Pharaoh’s Curse (1957)

Pharaoh's_Curse_(1957)‘A blood-sucking mummy…that kills for a cat-goddess…unleashing 4,000 years of horror upon this century!’

Cairo 1902: the natives are restless and threatening to overthrow the colonial British government. A team of soldiers are sent to the Valley of Kings to bring back an Anglo-American archaeological expedition, whose activities are bound to be unpopular with the locals.

Drab, lacklustre b-flick that follows the familiar pattern established by Universal Studio’s ‘Mummy’ series in the 1940s. We are spared the High Priest and his Tana Leaves, but instead get a beautiful Egyptian woman who appears out of the desert to accompany hunky Captain Storm (Mark Dana) and his small and rather unimpressive rescue expedition. Also along for the ride is the lead archaeologist’s wife (Diane Brewster) and within 30 seconds, we have all the significant personal character interactions mapped out for the next 66 minutes.

The production is competent, but desperately uninspired. Death Valley stands in pretty well for the Egyptian desert and we have the usual supporting cast lining up one by one to be knocked off once the ambitious George N Neise invokes the ancient curse. There’s some soul transmigration to give us the monster (the only vaguely original thing in the film), but he appears to be rather like an old man in a night shirt, which isn’t particularly scary. Even worse, the cast of victims are introduced so briefly and have so little character development that we can’t even remember who they are, let alone care about their fate.

A quick glance through the professional history of cast and crew reveal something in common – lots and lots of Television. Director Lee Sholem did make some features – most notably the first two Lex Barker ‘Tarzan’ pictures and ‘Superman and the Mole-Men (1951)— but excursions on to the big screen were rare by this point in his career. Hero Mark Dana did lots of TV guest slots and a few movies but this was his only lead. He’s not bad; just not very memorable, although he’s not exactly given a lot to work with by Richard H Landau’s flimsy script. Landau wrote mostly for TV (‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’, ‘The Outer Limits’, ‘The Green Hornet’ – the list is pretty extensive!) but also penned a half dozen features, including ‘Up Periscope’ (1959) with James Garner (pretty good) and ‘Frankenstein ’70’ (1958) with Boris Karloff (pretty dreadful). He also scripted the film version of ‘The Quatermass Xperiment’ (1955).


‘Sorry, sah! But you know how it is… we were just going to have a quick snifter in the officer’s mess, and before we knew it…’

Probably the most interesting presence here (and quite often the only thing worth looking at) is Ziva Rodann (here billed as Ziva Shapir). Her character is as ‘one note’ as all the rest, but at least her exotic looks and presence give the role some weight. Rodann went on to be Nefertiti to Victor Buono’s marvellous King Tut on the ‘Batman’ TV show in the 1960s, before she retired from acting and returned to Israel.

A pedestrian effort that plods along reasonably enough but fades from the memory as quickly as footprints in the desert.

Los Monstruos Del Terror/Assignment Terror/Dracula Versus Frankenstein (1970)

Los Monstruos Del Terror (1970)‘Their passion… is what makes them strong, stronger perhaps than their nuclear weapons.’

Aliens from the planet Ummo plan to take over the earth by releasing ancient monsters to scare mankind into submission. But some of their party are finding it hard to keep their minds on the job and the monsters prove harder to control than anticipated…

Michael Rennie came to our planet once before as an alien in the classic ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ (1951) but this time around his intentions are far from peaceful. The planet Ummo is dying and his people need a new home. The answer: destroy the human race and take the Earth. The plan: well, errm… to revive Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Mummy! This will scare the population into submission… or something. It’s a pretty sophisticated strategy from beings that have travelled 8 light years to get here, even if I do seem to remember hearing about rather a similar scheme once before… ‘Plan 9’, wasn’t it?

This monster mash is mostly a homage/rip off of ‘House of Frankenstein’ (1944), even down to the discovery of ‘Dracula’ as a skeleton in a fairground act. Rennie is assisted by various Euro beauties including Karin Dor, just two years after she met James Bond and even less time since she starred in Hitchcock’s ‘Topaz’ (1969)! Also, to be pedantic (and despite one of the film’s titles), this isn’t Dracula, after all (it’s Count de Meirhoff) or Frankenstein, it’s Farancksollen (or something equally unpronounceable beginning with an ‘F’). Whether the film makers ran into some kind of legal trouble when this Spanish horror was released in the States is unrecorded but the ‘Assignment Terror’ title card is completely mismatched with the rest of the credits so it would seem likely.

Sadly, the film is a complete hodgepodge of odd scenes that just don’t hang together as a coherent story at all. Some of the aliens go to Egypt for a couple of minutes to get the Mummy. The local police inspector starts an affair with the magistrate’s daughter. The Wolf Man scares a couple leaving a party. Rennie’s troops start fancying each other so he keeps them in line by strapping them to a chair and playing loud noises at them. Frankenstein’s monster (sorry, Farancksollen’s monster) fights with the Wolf Man but never even meets Dracula (sorry, Count de Meirhoff), who does almost nothing at all anyway.

Be afraid... oh, go on!

The Farancksollen Monster relaxing at home.

This was Rennie’s last movie, and he  looks very ill, so the obvious assumption is that he died during production, leaving the filmmakers to salvage what they could from the footage they’d managed to shoot. Not so. Rennie was still alive more than a year after the film’s original release, although he may have been too ill to do as much filming as was needed. Whatever the reason, there are lots of repeated close ups of his eyes.

Perhaps of most interest is that all the monsters were played (where possible) by Euro horror star Paul Naschy, who also originated the story and co-produced (under his real name of Jacinto Molina). Naschy was best known for playing werewolf Waldemar Daninsky in a loose series of pictures that weren’t directly related beyond some of the same story elements. No extended universe for him! This was the 3rd of Daninsky’s 12 film appearances. Naschy was still at it with the yak’s hair over 30 years later in ‘Tomb of the Werewolf’ (2004) for U.S. director Fred Olen Ray. He was over 70 years old at the time.

The follow up to this feature was ‘The Werewolf Vs. The Vampire Woman’ (1971) and it’s nowhere near this bad. It’s probable that the production simply ran out of money in the middle of filming… it would explain a lot.