When looking over the lengthy cycle of mummy movies, one in particular often goes heavily unmentioned, and that’s Spanish actor, filmmaker Paul Naschy’s take on the mummy myth, The Mummy’s Revenge / La venganza de la Momia.
Being somewhat of a tragic love story, The Mummy’s Revenge is rather faithful to the original Universal film and is also easy to compare to the 1959 Hammer reboot as well. What sets The Mummy’s Revenge apart is that it’s a Paul Naschy film, meaning it’s going to be a little more erotic, a little meaner, more fearsome, more violent, and more personal. There is also a sadomasochistic element too, with a number of maidens strung up for both amusement and sacrificial purposes.
The film is directed by Carlos Aured and is written by and stars Naschy. It is one of four collaborations between Naschy and Aured, with the other three being the seminal Horror Rises from the Tomb (1972), part of the Waldemar Daninsky Werewolf cycle Curse of the Devil (1972), and the Spanish giallo Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll (1973). The Mummy’s Revenge is Naschy’s second, and more focused, take on the mummy, as the creature did appear in Naschy’s horror/sci-fi monster mashup Assignment Terror (1970), along with aliens, the werewolf, Frankenstein's monster, and Dracula.
Just like in Vengeance of the Zombies, Horror Rises from the Tomb, and Howl of the Devil, Naschy plays multiple roles, an Egyptian cultist Assad Bay, his ancestor the pharaoh Amenhotep, and the mummy – bad guys across the board in this case. During the prologue, set in ancient Egypt, the pharaoh is painted as a sinister, sadistic tyrant, which is more in line with the mummy’s killer appetite. Owing to some elaborate makeup and Naschy’s muscular frame, the movie’s monster is an imposing, powerhouse of a mummy that can talk, climb, and move with ease, somewhat breaking the stereotype of the standard skinny, shambling mummy.
While gore may not be front and center, the film does have some gory moments, particularly a nasty head crushing part, where the mummy effortlessly, and quite wastefully, smashes the skulls of kidnapped virgins, one after another, in a line of rejected vessels for the rebirth of his beloved, because they aren’t perfect enough (it’s definitely one nasty mummy).
With a Paul Naschy film, one can almost always count on the presence of top-tier babes, with Eurocult fan favorite Helga Liné and exotic looking Rina Ottolina being the main attractions, who viewers can admire in both Egyptian and Victorian costumes. Despite having an erotic angle, there is surprisingly no nudity in The Mummy’s Revenge, which is unusual being that the other Aured/Naschy collaborations had their fair share of it (apparently there is a highly elusive "hard" version).
Liné has an interesting different look to her in this one, playing the villainous role of Sanofed, the lover and assistant to the cultist Assad Bay. She has both either a brownish red-haired or black-haired look at different times in the film. I’m a little more accustomed to seeing Liné as a sultry redhead, but seeing her with banged black hair, playing an Egyptian woman, is an enticing variation to her usual look. In contrast to her more conservative Victorian garb, she definitely breaks out the sexy when adorned in her belly dancer getup.
Ottolina plays a dual role, as well, playing the pharaoh’s concubine Amarna, from the ancient Egypt segment at the beginning of the film, and her descendent Helen. Anyone that has seen most other mummy films will probably know where the movie is going by having a descendent character that bares an exact likeness to the pharaoh’s beloved from thousands of years ago. When Helen and the mummy cross paths, the soul-mate like connection is actually something that works really well in this film, being a kind of inevitable return to ancestral romance.
I also like the tender connection that slowly develops between Helen and Sanofed. It's something that adds an air of ambiguity to the otherwise venomous Sanofed, who has a soft side when she’s around Helen. They meet up together alone in a lotus flower greenhouse and confide in one another (Helen is half Egyptian and was raised by her English father (Eduardo Calvo -- a familiar face in Naschy films) in London). It’s the start of an interesting atavistic development in Helen, who knows little about her heritage and is somewhat socially distant around most everyone else in London but seems to warm up to another Egyptian woman. Being that Helen’s mother is deceased, Sanofed ends up being like a mother figure to Helen, filling a void, telling her of the lotus flower and its significance in Egyptian culture. The theme of atavism explored herein strengthens the idea of Helen’s retrogression to a reincarnated Amarna after she meets the mummy for the first time, in what results in a hypnotic, bizarro kiss scene between human and monster. Being that this kiss is poignantly significant to the outcome, it perhaps would have also sufficed to call the movie The Mummy’s Kiss.
The traditional mummy myth in horror films was influenced by the fatal so called ‘curse of the pharaohs,’ a supposed real curse placed on those that would violate the pharaoh’s tombs, never meant to be touched or opened, with the killer mummy being the most recognized manifestation of the pharaoh’s curse in popular culture. An objection to the excavation of Egyptian tombs by western archeologists, with discovered artifacts being removed and transferred to museums in different countries, is very clear in The Mummy’s Revenge. Paul Naschy’s character delivers an inspirational line: “It’s paradoxical that we, the native Egyptians, have to travel around the world to study our own civilization”. The mummy’s revenge, here, not only has to do with the pharaoh being betrayed, dethroned, and entombed alive thousands of years ago by his own people, but the curse itself is also a kind of vengeance on the archeological “violation” of sacred tombs.
The always well composed Jack Taylor and Maria Silva are on hand as the primary archeologists and eventual heroes. There isn’t a whole lot to love or hate about Taylor’s role in the film; he’s still always a welcome presence for me. He naturally falls into more laid back, poetic, and intellectual roles, but he’s given a bit of a chance to breakout with some action scenes at the climax.
The set for the climax is awesome, but it does end up feeling like a hasty wrap-up, that feeling that it’s time for the main monster villain to die because the movie’s almost over. It’s an ending seen numerous times save for a nice little tragic inclusion at the closing.
The music by Alfonso Santisteban is terrific, especially the main theme, an epic piece that plays over the credits and the montage of London exteriors that nicely pulls one into the London location after the film’s prologue in Egypt. In a roundabout sort of way, the theme reminds me a little of The Legend of Zelda theme.
It has to be said that this is one beautiful film, with a number of sets that are a pleasure to behold, such as the nicely decorated Egyptian sets and the Gothic Victorian London interiors, where numerous characters usually stand and sit around in some of the more talkative scenes, which can be a little unexciting to those not digging the gothic vibe. Aside from a few exterior shots in London where traffic can sometimes be seen in the far background, The Mummy’s Revenge is an appealing and convincing era piece, both in nineteenth century England and ancient Egypt. It also makes for a cool, more adult, classic monster movie, with a little more of a Spanish horror style to it that might be of interest to anyone with a sudden urge for a mummy movie this coming Halloween. And most importantly, it will no doubt appeal to fans of Paul Naschy.
What are your favorite Paul Naschy films?
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