Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb

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Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb (1971) is better known for its infamously troubled production than for its artistic merits. After one day into shooting Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb Hammer Film Productions had to recast Peter Cushing when his wife became terminally ill. Then, roughly two weeks later, director Seth Holt died suddenly on set of heart attack thus prompting Michael Carreras himself to step in as director. Despite a “cursed” production Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb is one of the more aesthetically coherent and watchable entires in the latter days of the famed studio.

The script for Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb, written by Hammer regular Christopher Wicking, puts a distinctly Swinging London spin on Bram Stoker’s novel The Jewel Of Seven Stars. Although the plot has been updated to 1971, Wicking’s script retains many of the fin de si├Ęcle themes present in the novel. The most important change to these themes is that Wicking opted to focus on the transformative experiences of the Valerie Leon character rather than tell the story from the perspective of her suitor (named Tod Browning in the film as an homage to the director of Dracula and Freaks) as it is told in Stoker’s novel. This decision enhances not only the agency of Leon’s character but also the dramatic urgency of Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb whilst simultaneously giving Hammer Films a desperately needed cultural relevancy.

Valerie Leon had, at the time that Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb was made, almost exclusively appeared in sex comedies. After her brief foray into Gothic Horror in Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb, Leon would return to those same types of bawdy comedies and eventually be featured as a “Bond Girl”. Aside from being of indisputable beauty, Leon is a more than capable actress which Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb proves. In a single scene Leon can indicate the shift in consciousness from Margaret to the Egyptian Queen Of Darkness Tera with the slightest squinting of the eyes. For an actor playing a kind of possession in a Hammer Horror flick Leon’s approach is both subtle and nuanced. The success or failure of Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb as a work of horror is entirely dependent upon Valerie Leon’s performance and she more than delivers.

In the cycle of mummy movies that Hammer made Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb is perhaps the most compelling. Even though the production design of Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb pales in comparison with The Mummy (1959), the film still evokes the Gothic infused horror that Hammer is known for. What makes Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb superior to Hammer’s other entries in the sub genre is that it doesn’t feel as familiar or worn out conceptually. The changes to Stoker’s narrative perspective that Wicking made coupled with Valerie Leon’s performance make Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb the equivalent to what The Vampire Lovers (1970) represented for the Hammer vampire film; the suggestion of a subversively feminist take on a genre.