Following his performances as The Wolf Man and Frankenstein, Universal slotted Lon Chaney Jr. into the role of yet another one of their iconic monsters with The Mummy’s Tomb. The third film in the mummy series, Harold Young’s picture picks up 30 years after the previous entry The Mummy’s Hand (and supplies a brief “previously on” segment at the start). Archaeologist Stephen Banning (Dick Foran) has settled down peacefully in the small town of Mapleton, Massachusetts, now with a grown son (John Hubbard) about to marry his girlfriend (Elyse Knox). Back in Egypt, the presumed dead villain Andoheb (George Zucco) revives the mummy Kharis (Chaney) to seek vengeance on the Banning family for violating the tomb all those years ago. Andoheb sends his follower (Turhan Bey) to Mapleton, casket in tow, to right the wrong once and for all.
At times, there’s a perversity to the idea of the mummy wreaking havoc in an innocent small New England town—it feels like a possible influence on David Lynch, even—but the film never engages with that idea in a way that seems more than incidental. Mostly, the hour-long film is taken up by leaps of logic (the mummy questionably only kills one person each night, for no other reason than to drag out the runtime) and a total disregard for its characters as people with any emotions (the brutal murder of his family has no noticeable effect on the last remaining Banning). Like in The Wolf Man, Chaney’s physicality is a poor match for the monster he plays, yet from here he would play the character longer than any other actor. Of all Universal’s monster movies in 1942, The Mummy’s Tomb stands apart as the worst of them.