The Mummy’s Hand (hardback)
The Mummy’s Hand
By Tom Weaver, Laura Wagner, Gary D. Rhodes, Gregory W. Mank, Rich Scrivani, Bob Koster and Frank Dello Stritto
Scripts from the Crypt collection, No. 13
When in Egypt…Fear the DEAD more than the Living!
Chasing archaeologic glory, Steve Banning sets out on a perilous journey across the haunted sands of the Sahara, to the Valley of the Jackals, in search of the tomb of Ananka, one of Egypt’s richest princesses. But the dangers of the desert are the least of his expedition’s challenges. Since ancient times, Ananka’s tomb has been guarded not only by the fanatic High Priests of Karnak, but also by the living mummy of Ananka’s lover in Egypt of old, Prince Kharis. Under a full desert moon, terror walks on cloth-wrapped feet!
In 1940, Kharis the Mummy was added to Universal’s family tree of monsters when The Mummy’s Hand inaugurated a popular new franchise. While the film followed a current Hollywood trend of adding double-doses of comedy to mystery and horror pictures, it played its monster scenes for full-on fright: Our heroes (and she-ro) change their laugh-a-minute tune when they realize that some ancient curses are still terrifyingly potent, and that the sand is running out for them. Here, for the first time in over 3000 years, is complete Mummy’s Hand coverage, excavated by the best team of Universal Horror archaeologists this side of the Scripps Museum.
"We’ve covered a number of these fan-intense books in the past, and several have earned good places on the shelf, like the 2019 book on The Brute Man with its heavy-duty research on Rondo Hatton, and its mug-shot round-up of beloved ugly-mug actors through Hollywood history.
With this tome the SFTC series digs further into 1940s Universal lore, of which Weaver & cohorts might be the reigning authorities. The centerpiece of the book is the full shooting script, in this case actress Peggy Moran’s copy via collector Ron Borst. It takes up 155 pages or so in the book’s center. The first thing that got my attention was Weaver’s lengthy production history section, a couple of them, actually. Armed with studio records, trade paper research and a number of personal interviews, Weaver relates the day-to-day business of cranking out program pictures as if Universal were a small-town factory.. Weaver overwhelms us with facts, figures, photos and dozens of fascinating side stories.
Actors’ recollections can be unreliable, but Tom has a good (and kind) radar for gleaning the likely truth from stories warped by publicity exaggerations. Leading lady Peggy Moran and the film’s mummy, cowboy favorite Tom Tyler, were workaday contractees pulling in a living wage, and lucky to be recognized on the street.
Weaver’s co-authors provide good sidebar essay chapters on the actors, with deep bio dives for Dick Foran & Wallace Ford (Laura Wagner), Peggy Moran (Bob Koster), etc.. Well-known film historian Gregory William Mank contributes an engrossing piece on George Zucco, demolishing the lies about the actor circulated by the Hollywood Babylon II book.
More solid fact-finding academia comes with comprehensive chapters on mummy movies silent (Gary D. Rhodes) and sound (Frank Dello Stritto), which include info on more than a few titles I’d never heard of, plus some surprising images.
With all of this solid content The Mummy’s Hand SFTC isn’t as scrapbook-y as some previous installments, yet we do admire its big-net eclecticism. The text is frequently interrupted with little photo explanations, old advertisements, personal keepsakes from the actors, and odd grabs from the file. Famous Monsters’ two-page eulogy for Wallace Ford ends with typical Forry Ackerman awkwardness — ‘sorry Wally, that we didn’t mention you when you were alive.’ (para.)
Nobody could ghost-write Weaver’s material, as we’d recognize his style of puns and side-jokes anywhere. We were most attracted by the attention given to editorial detail. Weaver devotes several pages to observations of individual scene oddities. Many are the kind of random things we might spot on viewing — possible continuity gaffes, or the fact that one of the actors says a character’s name six times, but never with the same pronunciation. Tom Tyler’s ‘paralyzed’ mummy arm becomes un-paralyzed once or twice!
Armchair editors will lap up a photo essay on the re-use of footage from the ’32 Freund The Mummy, the Im-Ho-Tep flashback repurposed as a Kharis Flashback. Tom Tyler is substituted for Boris Karloff, but Karloff is seen in a few angles anyway. Even more interesting is the fact that the older footage is actually outtakes from 1932, all with slightly different action. Wow . . . does that mean that, even in 1932, Universal was vaulting outtakes like that for future use? That must have been a heck of an editorial resource.
Weaver tells me that Scripts from the Crypt books are on their way for other sequels in Universal’s 1940s Mummy series . . . now he’s making me want to see them again."
"Weaver really can compose, humorous as if Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Robert Benchley got together after mutual-watch of Shock Theatre. ...To features of the book besides, there are cast bios, rare images, the shooting script, interviews.... I could swear they wrote this book just for me."
- John McElwee, The Greenbriar Picture Show