The first half hour of BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB is absolutely fascinating.
After an ancient Egyptian opening which manages to be wordlessly creepy without ever leaving the studio, we then have the tale of a beautiful young woman seemingly exploited by all around her.
Her father has a weirdly solicitous relationship with her, like a seedy wooer rather than a dad; she seems to have her own stalker; while there’s a joke that the main reason her boyfriend goes out with her is her looks.
Elsewhere we have a secretary whose first appearance is being jokingly grabbed around the throat by her boyfriend, and it starts to look like a film about the dreadful things that men do to women.
BIG LITTLE LIES as 1970s creature feature. Hammer Horror as feminist text.
Amazingly in the first half hour it even passes the Bechdel Test.
Of course, in the context of a Hammer movie whose poster features a prominent cleavage, these tools for a feminist reading are surely there by accident rather than design, and the rest of the film is indeed a lot more plodding and prosaic.
If you’ve ever seen a MUMMY movie, you’ll have a good idea of what’s going down – a powerful Egyptian Queen dies long ago and in the present day her spirit tries to take over a beautiful young woman.
This one runs through those normal plot beats, but does throw in some creepy moments – jackels in the streets of London, a man thrown through the window by the power of thought. There’s some good scary stuff in here.
But there’s also a lot that just doesn’t work, that doesn’t seem to have been thought through.
The character of the dad changes quite quickly – from the weirdo at the start, to a normal father without particular comment. And as for the rushed conclusion – so we’re heading into big time SPOILER territory here – why if Margaret was basically Tera does she turn so swiftly against Tera at the end?
The biggest problem though is Valerie Leon. I’ve only ever seen her in CARRY ON films before, and she never stood out there and she certainly doesn’t here.
It’s not that she’s bad as such, more characterless. Things seem to happen around her, while she stands about like a beautiful busty cypher. She has a line-less, almost plastic, face and a way of holding her head curiously to the side – particularly in those scenes where she’s terrifying some poor hapless man. Surely in the script it’s written that her face takes on a scary aspect, but Ms Leon completely fails at that challenge. Indeed, what that expression brought to mind was THUNDERBIRDS’ Lady Penelope, and once you have that thought in your head, most of the terror does dissipate.
It’s a shame as there’s a lot that’s good here, and one can’t help think that with another draft of the script and a better lead actress, we’d be in the presence of a classic.