With this sequel, Universal Studios not only told the world that there was still life in the shuffling bandages of the Mummy but that they would also bring Lon Chaney Jr. back into the fold, the man who had created the role of The Wolf Man, rocked it as The Son of Dracula and he even had a turn playing the Monster in Ghost of Frankenstein, which makes Chaney the incomparable king of the Universal Monsters.
The movie picks up thirty years after the conclusion of The Mummy’s Hand where we find a grey-haired Stephen Banning (Dick Foran) recounting to his family the story of his long-ago encounter with mummy Kharis, with guests in his Massachusetts home that includes his son Dr. John Banning (John Hubbard), his girlfriend Isobel Evans (Elyse Knox), her mother Ella Evans (Virginia Brissac) and Stephen Banning’s sister Jane Banning (Mary Gordon), and while his listeners are entertained by his story of curses and walking mummies it’s clear they take these to be nothing more than tall tales and not factually based, meanwhile, over in Egypt, we see that Andoheb (George Zucco) had somehow survived being shot by Babe Hanson (Wallace Ford) and he now explains to the new High Priest, Mehemet Bey (Turhan Bey), that his mission is to unleash the Mummy against their enemies, “Now swear by the sacred gods of Egypt, that you will never rest until the last remaining member of the Banning family is destroyed.”
After the creature kills the aging archaeologist it’s up to his son to uncover the murderer, I guess you can’t worry the authorities about such things, but when Babe Hanson arrives in town his claim that it’s either Kharis returned or another mummy is quickly ignored by John and the police, that is until poor Jane is killed in the same fashion and with mummy dust found on her throat. That this killing is soon followed by the murder of Babe finally gets the authorities on the same page, which is “There is actually a mummy running around.” It should be noted that all these killings require people to be either paralyzed with fear or being completely inept in escaping a creature that has the top speed of an aging turtle, and this fact does lessen one’s ability to feel sympathy for the victims. We also get a silly time crunch added, with John having to solve the murders before having to turn up for military service, and one can only assume that this element was added here to remind the audience of the war effort, which I doubt many people in 1942 would have needed reminding of. Then things get even more complicated when Mehemet Bey becomes smitten with Isobel and he puts the “Destroy the Banning family” mission on the back burner for a chance at some American cheesecake and he orders the Mummy to kidnap the woman before she has a chance to marry John.
• Taking place thirty years after the events of The Mummy’s Hand this would realistically place the events of this movie somewhere in the 1970s, but as WWII is apparently still going it seems the filmmakers thought it would take the Allies three decades to defeat Hitler.
• Stephen Banning is able to recount his encounter with the Mummy to his family via clips from the previous film but as he was not a witness to all of these events we must assume that Banning is a bit psychic as well as a badass hero.
• No explanation is given as to why Andoheb waited thirty years to unleash the Mummy against those that defiled the tomb of Princess Ananka. Did it take him that long to find a disciple on the evil equivalent of Craigslist?
• Andoheb explains to his servant how the Mummy survived its fiery demise “The fire meant to consume Kharis only seared and twisted and maimed” but when he opens the sarcophagus it looks to be in perfect mummy shape.
At a running time of only one hour, The Mummy’s Tomb barely feels like a movie, worse when you consider that the first ten minutes consisted mostly of footage from the previous film and the explanations as to how Andoheb and Kharis survived the events of that entry were so lame that they’d barely pass muster for a matinee serial chapter. The casting of Lon Chaney Jr. as Kharis was an obvious case of stunt casting with the studio using his famous name to get bums in seats because anybody could have been in those bandages and as good of actor Chaney is, he certainly didn’t add anything to the role that Tom Tyler hadn’t already executed perfectly well in The Mummy’s Hand. It’s not like shuffling slowly towards camera takes a lot of acting craft. Then there’s the third act left-turn when Mehemet Bey becomes a victim of “love at first sight” and decides to use the Mummy to cockblock Stephen Banning and make off with the girl, which is about as lame as it sounds. One must assume it was a studio mandate stating that it’s not a proper Mummy entry if an unconscious girl isn’t being dragged off somewhere.
If seeing an unrecognizable Lon Chaney Jr. shuffling across the screen is enough to interest you then this installment may be worth your time – especially considering you’ll only be wasting an hour – but this entry is a definite step down from The Mummy’s Hand and doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the original Karloff film, and while it does have the stock tropes of the Universal Monsters, including torch-bearing mobs screaming for justice, there isn’t much substance here as all the characters themselves are thinner than 3,000-year-old bandages and the plot is laughably lame. This may not be the worst of Universal’s second wave of horror films but there is very little here for fans to sink their teeth in.
You can check out my other reviews here: Universal Classic Monsters: A Cinematic World of Horror.
The Mummy's Tomb (1942)
Movie Rank - 5.5/10
This entry in Universal’s second wave of horror films is a fairly forgettable one and the inclusion of Lon Chaney Jr. as the Mummy is as pathetic as it was unnecessary and while the sight of a mummy swathed in bandages stalking the streets of Massachusetts may seem intriguing out the outset, it’s not.