Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I Want My Mummy, Any Mummy Will Do: "Pharaoh's Curse" (1957)

This short, cheap horror flick doesn't even make with the mummy its title promises.

In 1902, the hilariously named Captain Storm (Mark Dana) is a British soldier guiding an expedition into the Egyptian desert to rescue a group of archaeologists out digging for mummies and such. He is stuck with two low ranking soldiers, and a woman...in this case, Sylvia (Diane Brewster), who is married to the leader of the dig.

The four set out, stumbling across the mysterious Simira (Ziva Rodann) along the way. Simira tries to hurry the group to the dig, but they are set in their ways. Essentials like food and animals start disappearing, Simira spends her nights staring into the distance, and Sylvia is bitten by a scorpion. Simira warns the group that it is too late as they pull into the camp, run by hothead American adventurer Quentin (George Neise) and populated by a group of foreigners whose names and characters aren't really that important simply because they are so poorly written. Simira's brother Numar (Alvaro Guillot) reacts badly to the opening of the sarcophagus of a high priest, suddenly aging fifty years in a few hours. As the white guys run around with torches and guns after Numar escapes from the group, Sylvia reveals the real reason she came on the trip, and Simira still stares into space.

It's sad that the low budget spent on the film also provides the greatest entertainment value. In the tense sarcophagus opening scene, you swear you hear a box cutter going through masking tape. The wordy curses the group discover are translated by analysis of a handful of badly drawn hieroglyphics. At one point, Sylvia is wandering around a cave, and you can hear her hands knock against a wooden sounding set. The day for night shots are also badly done, and Death Valley's desert looks nothing like the Sahara. According to IMDB.com, the film was shot in less than a week, and I believe it.

Mark Dana looks like a young Ronald Reagan, and his bad British accent comes but mostly goes. Every time he opens his mouth, he sounds like Cary Grant. The rest of the cast doesn't register at all, my mind wandered while everyone searched for hidden passages and lit conveniently placed torches. One plus here is the makeup used to age Numar. It is well done, and may have accounted for most of the budget.

"Pharaoh's Curse" is a typical B horror flick, clocking in at barely an hour, and directed with all the stylish flourish of a piece of gum. Break this curse. (* *) out of five stars.