Zombos Says: Very Good
Come the casting of Lon Chaney in The Mummy's Tomb, and the Universal legend of Kharis truly came alive--both on the screen and the back lot.
Indeed, once 'The Screen's Master Character Creator' was under that mask and inside that costume, true horror ran amok at Universal City. Forsaking tana leaf tea for vodka (hidden inside the suit and sipped through a straw), the Chaney Mummy drunkenly rampaged through the rest of the series--genuinely terrifying leading ladies, dangerously attacking fellow actors, vociferously claiming the Mummy mask gave him an allergy, and angrily bitching about his costume to anyone who'd listen (Greg Mank, Kharis Unearthed!).
Monsters From the Vault magazine has released Kharis the Mummy from his celluloid tomb in their first Special Edition: Kharis Unearthed! Profusely illustrated with sharp photographs that show every three thousand year old wrinkle and dusty bandage, and effusively written by Gregory Mank, Mummy fans will savor this superlative look into one of Universal's least appreciated--but one of their most recognizable--monsters. Who hasn't dressed up as the mummy for Halloween?
What started as a year-long quest to assemble the best photographs of Kharis turned into a wonderful homage to the four films that launched--more like lurched, really--his terror into movie theaters for audiences who, to this day, either deride or cherish the ambling Mummy as he slurps tana tea under the guidance of the high priests of Karnak, the real villains of this series, and slowly stalks his victims--conveniently always too paralyzed with fear to escape the death grip of his one good arm.
Each film is addressed by Mank, who provides wonderful anecdotes regarding Tom Tyler's The Mummy's Hand, and Lon Chaney's turn at the bandages in The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Ghost, and The Mummy's Curse. Mank's enthusiasm and informed observations make me want to rediscover this series, especially director Le Borg's more ambitious handling of The Mummy's Ghost.
John Carradine is the most Grim Reaper-esque of all the series' high priests...Ramsay Ames is the most drop-dead sexy of the Kharis leading ladies...Universal's back lot New England provides a poetic, Halloween night aura for the Mummy's midnight haunts...George Zucco's Andoheb gets a farewell showcase...and the surprise Lost Horizon-style finale is still a gut puncher--probably causing more than one smart-ass 1944 teenager to shut up, sit up, and stop razzing the movie (Greg Mank, Kharis Unearthed!)
Two more sections, devoted to the actors who portrayed the high-priests and the leading-ladies (the real highlights in all the Mummy movies), provide ample insight into, and respect for, the creative people who gave Kharis life.
For Kharis fans, Kharis Unearthed! is a picture and word treasure to savor, to be read late at night under the bedsheets, with a steady flashlight and a cool, dry breeze blowing in from an open window. For future Kharis fans, this special edition provides a wealth of information to prepare them for the fun of experiencing the Mummy for the first time.
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