‘The Mummy’s Hand,’ gives mummy Kharis less agency
Directed by Christy Cabanne
Written by Griffin Jay
Starring Dick Foran, Peggy Moran, and Tom Tyler
USA, 67 min – 1940.
“You are very beautiful…so beautiful I’m going to make you immortal. Like Kharis, you will live forever. What I can do for you I can do for myself. Neither time nor death can touch us. You and I together for eternity here in the Temple of Karnak. You shall be my high priestess.”
In The Mummy’s Hand, the first sequel to the 1933 Mummy film, two out of work archaeologists in Cairo, Steve Banning and Babe Jenson (Dick Foran and Wallace Ford) are sold an ancient vase that they believe will lead them to the tomb of Princess Ananka. The two embark on a mission to uncover her final resting place. Helped financially by the magician ‘The Great Solvani’ (Cecil Kellaway) and his beautiful daughter, Marta (Peggy Moran), Steve and Babe find the tomb. Little do they know that their find has unleashed the still alive and dangerous mummy, Kharis.
Yet, Kharis is not the only evil lurking near the shadows of Ananka’s tomb. The more sinister antagonist is Professor Andoheb (George Zucco). At the beginning of the film, Andoheb becomes High Priest and guardian of Kharis. His predecessor gives him the answer to Kharis’s immortality – tana leaves. When drunk, the liquid of these leaves allows Kharis to remain living. The more leaves he drinks, the stronger he gets. However, Andoheb’s predecessor warns that too many leaves will make Kharis uncontrollable.
Andoheb functions as the main antagonist of the film, because it is he who controls the mummy. Kharis can only live, if Andoheb continues to give him tana leaves. Kharis must kill the members of Steve’s archaeology team, not because he wants to protect Ananka, but because Andoheb tells him that is how he will obtain his leaves. This makes Kharis less mysterious and creepy than he is in the original film (when portrayed by Boris Karloff). He has less agency and even looks maimed, being risen with only the use of one arm and one leg. It is a far cry from the Kharis, who in the first film could pass off as a modern day Egyptian.
The different portrayal of Kharis relates to the more comedic tone of the film. The Mummy has a romanticized darkness to it that adds to the film’s mystery. That is all but gone in The Mummy’s Hand, replaced with comedic banter often delivered by Brooklynite Babe (“they’re giving me goose pimples on top of my goose pimples”). Nonetheless, The Mummy’s Hand is still entertaining to watch, if taken as a comedy monster flick.