Banana Time
Banana Time

The last of Hammer’s Mummy films feels less and less like a Mummy movie the more I think about it.  Not that I am thinking about it too much, really.

Based on Bram Stoker’s novel Jewel of the Seven Stars, this movie involves not so much of a mummy’s ancient curse, as it does the tired old Modernist/Spiritualist Experiment to bring down the floating, ancient One.  That star child who has traveled centuries to usher in a time of new morality, that “beyond good and evil” gobbedlygook.  Its a bit of a muddled mess, those reasons, but as an engine for the action it is as good as any.  At least we are spared the undying love hoopla of most Mummy Tales.

The fact that the Mummy, in this case, is a perfectly perserved priestess, undermines the whole Mummyness…But the fact that the ancient priestess is played by a nearly nude Valerie Leon, I suppose we can, erm, overlook this?

The whole plot revolves around reincarnation.  Leon plays a woman who died at birth but was brought back to life by this Mummy Spirit.  How the stars have all aligned, like they were when Princess Mummy was alive, and there is something about four tomb objects that need to be collected from the various members of the expedition that uncovered the ancient tomb in modern times.

There is something, also, about a chopped off hand, a big red ring, and screaming that causes car crashes.  Oh which reminds me, Leon’s boyfriend’s name is Tod Browning.  Henyh.

The procurement of these tomb talisman makes for the bulk of the gore and horror.  Standard fare, really, petrified old archeologists attacked by invisible cats, shadow snakes, and laughing hyenas.  All their deaths presaged by howling, blustery winds and darkened sky thunder claps.  There is the straight jacketed loony tune, a dithering professor type with a young buxom secretary, the freaky psychic, and the long over-coated cane carrier, who slicks his hair back with greasy evil.

At the center of all this is Valerie Leon, usually tossing and turning with bad dreams, her lacy nightie heaving.  Or there is Valerie Leon running through the underbrush in a wispy nightgown, her basooombas bouncing in the slow motion trot.  Or there is Valerie Leon emerging from the shadows to stare with her icy cold eyes at some doomed old person.

Why she needs to show up is sort of a mystery, since she is never there for the throat gouging kills, nor does she retrieve the talisman to take it back to the basement tomb.  Its strange and somewhat mysterious, actually.

Not now, I am busy.

Still the movie was great fun to watch, in part, because Leon is by turn wooden and engaging.  The camera likes her, but does not love her, so there is a slight awkwardness to each scene.  It is as if she got all the action ques a few seconds after all the other actors.

The ending is a nice visual joke which I think purposefully pokes fun at the lack of the traditional mummy in this mummy flick. Overall, good show.

Tobe Hooper’s EATEN ALIVE (1977)

Starlight Hotel. Roberta Collins briefly checks in.

EATEN ALIVE is a totally mean-spirited movie from Tobe Hooper. It is mean to hooers, little dogs, children, teenagers, Crocodiles, the mentally ill, and most of all Judds.

Stylistically, it is a masterpiece of closed sets and flooded lighting. The soundtrack is a barrage of mumbling hums and bug gurgles, and muted screaming. Not to mention the screeching country and western music (sadistically composed by Hooper and Wayne Bell) annoying piped in from the constantly playing radio. The duo collaborated on the a similar auditory assault for TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE.

Every single character in this one is some how tweaking on something and the whole movie simply sweats! Neville Brand, as hotelier Judd, is a monstrous masterpiece of literal scene chewing.  He slouches, he freaks, he pulls it together on the edge of the couch all with a subtle muttering chaos.  Brand’s performance is so good that it should place this creep in the pantheon of famous backwoods jerks.

Plus, we get the tripping balls performance of William Finley who’s fraternal freakout is one of the ickiest moments in the flick.  But if you do not want to slog through the whole 90 minutes, just youtube the bits with Miss Hattie, played by Carolyn Jones – the Addams Family’s Morticia – looking disturbingly saggy in a latex mask.

And this is not even mentioning the buff swagger of Robert Englund who’s butt sex obsessed Buck is like a template on which Matthew McConaughey built a career!

the story is simple enough and the rationale is completely nonexistent, which only plays into the insanity of the action.  The young child in danger provides some real 1970s emotional weight to the otherwise bonkers randomness of the violence.  It is enough to understand that Judd has himself a crocodile.  And that crocodile is always hungry.  Sprinkle with a sickle and leisure suits and you got yourself an excuse to have a madman bursting through doorways and swinging manically at young nubile girls.

In short, Brilliant.