#10 in my ranking of the Classic Universal Monster movies.
How weird is it that Abbott and Costello star in not only the best monster team up movie of the classic era but also the best Mummy movie of the 30s, 40s, and 50s? It’s weird, but it’s true. Their effort with the Invisible Man was a bit of a dud, but they come back in the same zany form as their first movie in the Universal Monster franchise, finding a way to inject their brand of comedy into a Mummy story with a light touch including a couple of standout moments that highlight the more familiar antics of the pair in concentrated form.
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello (they technically have character names, but no one uses them except the credits) are in Egypt trying to find a way home (shades of The Mummy’s Hand here), and they overhear a professor in the local nightclub, Dr. Zoomer (Kurt Katch) about needing two men to help him transport a mummy back to America. This is Klaris (Eddie Parker), notably not Kharis but pretty much exactly the same, and there are two groups out to claim him. The first is led by Semu (Richard Deacon), a Klaris cultist leader who wishes to return Klaris to where he belongs and help protect the secret treasure he guards. The second is led by Madame Rontru (Marie Windsor) who wants it because of the treasure, I think. She doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about why she wants it.
When Semu’s men kill Zoomer, leading to a wonderfully entertaining scene as Lou keeps seeing the increasingly disrobed body of the dead professor at different spots around the large office and apartment the comedic pair are searching while Bud never sees it, they take Klaris but cannot find a sacred medallion. After some back and forth that ends with Bud being blamed for the murder of Zoomer because of pictures that Lou took, all three groups ends up back at Zoomer’s office where Bud and Lou (of course) accidentally find the medallion. Getting away from both of the other groups as well as the police, Bud and Lou decide to try and sell the medallion to get them money to go back home, and so begins the masquerade.
People start taking on the identities of others, starting with Madam Rontru making out like she’s just a collector of antiquities in order to buy the medallion off of them, while increasingly complex comedic numbers play out, like arms reaching out of every nook and cranny of a private dining room looking for the medallion in Lou’s clothes. The problem is that he accidentally ate it. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but comedy. This is the reasoning for taking Bud and Lou to the remote desert location of the Tomb of Klaris (which is also where the cult is based), leading to antics in and around a tomb. There’s a great, classic Abbott and Costello moment where Bud and Lou argue about how Bud’s pick for a tool is a shovel instead of a pick.
It all ends up escalating until two men decide to dress up like Klaris to fool the rest, leading to moments where three Klaris’ are running around in the same shot, and it’s the exact kind of delirious comic energy that Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein had so easily while Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man struggled to manufacture in a story that didn’t need it.
Is it actually a Mummy movie? I mean, there is a mummy, but he’s pushed to the side for the middle section of the film completely. It’s mostly about the comic antics of Abbott and Costello trapped between two menacing groups who want them for their own ends. It allows for them to run around sets that look like Egypt and do comedic things in an Egyptian context, a basic element of Mummy movies that the past few films simply had given up on trying to replicate, moving the action to America which helped to rob those films of one of the meager appeals of the franchise it was supposed to have.
I still prefer their monster mash up against Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Wolf Man, but this is a much better vehicle for the comic duo’s comedy stylings than their team up with the Invisible Man. It’s funny, light, and madcap. It’s hard to imagine what else you could want from something like this.