s also extremely violent, either squeezing someone’s head until the eyes bleed or simply hitting someone’s head so hard that it’s reduced to a pile of mush in one movement.
The look of the film, particularly in the early scenes is either cheap-looking or artsy, depending on how you want to look at it. Amenhotep’s palace (?) is wide, open and sparsely-decorated. Curtains simulate walls and the space behind, stretching high above, is painted light blue. That’s where you can decide if it’s cheap (supposed to look like it’s outside) or artsy (abstract and beautiful.) Sets and settings become more traditional in present-day London.
Director Carlos Aured uses some techniques that make the film visually interesting, particularly in the early scenes, making me vote for the artsy approach. Following the opening credits, a painting of Amenhotep in his palace transitions into the live action. He also uses time lapse photography to simulate the passage of time. Light levels change and cobwebs appear, then suddenly Nathan and Abigail are hammering their way into the tomb.
I enjoyed The Mummy’s Revenge. Like many Naschy films, or even Euro-horror in general, it’s uneven and begins to drag a bit. It could have been tightened by combining the characters of Abigail and Helen/Amarna. Making her Nathan’s wife and Carter’s daughter would strengthen the emotional connection by giving Nathan a higher stake in her fate. That’s not what Naschy’s script gives us, though, so it’s not fair criticizing it for that.
Written by Paul Naschy
Directed by Carlos Aured
Starring Paul Naschy, Jack Taylor, Maria Silva, Helga Line, Rina Ottolina, Eduardo Calvo RT 91 min.
Released June 7, 1976 (Spain)
Home Video Ronin Flix (Blu-ray)
Rating 7 Waldemar Daninsky's (out of 10)