Thursday, January 8, 2015

La venganza de la momia (1973)

... aka: Mummy's Revenge, The
... aka: Vengeance of the Mummy

Directed by:
Carlos Aured

The mummy film. There really aren't very many good ones out there, are there?. Of course, there's the classic Universal version from 1932 starring Boris Karloff and some lesser but passable sequels throughout the 1940s starring Lon Chaney Jr. And there was a solid 1959 version from Britain's Hammer Studios with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, which itself spawned some fair follow-ups like Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971). Many people seem to enjoy Stephen Sommers' 1999 summer blockbuster version and its sequels, though I'm not too keen on them myself. Don Coscarelli's Bubba Ho-tep (2002) was an unexpected gem and mummies were used relatively well in a couple of comedies like The Monster Squad (1957). In other films, like Waxwork (1988), a mummy makes an appearance but isn't the focal point of the entire film. There are a handful of other mummy movies that aren't exactly good, but are enjoyable as camp. The impossible-to-hate WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964) fits that bill. Yet for the most part, sadly, mummy movies almost always fall into two camps: "awful and unwatchable" or "mediocre and forgettable." While Vengeance falls squarely in the latter category, it does enough right to be reasonably entertaining if the expectations aren't too lofty.

Psychopathic pharaoh Amenhotep (Paul Naschy) has made an unholy pact with "42 evil spirits of the unknown" and, as a result, has a insatiable appetite for virgin's blood and human flesh. With his faithful and equally sadistic concubine Amarna (Rina Ottolina) by his side, Amenhotep has his henchmen drag beautiful young women to his lair just to be tortured and killed for his amusement. But High Priest Anchaff (Fernando Sánchez Polack, looking great in wrinkly make-up) has had enough of his reign of terror. He has servant girl Aja (Celia Cruz) slip poison into Amenhotep's drink, then has his guards stab and slit the throat of Amarna. With both now dead, Anchaff decides Amenhotep deserves further punishment, so he places him in a sarcophagus in a hidden room and places a curse on him so his spirit will wander for all eternity in limbo. Thousands of years pass, and Professor Nathan Stern (Jack Taylor) and his assistant Abigail (María Silva) are about to make "one of the most important discoveries in archaeological history." I'm sure you can guess what that is. After locating Amenhotep's tomb, the coffin containing his corpse and all of the artifacts inside are shipped off to the British Museum of Natural History.

The papyrus scroll containing the curse is soon translated by widowed, crippled Egyptologist Dr. Douglas Carter (Eduardo Calvo), who runs the museum where the mummy is being housed. Not long after, the mysterious Assad Bey (also Naschy), claiming to be a professor working on a book, shows up there with his sultry female companion Zanufer (Helga Liné). The two learn the grisly instructions for resurrecting the long-dead pharaoh from the scroll and get to work bringing him back to life. First, they must sacrifice three young virgins on a full moon and make a potion from their blood to sprinkle over the sarcophagus. Three young ladies named Ann, Mary and Peggy out for a late night stroll end up fitting the bill nicely. Now resurrected, the mummy needs to claim seven additional female victims to obtain his full freedom. He gets to work on that, as well as trying to obtain an acceptable female body to house Amarna's wandering spirit in. And wouldn't ya know it, Douglas' half-Egyptian daughter Helen (also played by Ottolina) just so happens to be a dead ringer for her. For his assistance, Assad is promised power, riches and eternal life himself. Zanufer, on the other hand, may end up getting the short end of the stick when the mummy discovers she has grown quite fond of Helen and senses she may betray him.

Naschy's script (which he wrote under his real name Jacinto Molina) does nothing new with the mummy concept and the characters, blood sacrifices and reincarnation angle have all been carried over from the classic versions. The dialogue ("That's absurd... and incredible! It's impossible for a mummy to return to life!") and characters are also quite bland. Still, this manages to be entertaining almost in spite of itself. It's nicely photographed, the art direction is surprisingly handsome, the mummy makeup is very decent and the film is fast-paced; zipping along from one scene to the next. Best of all, there's an extremely high body count (20+) and plenty of blood, gore and action. The mummy, who possesses superhuman strength, squashes a security guard's head with its bare hands, skewers a guy with a pitchfork, axes an old man, roasts a face in a fireplace, ruins a newlywed couple's honeymoon (in a scene missing from most prints of the film) and kills three cops in the sewers. Numerous women are either immediately killed or dragged back to Assad's rented villa, where they are chained, whipped and sliced up by Assad and Zanufer. When Amenhotep disapproves of them as potential host bodies for his lover's spirit, he angrily crushes their hands with his fist, leaving behind only eyeballs, brain matter, bone fragments and blood.

The primary cast acquit themselves well enough and there are other small roles played by Luis Dávila (police inspector), José Yepes (deputy) and Pilar Bardem (concerned mother). A cut version of the film removing all of the gore and nudity was all that was on the market for some time (the main VHS distributor in the U.S. was Unicorn Video), but now there's a restored widescreen version on DVD in Spain. While it retains all of the blood and violence, the nudity is still missing from this print. It was the fourth and final collaboration between Aured and Naschy. The other films were BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (1973; also with Calvo and Bardem), CURSE OF THE DEVIL (1973; also with Calvo, Polack, Silva and Yepes) and HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1973; also with Liné paired up as Naschy's accomplice).



Piotr W. said...

Hey, you're back! You haven't been posting for the second half of the year... It's glad to see that you're reviewing things again!

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Thanks! Long story about my absence but let's just say I had a bunch of stuff pile up all at once plus computer problems on top of that. Good news is I kept watching / writing in my downtime so I have a stockpile of like 100+ reviews I'll be posting over the course of the next few months.

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