Universal knew a good thing when they saw one, which led to all of their classic monsters being made into franchises with many sequels. It didn’t matter if the original actors were absent, though most modern viewers find it hard to picture these iconic horror creatures being played by anyone else.
The Mummy’s Hand, released 20 September 1940, began a rebooted series of four Mummy films. In comparison to the Boris Karloff original, where the titular character spends the majority of the film as a modern Egyptian, this series features a Mummy in full bandaged regalia. He’s also way creepier, particularly with his blacked-out eyes and mouth.
Most reviewers of 1940 weren’t too keen on it, a view which is still shared today. This is an obvious B movie, not timeless, classic cinema. It’s also a widely-held opinion that the Mummy is Universal’s least-loved, most-neglected monster.
Andoheb (George Zucco) goes to the Hill of the Seven Jackals at the behest of the dying High Priest of Karnak. Once he arrives, he hears the tragic story of Kharis, which is quite similar to that of Imhotep in the 1932 original. (In fact, Universal reused footage of Imhotep being mummified alive! Other footage was recycled as well.)
Kharis was in love with the deceased Princess Ananka, so much so he steals tana leaves from her tomb to bring her back to life while he’s guarding her. Predictably, he’s caught in the act. To prevent screaming while he’s mummified alive, his tongue is cut out.
The High Priest tells Andoheb how to keep Kharis semi-living. During a full Moon, Kharis must drink a brew made with three tana leaves. If the tomb is disturbed, a brew of nine leaves will fully reanimate Kharis. You can probably guess why that’s desired!
Brooklyn boys Steve Banning (Dick Foran) and Babe Jenson (Wallace Ford, who’s a dead ringer for Lou Costello) discover a broken vase in the Cairo bazaar in the modern era and pay $75 for it. Steve, an archaeologist, is convinced it’s an authentic Ancient Egyptian relic. Not only that, he believes the hieroglyphics are directions to Ananka’s tomb.
They’re left with almost no money after buying it, so they’re really desperate to get rich by selling it to the Cairo Museum. At first, Dr. Petrie (Charles Trowbridge) claims it’s a phony, but later admits it’s indeed authentic. However, he has reservations about an expedition to the tomb.
Andoheb, who also works for the museum, opposes the mission too.
Presently, Steve and Babe convince travelling magician Tim Sullivan, The Great Solvani (character actor Cecil Kellaway), to help with financing their expedition. Since Solvani is a fellow Brooklynite, he readily agrees.
His daughter and assistant Marta (Peggy Moran) feels much differently, particularly since Andoheb visited and told her Steve and Babe are fakes on a wild goose chase. But since Solvani already sank so much money into this mission, there’s no choice but to follow through.
Though they ultimately find Kharis’s tomb, there’s nothing to indicate Ananka is also in the vicinity.
And then Andoheb reanimates Kharis, who proceeds to go on a rampage through the camp and tomb.