Monday, May 20, 2024

“What This Will Be, I Do Not Know, If Anything” - The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals (1969)

Now let us take up the lost classic The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals (1969), a bold new vision of the Universal "monster rally" films of the 1940s that even features a small role for John Carradine and has the bonus attraction of being set in and near Las Vegas.

Shockingly, some of your universe's critics are uninspired by the cinematic jewel that is The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackal. For example, reviewer InjunNose writes, ""The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals" easily outdistances any Ed Wood or Herschell Gordon Lewis film in the bad movie stakes." Reviewer BaronBl00d writes, "the direction, writing, lighting, acting, special effects, make-up, etc.... are without a doubt truly incompetent." And reviewer Michael_Elliott sums up the film as "cheap, low-budget junk."

Of course, you should not rely on the opinions of these so-called reviewers. Please read on for the truth about The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals...

The film begins in a small room with three people looking at the remains of Princess Akanna, the daughter of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh whose body appears to be perfectly preserved in a glass-topped sarcophagus. Bob is especially interested in the glass lid. “This case interests me,” he says (“case” referring, probably, to the sarcophagus and not to the mystery of the preserved Egyptian princess). “This is amazing, David. As far as anyone knows, the Egyptians hadn’t discovered glass that far back. Dave, this is fantastic. This glass has a clarity and a durability that we’ve only been able to duplicate in the past five years. How could they have known how to manufacture it then?”

David explains he wants to open the case to read the writings inside, but he doesn’t want to damage the sarcophagus. “Akanna, my beautiful Akanna. And now at last because of you, they’ll listen to me.”

“David, what are you talking about?” asks Bob’s lady friend Donna. “Who are they and, well, why are they gonna have to listen to you? What’s she got to do with this?”

Bob explains that David is working on a theory about a catastrophic event in the Egyptian city of Memphis, but nobody will allow him to explore the ruins of the city. David explains that he will present his two mummies (Akanna and Sirahk) to the International Archeological Convention in Las Vegas, and they will have to believe his theory about Memphis, for some reason.

Also, David tells Bob to lock him in the room with the mummies overnight. He has translated some of the writings, which say that “whoever is in the presence of the sacred Anaka’s [sic] body during the cycle of the full moon will suffer the curse of the jackals.” Bob doesn’t know what the curse of the jackals is, but he agrees to lock David in the room overnight.

David laughs off any concerns Bob might have. “What could possibly happen here? This is the 20th century. This is Nevada in the good ole U.S.A. Don’t worry, I’ll be just fine.” He simply wants to be locked in to see if anything will, in fact, happen.

Once David is alone in the room with the mummies, he writes down some notes: “Having completed the translation on the case of the Princess Akanna, I am now waiting to note the curse of the jackals. What this will be, I do not know, if anything, but in case something does happen, I want someone to know.”

David lies down on a bed, and suddenly begins transforming into a were-jackal (accomplished by the filmmakers through the classic method of film dissolves).

David the were-jackal escapes the building (actually David’s house, despite the presence of torches lighting the stone room holding the mummies’ sarcophagi) and runs through downtown Las Vegas, assaulting two police officer and, for unexplained reasons, climbing onto a locomotive before running back to David’s house and returning to the mummy room.

The next morning, Bob drives back to David’s house (remaking out of the blue, “Boy, what a place” when he sees his friend’s ordinary, though cobwebby, house). Bob wakes David up, then suggests they go to breakfast, but David needs to do some work to get ready for the convention. He dismisses Bob, thanking him for coming over.

Bob quips, “Mummies, jackals, archeological kooks, they’re all my specialty. Call on me anytime, Professor. My rates are the lowest.”

After Bob leaves, David opens the sarcophagus holding Sirahk. He speaks to the long-dead mummy about the beautiful Akanna and how both of them are in love with her. David also narrates a flashback about the death of Akanna’s father, after which the high priest put the princess in a deep sleep in a magic case brought from Persia that would last 4,815 calendar years. David’s narration includes the useful detail that “it could be arranged that the gods could grant her the ability to speak whatever language which was then spoken.” In the flashback, the pharaoh dies with his eyes chillingly wide open.

Then we watch for at least 10 minutes as the princess is escorted to a cave, where she is sealed in the Persian mummy case. Also, her handmaidens are murdered so their spirits will remain in the cave (not accompanying the princess in death, of course, because she is not really dead). However, Sirahk attempts to take the mummy case, but he is discovered, his tongue is removed, and he is buried in the cave with his love.

David ends his narration by addressing Princess Akanna. “Soon you will be alive, my love, and I’ll be able to hold you in my arms. It was I who saved you from the lake, and me to whom you will show your gratitude, and give your love.” (The bit about the lake is never explained.)

David’s monologue is interrupted by a police detective knocking at the front door. The detective says two of his men were killed last night, possibly by a wolf or a dog, but David says he saw nothing so the detective (Lt. Barnes) leaves immediately.

At night, David transforms into a were-jackal again, this time stalking the forests outside Las Vegas and following a wino who breaks into David’s house and discovers the mummies. David chases the wino around the house, but the wino escapes after cracking the glass of Akanna’s sarcophagus. David returns to bed and transforms back into human form.

Soon, Princess Akanna wakes up due to the glass being cracked, and she wakes David up, addressing him by name. “Why are you so surprised, David? You know I was to return.”

