Friday, November 8, 2019


Late, great Castilian horror king Paul Naschy (a.k.a. Jacinto Molina) was at the very height of his popularity when he wrote and starred in Carlos Aured’s THE MUMMY’S REVENGE (1973), an atmospheric and grisly take on Karl Freund’s pivotal Universal horror classic, THE MUMMY (1932). Never one to shy away from a challenge, Naschy takes on the dual roles of Amen-Ho-Tep (in both his human and monster forms) and also plays Assad Bey, his cursed descendent, who, in the interests of attaining (quote) “power, riches and eternal life” resurrects the exceedingly cruel Amen-Ho-Tep. Although this film was once readily available on Betamax/VHS videocassette during the ’80s, Unicorn Video’s master was taken from a censored, heavily-cropped TV print. And now, thanks to Scorpion Releasing’s timely Blu-ray, Naschy’s lone mummy movie has risen mightily to stride the Earth once again.

Ruling with an iron hand alongside the equally-cruel Princess Amarna (Rina Ottolina), the tyrannical Amen-Ho-Tep’s (quote) “savage rule” is vividly displayed in the film’s opening sequence, set during Egypt’s 18th Dynasty. Through the use of some solemn-but-clunky voiceover narration (at least in the English-dubbed version), we learn that the land was thrown into a (quote) “eternal nightmare of blood and horror”. However, Am-Sha (Fernando Sánchez Polack), the wily high priest of Amon-Ra, leads a plot to overthrow the despotic ruler, who is then mummified alive, to (quote) “wander in the world of the unknown forever.” This seemingly-endless length of time is efficiently rendered through the use of some simple time-lapse photography, a well-worn, but still effective technique, which segues nicely into the discovery of Amen-Ho-Tep’s tomb centuries later by archeologists Nathan Stern (Jack Taylor) and his wife Abigail (María Silva). Upon transporting their find to Sir Douglas Carter (Eduardo Calvo) at the Landsbury Foundation in London, the senior academic is elated at this (quote) “important archeological discovery”. On the downside, it also attracts the interest of the sinister Egyptian Assad Bey and his partner Sanofed (Helga Liné), who, for nefarious purposes, intend to raise Amen-Ho-Tep from the grave via the ritual sacrifice of (quote) “three young virgins”. Unfortunately, once the long-dormant mummy has arisen anew, Bey and Sanofed are then obliged to murder still another seven virgins more in order for the (quote) “dominion of the Pharaohs” to rise to full power again. But the mouldy mummy also has his eyes set on Sir Douglas’ nubile daughter, Helen (Ottolina again), who is—not unexpectedly, as per the hoary ol’ trope—a dead ringer for Amen-Ho-Tep’s long-dead beloved Amarna… 

As helmed by Carlos Aured, THE MUMMY’S REVENGE turned out to be the last film he made with Paul Naschy, capping a fruitful collaboration which had begun with HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1973), another ‘vengeance-from-beyond-the-grave’ shocker that shares quite a few similarities with the current film under review. Unlike most of Naschy’s long list of filmic monsters, which were always approached with a certain empathy (best exemplified in Javier Aguirre’s COUNT DRACULA’S GREAT LOVE [1973], starring Naschy as the lonesome, lovelorn Count), Amen-Ho-Tep on the other hand is a 100% unadulterated murderous monster whose sole motivations are revenge and, ultimately, global domination (“The world will be ours!”). Sporting quite eye-catching makeup, Naschy’s mummy is also one of the most memorably gruesome creations to be found in the star’s entire monster canon, whose ruthless, violent nature is made all-the-more obvious when he viciously—and gorily!—squashes the heads of local virgins he believes are unacceptable for his use.  

While competently lensed across the boards and making the most of its humble origins, this is one of Aured’s best-looking films, which takes full advantage of its familiar London locations, and according to Troy Howarth’s excellent audio commentary, also utilized a number of leftover sets from Charlton Heston’s ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA (1972) as well; all of which are handsomely captured by Francisco Sánchez’s exquisite scope photography. The wonderful cast also includes a number of Naschy regulars, including the ever-reliable Jack Taylor and María Silva (who was last seen as Countess Elizabeth Báthory in Carlos Aured’s CURSE OF THE DEVIL [1973]), as well as the always-superb Helga Liné, who gives one of the film’s strongest performances. Strikingly beautiful newcomer Rina Ottolina also does a fine job as both Amarna and her reincarnation Helen, and she definitely gives the gorgeous Zita Johann (who played Helen in Universal’s original 1932 version of the oft-told tale) a run for her money as the stunning love interest (much like Johann’s, Ottolina’s own movie career also proved to be short-lived when she retired in the late-’70s). 

Although THE MUMMY’S REVENGE bypassed DVD altogether in North America, Scorpion Releasing’s BD now presents two versions of the film in their attractive edition, one of which includes a scene (missing from the Spanish HD master) involving a newlywed—soon to be newlydead!—couple who get violently offed by the mummy, which was reinserted from an inferior source. Although both versions of the film retain the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this (quote) “extended composite cut” also includes both DTS-HD MA mono audio tracks in both English and Spanish languages, with the benefit of properly-translated English subtitles for the latter. While it is nice to have both audio tracks available, it should be mentioned that the Spanish track has far-superior audio fidelity to the tinny—and exceedingly hissy—English audio track, which was probably overdubbed from an old VHS source. The (quote) “shorter version” only comes with English audio.

An audio commentary from Human Beasts: The Films of Paul Naschy (WK Books, 2018) author Troy Howarth is the disc’s sole significant extra, but as usual, it’s a very welcome one. He goes over plenty of details related to the production, including its now-almost-mythic ‘unclothed’ version, which hasn’t turned-up anywhere as yet; the English dubbing on many Spanish films from the era and how they were (quote) “rather difficult to stomach”; much of the film’s pilfered score from the CAM libraries; the obvious onscreen chemistry between Naschy and Liné (this was their final collaboration); Miguel Sesé’s impressive makeup F/X; Carlos Aured’s solid understanding of the (quote) “basic innerworkings” of the genre, and how most of his films with Naschy are (quote) “smoother and refined” compared to the work of Leon Klimovsky; and finally, some background about the film’s distribution woes. It’s most certainly an engaging listen, loaded with plenty of insight into this film and Naschy’s work in general. Excellent stuff, indeed! The film’s rarely-seen Avco Embassy trailer is also included (“A jarring shock every moment!”), as are trailers for José María Zabalza’s THE FURY OF THE WOLFMAN (1972, coming soon from Scorpion) and José Luis Madrid’s THE HANGING WOMAN (1973). In addition, the inner sleeve contains informative liner notes from Naschy expert Mirek Lipinski, who also provides some interesting background info on the mysterious Ms. Ottolina. 

Polished and technically assured, it’s great to have this once-difficult-to-see Naschy title finally available on Blu-ray, which can be ordered from Ronin Flix and DiabolikDVD, both of which include a limited slipcover.

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