The Mummy’s Hand Blu-ray Review

Short-handed

By 1940, the Universal horror cycle already became entwined in its own cliches – so much so, the lore and story beats were shared between films. The Mummy, resurrected eight years after using moody and imposing figure of Boris Karloff, took only one film to find itself regurgitating pieces. Fueled by a full moon and controlled by a mad Egyptian doctor (of sorts), Mummy’s Hand rides the coattails of Frankenstein and The Wolf Man. This from an origin film owing substantial debt to Dracula.

It’s not all copycats. The Mummy’s Hand – of which there is significantly more than a hand – predates the Abbott and Costello Meets [Monster] spin-offs by eight years. Yet, that self-parody already slips into place. Wallace Ford’s bumbling “Babe” character more than predicts the shrill routines of Lou Costello in those films. Leading man and longtime screen cowboy Dick Foran feels like a Bud Abbot when up against the shtick, the pair cast as ever poor archaeologists searching for their haul of long-buried riches. When Universal reset The Mummy in the late ’90s, the levity-laced, blockbuster tone traces back to Mummy’s Hand.

Were it not for the jovial presence of Cecil Kellaway, Mummy’s Hand would fall under its own weight. Barely over an hour long, the sagging pace and lacking mystery plod this sequel through the motions. Forget the Karloff-starring original; Mummy’s Hand never acknowledges its predecessor even though stock footage is used. Without any real narrative enthusiasm and production line direction from Christy Cabanne, it’s a “going through the motions” sequel meant to belt out a few ‘40s era scares.

Creature from the Black Lagoon’s pop culture success owes a debt to this formula.

If the Karloff-starring piece held links to the public excitement over King Tut’s tomb, then eight years removed (even in a more lingering news cycle compared to today), a bit of fervor over such a find is extinguished. Some 70 years on, even less so. That leaves Mummy’s Hand rather listless, cracking at the foundation of the monster/horror cycle. Monster wakes, monster kills, monster is killed. Maybe said monster carries a woman off, which so happens here. Mummy’s Hand doesn’t have emboldened star power either. Another screen cowboy Tom Tyler wears the make-up and bandages, his lone monster role. Creature from the Black Lagoon’s pop culture success owes a debt to this formula.

That said, Universal’s formula revived itself come the mid-70s, splitting off into the slasher genre, albeit with free-flowing splatter. Mummy’s Hand is understandably passive under the cutting hands of censors. A few highs – in particular the punctually paced finale – find some energy. While not one to waste time, the creepy scares of a mummy lumbering through the shadows (or making them) holds a memorable presence. While the sequels followed suit, it’s The Mummy’s Hand that first brought about the cliché, leg dragging saunter mummy films became known for. That’s something.

Video

While still slightly processed with a mild dithering-like effect to its restoration, Mummy’s Hand boasts better image definition than Karloff’s lone outing at the title monster. Clarity excels, representing the film stock with gorgeous accuracy. Universal’s encode works to resolve grain, and although Hand shares a disc with Mummy’s Tomb, their TV-like length doesn’t cause compression problems.

Under the sun of the California set, early market scenes suffer from excessive contrast. That’s replaced quickly by a firm, well calibrated gray scale. Dense shadows and firm black levels nicely give these images depth. In particular, a key nighttime attack inside of a tent where the mummy’s shadow towers over a sleeping victim.

Exquisite resolution renders desert landscapes and questionably placed forests with the utmost detail. Those looking for make-up details get them in droves. The High Priest (Eduardo Cianelli) has a visible ridge line above his eyebrows. The mummy texture shines on this disc, from the tattered bandages to the dehydrated skin. Outside of weary stock footage, Mummy’s Hand visually holds up thanks to this preservation/restoration.

Audio

Consistent performance from a DTS-HD mono track is as expected. Although the score begins to fall off at the uppermost end, fidelity maintains a clean, natural presence. Dialog suffers no dropouts. All hints of hiss fade into history. Primitive as the recording may be, the uncompressed track nicely preserves the material.

Extras

Bundled together with The Mummy’s Tomb, the only bonus is the original trailer.

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