Seventy-five years ago on July 7, 1944, The Mummy’s Ghost released, the second of three films in which Lon Chaney, Jr. (The Wolf Man 1941, Spiderbaby: The Maddest Story Ever Told 1967 – read our retro review here) portrayed the mummy, Kharis. Directed by Reginald Le Borg (Joe Palooka franchise) he film also starred John Carradine (House of Dracula 1945) and Ramsay Ames (Beauty And The Bandit 1946). Since then, it’s been available in various formats from VHS to being remastered for DVD and Blu-ray. But, is it still worth a watch?
The Mummy’s Ghost, is dripping with the atmosphere that the classic Universal Monster Movies are known for. There are some great lighting effects that are absolutely beautiful in the remastered formats. At times, the soundtrack is subtle, allowing the actors to set the mood, while other times, it builds tension with its booming, timeless music.
The legendary makeup effects of Universal favorite Jack Pierce speaks for themselves here. The aged flesh and the tattered wrappings still hold up today, looking stunning in the remasters.
Lon Chaney Jr’s limping gait and immobilized arm enhanced the work put in by Jack, but moreso, Chaney brought his A game on this one. With nothing more to work with than body language, he was able to add an amazing sense of desperation and frustration in Kharis, making this my favorite portrayal of the character.
John Carradine portrays Yousef Bey, a member of a secret order of priests, sent to retrieve Kharis and the body of Princess Ananka from the U.S. and return them to their rightful resting places in Egypt. While doing so, he stumbles on the reincarnation of Princess Ananka (Ramsay Ames). This discovery complicates the original plan with disastrous results.
John Carradine’s Yousef Bey comes off as a mysterious, yet cliche-ridden, villain. He checks almost every trope of the time off the list, from his wide, unblinking stare to his emotionless tone when speaking. Ramsay Ames, however, does an amazing job of conveying that her character has a dark and hidden past without ever actually mentioning it. She still faints every time she sees the monster, but at least for her, it’s for reasons deeper than just being frightened by its appearance.
In conclusion, the atmosphere, makeup, and Lon Chaney Jr’s performance knocks The Mummy’s Ghost out of the park, but it is far from perfect. The story is a bit muddy, and Carradine’s portrayal, while fine for the time, hasn’t aged as well as the others, becoming a walking cliche. The strongest point for The Mummy’s Ghost is its ending, which steps away from the expected, especially in 1944. You will have to watch the movie yourself to find out what I mean… no spoilers here. It also does a good job setting up the following 1944 movie, The Mummy’s Curse. If you’re into the classic Universal Monster movies, this film is certainly worth watching, especially for the ending and Chaney’s portrayal as Kharis. If you’re new to the Universal Monsters, this isn’t where you want to start. There are far better films to choose from.