The first sequel to The Mummy from Universal actually has nothing to do with the original in almost any way and it is a little strange that the studio would do as such, but since so many years had passed since the original film had been released, maybe a fresh start was in order. Also different with this picture would be the amount of humour injected into it. Where the first film was a fairly serious affair, this one was almost light-hearted in a way, balancing the horror that we were supposed to experience and then seeming to make a joke of it on the other hand. That did not actually happen, but the comedy at times was just a bit too much, after all most people who went to see this, went to see a horror film and though it is nice to have a little comedic relief at times, here it was a little overbearing for the most part. Such as it is though, the film does manage to be fairly moody and atmospheric at times and that can be attributed more to Christy Cabanne and Elwood Bredell, director and cinematographer respectively, than anything else.
There is no Imhotep in this film, but there is Kharis, who is brought back to life with the magical tana leaves. Like Imhotep, Kharis was buried alive for trying to raise Princess Ananka back from the dead. Many years later, Steve and Babe are two archaeologists looking for the tomb of Princess Ananka and by chance, they come across that of Kharis. Once inside, it is soon discovered that Kharis is still alive and Andoheb, the man who looks after and protects the mummy, dispatches Kharis to kill everyone who has set foot within the tomb. The plan quickly falls apart though as Andoheb is struck by lust over the woman Marta and Kharis is soon defeated.
The inclusion of the tana leaves, that which keeps Kharis alive, is a big change to the first movie’s mythology and it would make its way into the next three pictures as would Kharis himself. Even though you see Kharis beaten by the heroes of the picture, like all Universal films, you never count the monster out and that goes for this movie as well. What is quite interesting about this picture is that while Boris Karloff and Imhotep were the main draw for the first picture, there is not any sole focus here, instead Kharis almost takes a backseat to everyone else, being more the plot device that keeps propelling the story forward more than anything else. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, just as you came to see a horror film, you also came to see a story about a mummy and while you do get it, it is secondary to the main characters of the film who are frankly, far less interesting. Those main characters include Dick Foran as Steve and Wallace Ford as Babe, the two archaeologists who are out to make a name for themselves. Peggy Moran is soon introduced as is Cecil Kellaway as the female lead and her father with horror icon George Zucco taking the role of the villain. Like Kharis, Dick Foran and George Zucco would appear in the next film and at least create a sort of continuity beginning with this film onwards instead of the 1932 movie.
Everyone does a fine job of bringing this film to life, but comparing it to the earlier Karloff vehicle is almost like comparing apples to oranges. It is hard not to be biased after seeing the 1932 film as it was far superior to this one and the fact of the matter is, if you skip that earlier picture and only start watching from here on, you will have a much greater appreciation for this film than if you did not. The story here is a good one and everything else that went into this film was good too, whether it be the acting, direction or what have you. If the picture had simply cut down on the comedy and focused more upon the horror aspects of the tale they were trying to tell, the film would have been much stronger for it.