Sunday 29 July 2007

Pharaoh's Curse (1957) Lee Sholem

Here's one of those films that you know everything about before it even starts, just from the title. Given that it's directed by Lee 'Roll 'Em' Sholem, one of the most reliable of directors ever in the sense that he never went over budget or over schedule, you can be sure that it'll be, well, reliable but probably not very good.

We're in Cairo in 1902 and Captain Storm (yes really), has to escort Mrs Robert Quentin to her husband's secretive expedition in the Valley of the Kings. Of course soon a mysterious girl turns up with dark eyebrows, facial immobility and a terrible Egyptian accent. From that moment everything starts disappearing: the mules, the water, the medical kit just after a scorpion attack. Back in the Valley of the Kings, Robert Quentin is eagerly tearing into a new sarcophagus that carries the longest curse I've ever seen described by six hieroglyphics. No guesses what happens because of that act.

I didn't know any of the cast, and three of them starred: Mark Dana as Captain Storm, Diane Brewster as Sylvia Quentin or Ziva Shapir as Simira. Brewster was the most famous of the bunch, not for being Richard Kimball's murdered wife in The Fugitive but for being the grade school teacher in Leave It to Beaver. I know her best from The Invisible Boy, which is to say I don't remember her in the slightest as only Robby the Robot and the kid stayed on my memory. Shapir, better known as Ziva Rodann, was Palestinian and made a number of films but is probably best remembered to American audiences as Queen Nefertiti in the Adam West incarnation of Batman. As a scary comparison, Mark Dana is probably best known for this, which really doesn't say much for him at all.

There are other actors here, none of whom are quite as bad as Mark Dana, who has an obvious Charlton Heston complex, but they give it a go anyway. George N Neise plays Robert Quentin with a stunningly consistent vigour, regardless of what tone is really appropriate. The various other ethnic characters are pretty bad too. I found myself watching Terence de Marney most as Sgt Smolett, one of the random guards. I couldn't quite figure out whether he was truly awful or whether he was just having a little too much fun with his material.

The mummy is played by Alvaro Guillot whose only other screen credit was an episode of Sea Hunt, which is hardly surprising. We don't get to see the mummy until two thirds of the way through what is a pretty short film and he doesn't get to do much of anything except wander after a few people and attack them. Apparently he's a bloodsucking mummy which is cool but his background and story make no sense in the slightest. This ends up being just another mummy movie and a slow one at that.

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