Pharaoh’s Curse (1957) DVD Review: Silly, Dumb, and Very Enjoyable

It’s too bad that Joe Flaherty’s epic SCTV character Count Floyd never hosted an actual bona fide version of “Monster Chiller Horror Theater” on late-night weekend television. Were he to have done so, you could bet your bottom dollar that the 1957 mummy flick Pharaoh’s Curse would have shown up on his roster of campy forgotten movies. And, just like he did on SCTV, he probably would have been found administering a much-needed facepalm to his mug during the cutaway sequences — only to snap out of it and quickly try to reassure the bored kids at home that something really was going to happen soon.

Yes, kiddies, Pharaoh’s Curse is a dud, but it has just what I look for in a ‘50s horror movie. Written by the one and only Richard Landau — who penned his fair share of hits (The Quatermass Experiment, The Black Hole) as well as misses (Frankenstein – 1970, Lost Continent [1951]) — Pharaoh’s Curse finds a small group of people (archaeologists and legionnaires) exploring a previously undiscovered tomb somewhere in Egypt. Of course, it takes us a while to get there: a good half of the 66-minute feature or so. After that, we get to see the pharaoh’s coffin opened — an act that unleashes a 3,000-year-old curse upon the living.

From there, things start to get interesting — although the thrills are somewhat short-lived. The movie does have its perks though: instead of going the traditional route of a guy walking around wrapped in bandages, Pharaoh’s Curse employs a new concept (for the time), wherein the spirit of dead feller transfers to another body — turning him into a rapidly-aging monster. In fact, director Lee Sholem (who made a number of movies and TV shows so quickly and cheaply, they called him “Roll ‘Em” Sholem) manages to get in an effective scene or two here — before promptly ending the whole damn movie (which was clearly shot in Southern California) just as it starts to get interesting. Talk about camp!

Like I said: Pharaoh’s Curse has just what I look for in a ‘50s horror movie. It’s silly, dumb, and very enjoyable because of it.

Starring in this fun dud are Mark Dana, Ziva Rodann, Diane Brewster, George N. Neise, Ben Wright, Guy Prescott — though it’s hard to pinpoint who the main character is supposed to be because of the way the story is handled. MGM has done some tomb excavating of their own, bringing this forgotten novelty item out of the dust-laden pits of time and releasing it as part of their Limited Edition Collection of Manufactured-on-Demand titles. The print here is quite nice, though a bit dark in some places — something that I imagine is more attributable to the film’s low budget and Sholem’s filtering on the many day-for-night shots.

Grab a beer, order out, and strap yourself in for a hokey bit of drive-in fun.

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Luigi Bastardo

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