At the exact moment that a group of Egyptologists discover the tomb of evil queen Tera, the wife of the leader of the expedition gives birth to a girl before she dies during childbirth. Years later, as the girl grows up into a beautiful young woman, the members of the expedition each begin to mystery die one-by-one.
The early 70s was a testing time for Hammer as it drastically tried to breathe new life into its dying franchises. Ralph Bates was brought in to replace Peter Cushing as a younger Baron Frankenstein in The Horror of Frankenstein and the Dracula series was moved into the 20th century with Dracula A.D. 1972, as well as the introduction of more graphic sex and gore into other Hammer films. So it was deemed necessary to turn its mummy franchise away from watching a man in bandages stalk old explorers to something a little more interesting and appealing. Whilst one can argue that the notion of such a change is warranted given the stagnant and repetitive formula of the previous couple of sequels, this double-edged sword will lead to accusations that it's not a 'true' mummy film if ever there was a thought.
Based around 'The Jewel of the Seven Stars', a 1903 novel by Bram Stoker, the film itself seems to have been hit by some sort of Egyptian curse itself. Director Seth Holt sadly died a week before principal photography was due to finish and Hammer head Michael Carreras took over to finish the film and edit it. Peter Cushing also had to withdraw during the first week of shooting after his wife became ill. This surrounds the film with an unwanted sense of real death to add to the on-screen carnage. Knowing the problems surrounding the film certainly adds to the ambiance and Blood from the Mummy's Tomb continuously feels uneasy, surreal and, at times, dreamlike.
It's a little slow-going, especially the first half of the film, but its setting its pieces up for the second half when the supernatural angle really comes into force and characters begin to die. It does seem a little weird to think we could be watching Blood from the Mummy's Tomb with a bandaged guy playing the role of the monster. Apart from Tera's severed hand, there's no on screen monstrous presence stalking the characters or choking them to death. It's surprisingly bloody though with neck bites and a stumpy wrist spurting out the red stuff whenever required. This was also one of the first Hammer films to bring their old school gothic touch into a more modern setting as they tried to change with the times instead of churning out period horror. The combination of the modern with the gothic looks like some sort of real life nightmare: streets, houses and alleys suddenly take on a whole new menace with the sense that something malevolent is lurking there. Unfortunately, the film rarely sets foot outside and the fog-drenched streets are replaced by dimly-lit basements and bland house sets.
Blood from the Mummy's Tomb works for other reasons, most notably Valerie Leon. There's sex bombs from the 60s and 70s, but she's got to be up there with the best of them. Looking like an extra from a Russ Meyer film, Leon slips into a variety of skimpy outfits to reveal her extremely ample figure more than once. The director knows she's the major attraction of the film and he's not wrong there. Leon is just drop dead stunning. No other words can describe her. She has to play two roles: that of Margaret the daughter of the expedition leader and of Tera, the evil queen. She spends most of her time as Tera laying down in a casket in little clothing but it can be argued that she does exactly the same as Margaret except she stands up and talks. Leon is simply mesmerising on the screen and has an amazing presence thanks to her beauty and figure.
Andrew Keir stepped into Cushing's role when he withdrew. Keir was no stranger to Hammer having played the title role in Quatermass and the Pit as well as a supporting role in Dracula, Prince of Darkness. He's a solid, dependable actor who isn't given a lot to do here but does what he has to with the usual commitment and drive. James Villiers slimes it up as the shady and unscrupulous Corbeck, marking a change for an English bad guy instead of the stereotypical fez-wearing Egyptian cultist.
Blood from the Mummy's Tomb is a decent effort from Hammer considering it's without its major assets both in front of and behind the camera. Given the troubled production it had and how played out the mummy formula had become, the film does a commendable job of trying to put a fresh spin on everything. It works but not as well as it could have done.