“It’s just that I didn’t expect you so soon,” David stammers.

In the span of 30 seconds, David tells Akanna he needs to get her some clothes but has to walk three miles into town because he has no car, and he also gives her the key to the house so she can lock herself in (of course, she knows how to use a modern key, presumably because the gods granted her the ability in addition to her ability to speak English). In town, David runs into Bob, who pressures him into double-dating tonight with him and Bob.

There follows a nearly indescribable scene in which Akanna dances alone in the mummy room over Sirahk’s sarcophagus while lights flash from no apparent source.

When David returns with clothes, Princess Akanna slips off her top, startling David, who tries to explain that women often change clothes privately. “Things have changed in the last 4,000 years,” he says.

Then David explains to Akanna how to put on a brassiere.

At night, David and Akanna meet Bob and Donna in a nightclub. David introduces the princess as Connie. “Connie’s not from here,” David says abruptly. “She comes from…back East.”

“Well, I hope you’ll be around for a long time,” Bob says.

“I have been around for a long time, Bob,” Akanna says impishly.

Meanwhile, the monstrous Sirahk rises from his own sarcophagus. He leaves the house, searching for the princess.

The mummy immediately attacks a woman in a bikini, then walks straight through a wall.

There follows a scene that is perhaps the film’s most fascinating, and surely part of its raison d’etre. After the double-daters leave the nightclub, the filmmakers linger on the belly dancer providing the night’s entertainment. Minutes later, the mummy arrives and strangles the woman, dropping her after a second and wandering off the stage.

Then a random nightclub-goer pulls out a pistol and shoots the mummy, forcing the monster to stumble out of the nightclub.

Later, as the double-daters are driving home, David feels sick and gets out of Bob’s car. Then David turns into a were-jackal again. The filmmakers provide excellent shots of both the mummy and the were-jackal walking separately through the streets and casinos of Las Vegas.

Eventually, Sirahk the mummy and David the were-jackal encounter each other coincidentally. As Bob, Donna, and Connie/Akanna walk along the sidewalk (having abandoned David at the side of the road as he turned into the were-jackal), a random passerby opens a door that strikes Akanna, knocking her unconscious. The mummy suddenly appears, picks up Akanna, and carries her into a casino, only to be followed by the were-jackal.

Unfortunately for the audience, the monsters quickly leave the casino and walk quickly to the forest that, I assume, surrounds downtown Las Vegas. In the forest, they are enveloped by some kind of magical fog. Bob rescues Akanna, who immediately summons the goddess Isis. The goddess tells her in clear English, “You are to bring to this land the knowledge and the worship of the ancient gods. We desire a temple and a home on this desert.” This involves the were-jackal and the mummy fighting each other because they are both in love with Akanna. Also, Isis tells Akanna that she has control over Bob.

After David returns to his human form, Bob drives all of them back to David’s house. Donna, showing concern for Connie/Akanna, says, “Wouldn’t you like to come home with us? After what happened tonight, I wouldn’t want to go back in that house for anything in the world.”

“Oh, I’m sure nothing will happen,” Akanna says.

“Well, okay, then,” Bob says, driving away quickly.

Once Akanna goes into the house, David waits on the porch, only to see Lt. Barnes pull up to the house in a police car, delivering John Carradine, David’s old professor, to visit David. Professor Carradine gets straight to the point: “Lt. Barnes here says he had some trouble with a mummy last night. He asked me to sort of look into it for him.”

“A mummy?”

“Yes, can you imagine? Also, some sort of a wolfman.”

When Professor Carradine and David are alone, Professor Carradine informs David that he knows everything that has happened, including that David retrieved Princess Akanna from a plane wreck. They are interrupted by Akanna herself, whom David introduces to the professor as Connie. Then Professor Carradine leaves with Lt. Barnes.

Later, Professor Carradine and Lt. Barnes return to the house to follow up on the professor’s suspicions. After he explains the situation to the detective, Professor Carradine says, “We can’t just stand by and let a 4,000-year-old mummy and a jackal-man take over the city.” He adds, “Of course, this may not happen at all.” He explains that Isis is most powerful during the full moon, and tonight will be the final night with a full moon.

Lt. Barnes says, “What you’re telling me is that after someone is killed tonight, we can relax and forget about the whole thing until next month?”

In the climactic sequence in the (very dark) night, David turns into the were-jackal again at a dinner party with Bob, Donna, and Connie/Akanna. Akanna tells Bob point-blank that he and Donna are going to be killed because they might recognize her. Suddenly, David the were-jackal enters the room and attacks Bob just as the mummy breaks into the room. Akanna attempts to control the mummy with a piece of her jewelry, but she inexplicably falls unconscious, allowing the mummy to pick her up and carry her back into the forest.

In the end, David chases them all the way to Lake Mead, where the monsters fight in the water while Akanna dies and ages into the mummy she really is. 

The End

One only has to look at the names of the ancient Egyptians in this film to discern the filmmakers' love of the monster movie genre and their attention to detail -- Akanna is similar to Ananka and Sirakh is Kharis spelled backward -- references to the Universal mummy series from the 1940s starring Lon Chaney Jr. as Kharis. Prolific Western film director Oliver Drake and writer William Edwards (who also wrote and directed Dracula the Dirty Old Man and populated that film with references to Universal monster movies) are to be commended for attempting to revive the classic monsters in the 1960s with a film as thrilling and entertaining as The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals.