Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Mystery and Imagination - Curse of the Mummy

Mystery and Imagination was a gothic horror anthology series broadcast on British television between 1966 and 1970. Each episode was based on one of the classic works of gothic fiction. The first three seasons were made by ABC Television. After ABC’s merger with Rediffusion to form Thames television a further six episodes were made. Only two episodes from the ABC era are still in existence but all six Thames episodes survive. The last of the Thames productions, in 1970, was Curse of the Mummy, an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Jewel of the Seven Stars.

This underrated Stoker novel would be adapted by Hammer Films the following year as Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb.

A prominent Egyptologist named Trelawny (Graham Crowden) is found in his house in a state of collapse. He appears to be clinging to life by the slenderest of threads. Curiously enough he has left strict and detailed instructions to be followed in the event of just such an attack.

Dr Malcolm Ross (Patrick Mower) and Sergeant Daw (Murray Hayne) are persuaded by Trelawny’s daughter Margaret (Isobel Black), somewhat against their better judgments, to comply with  Trelawny’s instructions.

Trelawny has an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts, including a mummy which he believes to be that of the notorious Egyptian Queen Tera, a queen with a reputation for practising black magic. Margaret Trelawny bears a striking resemblance to the dead queen.

It transpires that Trelawny has hopes of restoring Queen Tera to life, a plan that may have consequences that the Egyptologist has not foreseen.

Thames obviously could not spend anywhere near as much as Hammer would spend on their feature film version but they did a reasonably good job. It does have a very studio-bound feel but that in some ways works in its favour, creating a sense of claustrophobic menace. The episode was shot in colour and looks quite handsome.

John Russell Taylor’s script sticks fairly close to the novel. The episode benefits from some fine acting. Isobel Black looks suitably exotic and does very well in her dual role (events from Queen Tera’s life being told in flashback). The underrated Patrick Mower is effective as the courageous doctor who finds himself falling under Margaret Trelawny’s spell. Or is he falling under Queen Tera’s spell? Graham Crowden overacts, as he always did, and does so to fine effect.

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb was one of Hammer’s best gothic horror movies. While Curse of the Mummy isn’t in the same league it still stands up quite well and is most certainly worth a look. Recommended.

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