The Mummy's Hand

WRAP EPIC: 'The Mummy's Hand' has been terrifying, and amusing, audiences for more than 70 years.

Clearly, The Mummy's Hand (1940) is a gift for those who love San Jose's Rosicrucian Museum. The film is cast with non-Egyptians, including stalwart but shifty Brit George Zucco, Hamburg's Sig Arno (as a piaster-grubbing beggar) and Italian physician turned actor Eduardo Ciannelli, immortal as the turbaned and dhotied leader of the Thuggee cult in Gunga Din: "Rise and kill! Kill for the love of Kali!"

Something of a sequel to the famous Karloff film—but mostly not—The Mummy's Hand (which shows Nov. 14–16 at the Stanford Theatre with The Wolf Man) is a comedy with horror relief. Zucco plays a debonair professor of Egyptology in Cairo. His secret: he has been appointed to fulfill the ancient task of protecting a mummy's tomb. Says Ciannelli's high priest, dying while passing the torch: "I fear I shall never see the moon rise behind the Valley of the Jackals again." The new priest, Andoheb, must reanimate the mummy Kharis (rhymes with "Clarice") and bring him around to deal with the interlopers.

Interlopers abound: breezy archaeologist Steve Banning (Dick Foran), known for his work "digging up the Inca ruins in Mexico," and his chubby pal Babe (Wallace Ford). Babe has had enough: "We ain't dug up a soup bone yet ... nyaah, I might as well have stayed in Brooklyn." They team up with a likable magician (Cecil Kellaway) and his pretty daughter (Peggy Moran) and head out to do some excavation, as the full moon rises, and the jackals howl like wolves.

There have been more frightening creatures than Kharis (Tom Tyler). As cartoonist Lynda Barry once noted, the Mummy was so slow you could run around behind him and kick him in the butt. But it's not his fault he's pokey; the evil Andoheb rations his revivifying tana leaves and thus turns him into a shuffler. Kharis sometimes looks disturbing (eyes rolling and glittering under the rotten bandages), but ultimately the film elicits respect for Zucco as an actor who decided he'd rather not let the world know he was in on the joke. The belief is beaconlike from Zucco's clean, sinister, too-handsome visage—no wonder Kenneth Anger made up the lie that the actor died insane, terrorized to madness by his fear of dread Cthulhu. Zucco's last line appeals straight to the audience, even as he appeals to mighty Isis herself.

The Mummy's Hand

The Wolf Man

Nov 14-16

Stanford Theatre

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