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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Vengeance of the Mummy (1973) review


Paul Naschy (Amenhotep/Assad Bey), Rina Ottolina (Amarna/Elena), Jack Taylor (Norton Stark), Maria Silva (Abigail), Helga Line (Zannuffer)

Directed by Carlos Aured

The Short Version: Naschy fans will rejoice to finally see this movie in gorgeous quality. The only downside is that the supposed nude alternate scenes are not utilized here, nor are they in any known US version. Still, this is the original Spanish version and is the best this film is going to look until an English friendly version surfaces. A lot of fun, but slow in spots, it's very much recommended for Spanish horror fans.

Amenhotep, a cruel and sadistic Pharaoh delighting in blood sacrifices in the pursuit for immortality, is overthrown by his followers after being paralyzed with a poison slipped into a goblet. After his lover, Amarna, is killed in front of him, Amenhotep is entombed forever, buried alive. Centuries later, the sarcophagus of the despotic ruler is uncovered and the mummy taken back to London. Once there, an equally vile Egyptian priest, Assad Bey and his assistant seek to resurrect Amenhotep and his callous lover so that they both may live forever.

Paul Naschy plays a dual role in his sole outing in the mummy movies. He doesn't play a hero of any kind, settling for both the evil Pharaoh and the Egyptian priest that brings him back to life in 70's London. His mummy is also far removed from the Universal shamblers of old. Amenhotep is also far more energetic than Christopher Lee's interpretation in 1959. But then, Lee made his bandage wrapped, kinetic killer more believable. Naschy's mummy occasionally looks funny feverishly descending a ladder into the sewer being one example, or effortlessly walking along hallways.

One area that Naschy's mummy differs from the others is that Amenhotep isn't a vassal controlled by the maddened priest as an instrument of revenge. Here, the revived Pharaoh (other movie mummies were always priests, or subjects) is in total control with Assad and his beautiful accomplice, Zannuffer, worshipping him. The mummy even talks giving commands to his followers. The only other film I recall where the mummy takes charge of his vengeance is in the gore drenched ghoul-ash that is DAWN OF THE MUMMY (1981).

One area that is constant is the plot device of the mummy discovering his lost lover reincarnated centuries later. However, things don't necessarily end the way they do in the other movies.

Naschy's cloth wrapped mangler also varies himself from the pack by preferring to smash peoples heads like a watermelon in addition to using sharp implements to kill his victims. Amenhotep also resorts to typical mummy machinations by strangling, and or giving his quarry a robust smack to the head. There's also a missing and mildly bloody sequence where Amenhotep crashes into a home of two newlyweds killing the husband and making off with the wife. Whether it was removed due to print damage, or never in the original Spanish release is unknown to me.

The violence level is extremely high, but possibly slightly less so than the previous Naschy/Aured collaboration HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1972). Both films share pretty much the same narrative, only VENGEANCE is less surreal lacking the dream-like qualities and ridiculousness of the former. The one area where Molina's mummy opus falters is in the pacing. The film just plods along when there's no blood and violence onscreen, which, thankfully, isn't very often. There's a plethora of whippings, throat slashings, head crushings and blood drinking to appease the followers of the Spanish horror icon.

Still, after having seen Naschy's own directorial efforts, the movies he did for other directors pale in comparison in terms of filmmaking. This Carlos Aured picture is no different. Sometimes sloppy, it still retains an array of memorable moments that fluctuate between scenes of general cheesiness. Returning from the previous Naschy outing, Helga Line again assumes the role of the actors evil associate. She looks ravishing in her two piece Egyptian get up. She doesn't get down to quite as much messy business as she did in HORROR RISES, but she's a welcome and attention grabbing addition to the cast.

Jack Taylor plays the hero, ineffectual as he may be. The film belongs to both of Molina's roles and the movie is fairly lifeless when he isn't onscreen, which isn't very often. Taylor appeared in various genre pictures, but his most memorable for me was his eccentric turn as the black magic superhero, Igor, in both Mexi-horror films, THE MONSTER'S DEMOLISHER and THE GENIE OF DARKNESS (US release 1962). That character, one who used the black arts to combat vampires and other creatures, may have been the inspiration for Marvel's 'Dr. Strange' comic character.

The sets are limited, but efficient. The low budget shows, but Francisco Sanchez's photography lends this picture some much needed atmosphere. The look of a British Gothic chiller is in abundance here. Sanchez would also work on other Naschy movies such as CURSE OF THE DEVIL and VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES (both 1973). The script is far more cohesive than the average Spanish horror flick and while it has its share of gaps in logic, it's got several noted deviations from the well worn lore indigenous to mummy movies.

This review is representative of the Vella Vision PAL R0 DVD


TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

I wanted to like this but it fell too short for me. Only real redeeming factor was Line. I'm in the process of reviewing The Dracula Saga, another 70's Spanish horror and I think this decade of Spanish horror just disagrees with me. This will be the 4th Helga Line / 70's Spanish horror and the only one I've really enjoyed was Horror Express.

venoms5 said...

I didn't think it was great, but I did enjoy it and seeing it in this quality was a vast improvement. As far as Helga Line...

She's good in both SPARTACUS & THE TEN GLADIATORS and TRIUMPH OF THE TEN GLADIATORS. She's rather stoic in both and has sizable roles in both. Scroll down a little at this link, MVP and you'll see some pics of her in cap comparison between the restored SPARTACUS & 10 GLADIATORS compared with the dubbed pan and scan version. Both are reviewed here.

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

I'll probably check those two in the future. I did enjoy the Hercules one she was in. Also wanting to check out one of the westerns she was in. Are you familiar with any of those? Wanted to check out one that she has a larger role in.

venoms5 said...

I've got RAISE YOUR HANDS, DEAD MAN, YOU'RE UNDER ARREST and HAVE A GOOD FUNERAL, MY FRIEND, SARTANA WILL PAY. Also, I got CHURCHILL'S LEOPARD'S and NIGHTMARE CASTLE. I haven't watched the first movie yet and don't remember much from her in the others. I'll have to check. CHURCHILL'S LEOPARDS is a war movie with Richard Harrison and Kinski. I don't think I even finished watching it actually.

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

Nightmare Castle is a good one, that's the first film with her in it that I saw and it got me hooked. There's multiple versions out there though, Netflix has Faceless Monster which is supposed to be a more complete version, eventually I'll check that out. All those others you mentioned I have available to me as well. I have a bunch of comedies she was in too, but need to find subtitles for them.

venoms5 said...

I have THE FACELESS MONSTER version as well which was from a VHS source, I think. I also have the new DVD from Severin.

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

You don't happen to have The Curse of the Black Cat do you?

venoms5 said...

No, don't have that one, MVP. I'll see if I can find it for you if haven't already located it. There might be a foreign disc if nothing else.

venoms5 said...

Apparently there's at least a VHS of the movie. Doesn't look like English options, though.

Carl (ILHM) said...

I thought I owned this one but it looks like I have VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES.. This looks and sounds awesome outside of the (unfortunately) expectantly weak directing. I prefer Naschy's direction over many of his collaborators as well, but man there looks to be plenty of atmospheric horror and good old fashioned head squishing to be enjoyed! Is this one available in R1?

venoms5 said...

If it is it's a bootleg release. The Spanish disc is all region, just no English options at all. There are subs online, though, on bit torrent.

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