Hard to believe, but in a few days (November 30) it will have been 3 years since Spanish horror film icon Paul Naschy (aka Jacinto Molina) passed away. One of the great things about Naschy’s work is it is plentiful (100 acting credits to his name) and so diverse. Sure, he is best known for his Waldemar Daninsky werewolf series, but the man has touched nearly every genre. This is what makes Naschy great, especially if you are in one of those “I can’t decide what to watch” fits. That is where I found myself the other night, shuffling disc after disc into my DVD player with nothing placating that movie-viewing itch I was having. Then I grabbed this and all was well in the world.
THE VENGEANCE OF THE MUMMY opens in ancient Egypt with Amenhotep (Paul Naschy), Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, ruling as a dictator over his people (nerd voice: they never say which Amenhotep as this period actually had 4 pharaohs with that name). To establish his cruelty, they show him and his bride, Amarna (Rina Ottolina), delighting in the torturing of three young women. This has to be stopped and Am-Sha, High Priest of Amen-Ra, gets a servant to poison their wine. With Amenhotep paralyzed, he is mummified and told his spirit will never be allowed to cross over into the afterlife and instead will lurk for eternity in the shadows. Damn, Am-Sha ain’t playing around.
Fast forward a few centuries where his tomb gets discovered by Professor Nathan Stern (Jack Taylor) and Abigail (Maria Silva). They take their findings back to the British Museum of Natural History where they share their findings with Sir Douglas Carter (Eduardo Calvo) and his daughter Helen (Ottolina again). (A firm date is never established but the style of dress suggests early 20th century.) Of course, if you have an actress playing a double role, you know she is going to be the object of someone’s affection/attention later in the film. This happens when an Egyptian man named Assad Bey (Naschy again) and his accomplice Zanufer (Helga Line) show up at the museum to check out this magnificent mummy. Naturally, Bey is the descendent of Amenhotep and steals the body in order to bring him back to life. The rather elaborate process involves needing the blood of 3 female virgins (no wonder they didn’t set it in modern times). The mummy (Naschy once again under the make up) is resurrected and gets a twitch in his crotch bandages when he sees Helen, realizing he can use this dead ringer as a vessel for the soul of his old flame. So now we'll need 7 more virgins to get her soul switched. Stern begins to suspect something is not right and takes his fears to a police chief, who can’t be bothered (seriously, this guy is the least effective British officer ever and that says a lot). So it is up to Stern and Abigail to stop these mummy worshippers.
Director Carlos Aured – who did four films with Naschy – offers up bloody stabbings and throat slashing. There is even a guard who gets his head crushed. Best of all, there is a sequence where the mummy smashes the heads of the virgins and the gore effect is something that could easily work today, nearly 40 years later. Check it out:
This is also a handsomely mounted production by Aured. Filmed widescreen, the movie has some really great locations. The house that Assad Bey does his rituals in is quite an ornate place and has enough age on it that it is downright spooky at times. The filmmakers even managed to fit in some actual location shooting in London. Sure, a lot of it is just establishing shots (like the earlier Naschy film 7 MURDERS FOR SCOTLAND YARD), but they do manage to get in one scene with Taylor and Silva conversing on the Thames with London Bridge in the background (don’t ask me why, but they decided to start this shot with a modern day cargo boat pushing by). Seriously, you couldn't wait for it to pass?