Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pharaoh's Curse, Mummy on a Shoestring Budget

Lee Sholem (1913-2000) was a movie studio's dream.  In a 40 year career, he made over 1300 films or shows.  His reputation was that he did them fast and cheap.  Today's movie,  "Pharaoh's Curse" (directed by Sholem) from 1957 was no exception.  All the desert scenes were filmed in one day in Death Valley.  Despite the low budget nature of this film, terrific make-up effects, surprising gore, and some neat scares make "Pharaoh's Curse" a hidden jewel of mummy movies.  Complete with a square-jawed hero and a shapely damsel in distress, this horror tale is full of surprises.
The British are being massacred in 1902 Egypt.  Captain Storm (Mark Dana) is sent into the desert to find an American archaeological expedition before they too are ambushed.  Accompanying him on his mission is Sylvia (Diane Brewster, see photo below), the gorgeous wife of Robert, the lead archaeologist. Storm and Sylvia are instantly attracted to each other, which is convenient because our beautiful damsel is planning to dump her husband upon their reunion.  Uh oh...a mysterious babe, Simira (Ziva Rodann) meets them in the desert,  She implores Storm to change his course and follow her, as she knows the whereabouts of the party.  With Simira's arrival, mysterious hardships hit Storm's expedition, including a scorpion attack on Sylvia. With Sylvia near death, Storm allows Simira to lead them to the dig.  Uh oh....Sylvia's soon to be ex finds a mummy and opens the sarcophagus.  Simira senses this and advises Storm, "It's too late" (...for what?).
As the sarcophagus is opened, Simira's brother (a guide for the expedition) falls ill, and instantly ages 50 years.  As Storm, Sylvia, and Simira join the expedition, evil has been let loose.  Animals and archaeologists turn up drained of all their blood, and Simira's brother seems to be the culprit. Despite looking 100 years old, the fiend is immune to bullets.  Robert, Sylvia's soon to be ex, begs Storm to allow him to stay and find the Pharaoh's tomb, but Storm has his orders.  Robert's attitude and ability to listen to authority tanks when Sylvia tells him "see ya'."  As more expedition members are drained of blood, Sylvia and Storm make goo-goo eyes at one another, infuriating Robert.  As Storm closes in on the fiend, Simira's real intentions become clear, as Sylvia is thrust into deep peril.  
Will the vows made in front of God at a church altar by Sylvia be thrown away because of a really handsome hunk with a British accent?  Will Robert's obsession with finding the pharaoh's tomb spell his demise?  Will the grave-robbing antics of western civilization of a proud Egyptian culture portend perilous times in future middle-eastern relations?  For some neat scares, a couple of shapely babes, and a Cary Grant like leading man, see "Pharaoh's Curse," available on Netflix.   

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