The Tomb (Fred Olen Ray)
Cameron Mitchell, Michelle Bauer, Sybil Danning
Fred Olen Ray is a director greatly beloved by the connossieur of celluloid junk. He specialises in gratuitous nudity; the ‘bimbo pic’. They may be bimbos with buzz-saws (“Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers”), bad bimbos (“Prison Ship Star Slammer”) or, as in this one, bimbo Egyptian goddess vampires with a grudge.
Examination of the video box reveals that the exploitation isn’t confined to the subject matter or the direction. “Starring Sybil Danning”, it trumpets – to say this is a bit of an exaggeration is being kind, since she appears, literally, for two minutes, thus becoming the only ‘star’ of a film ever to vanish from it before the opening credits roll.
Her 15 seconds of fame occur as she and her 5 henchmen – highly impressive since she arrived in the middle of the desert in a two-seater plane – try to swindle John Banning (Mitchell), an Indiana Jones style swashbuckling archaeologist, out of an artefact. This scene is completely irrelevant to everything that follows and the entire sequence can safely be ignored.
The plot really begins with Banning and his sidekick plotting in a Cairo pub. Yousef, a local guide, tells them of a tomb he has discovered and agrees to take them there – cue stock footage of Cairo and the actors leading camels through strangely un-Egyptian looking scenery. They arrive in the tomb, where their guide tells them of Nefratis, an Ancient Egyptian princess, disciple of Set, drinker of human blood, buried alive, and so on – fill in the blanks yourself.
Surprise, surprise, this is her tomb and before you can say ‘Nebuchadnezzar’, up she pops to decapitate the guide and slaughter the side-kick, with Banning escaping by cleverly bringing the roof down on her after he fires his gun. We know this isn’t the end of the story, since Nefratis mutters “You can run – I won’t follow you, but I’ll be there when you can’t run any more” as Banning leaves. 3,000 years in a coffin with nothing to do and that’s the best line she can come up with? Oddly, she speaks English – where she learned this isn’t explained. Must be a perk of the job.
Banning returns to America and has a brush with US Customs, leading to a chase which is remarkable only for it’s total lack of excitement. He sells the relics he swiped from Nefratis’ tomb to various people, before she (now dressed in the height of fashion) tracks him down and implants a scarab beetle next to his chest so he can serve her. Since he does next to sod-all for the rest of the film, this was clearly a limited success.
Nefratis is after the relics because she has to perform a ritual, involving hmn scrfc, every seventh moon to retain her youth. One relic is in the possession of a Dr. Manners, an amateur egyptologist, who describes the artefact as “older than recorded history – possibly before the Thinnite period”. Thank you, Doctor, very informative. C-, and here, get your heart torn out by this handily passing Egyptian with vampiric tendencies. From their comments, the police are baffled:
- “Nothing’s missing – except the victim’s heart”
- “A man’s dead. Murdered. And someone’s responsible”
- “People get killed in this town everyday – that’s Hollywood”.
Dr. Manners’ son, Dave, and a colleague of the dead man, Dr. Stewart, visit the local university to see Professor Phillips, a man whom they suspect of having bought the other piece. He denies dealing in illicit goods but Dave charms Phillips’ niece, Helen into helping them – hey, SHE’S into Egyptology too. Lucky, huh? She comes up with Banning’s name though when he’s tracked down (busy playing pin-ball, no doubt at the behest of Nefratis – “O, my servant, go and stick a few quarters into the machines down the local arcade”), he proves none too helpful.
Dave & Helen find out about Nefratis from a convenient academic. Our goddess feels a bit peckish and pops out for a snack, in the form of the director’s wife, Dawn Wildsmith, who is pushed onto a bed of snakes, after taking her top off, naturally. Helen finds out her uncle has Nefratis’ bit of jewellery and relieves him of it – Prof. Phillips is clearly a mad scientist, since he wants to INTERVIEW Nefratis, a task even Sir Robin Day might balk at. Nefratis duly appears, miraculously finding a portable laser to help make her entrance dramatic, before leaving Phillips feeling drained, though she does say “I’m sorry, mon amour”, proving that she’s capable of regret and has also learned French. The situation is now so serious that Dave & Helen take the evening off and go down to the local red-light district. Nefretis, accompanied by a song which sounds like a Devo out-take, follows them home and kidnaps Helen after Dave leaves to visit Dr. Stewart. The two men find Banning, knock him out, surgically remove the scarab and get him to take them to the sacrifice site, which fortunately, Nefratis has divulged to him.
And it is there that the final, dramatic battle takes place, between our heroes and Nefratis, with a brief contribution from the US Customs men (see about two pages back) who also want the artefacts returned. Nefratis is finally destroyed by a shaft of light from one of them (the artefacts, not the US Customs men!).
No, it doesn’t make sense to me, either.
The last shot is of the destroyed vampire’s skeletal arm, which moves, filling the viewer with a sense of horror at the thought that a sequel might ever be made to this film, which has otherwise failed to be horrible in the slightest.
“Low budget” springs to mind very easily when discussing this film. The script- writer, Kenneth J. Hall (who directed the enjoyably atrocious ‘Metamorphosis’), was also the prop-master and an ‘animation assistant’ as well (presumably meaning he was trying to get leading lady Michelle Bauer to show some animation; not a task in which he was overly succesful).
Distressing though it is to admit, it’s still good fun – unlike ‘Revenge of the Teenage Vixens’, this seems SHORTER than is claimed. The directors cunningly appeal to the viewer in two ways. If you can resist the ‘bimbo factor’, they throw in a variety of genre figures to attract the completist – the aforementioned Sybil Danning, John Carradine, and Kitten Natividad, probably Russ Meyer’s biggest find [FX: editor restraining himself manfully from making a childish remark], who gets a walk-on role in a strip-club for no better reason than to increase the nipple count.
However, perhaps the most memorable thing about the film is the dialogue. Ken Hall either has a wickedly ironic sense of humour or constructed the script while out of his tree on a combination of diet pills and 50’s B-movies. The best examples, other than those given above:
- Prof Phillips, on seeing the cross he is trying to ward Nefratis off with turn into a snake : “You know, I always wanted one of those things.”
- Banning’s sidekick, in Nefratis’ tomb : “What the hell’s that? That wasn’t here when we came in.”
- Customs man to Nefratis : “US Customs – we want those artefacts!”
- Banning to Nefratis : “I’ve come to kill you, you mummified bitch.”
For once, this film is no obscurity only accessible to the fanatic, the insomniac or the obsessive. Channel 5, that top producer of cheap trash who are also responsible for The New Avengers tapes and Transvision Vamp’s video EP) have let it escape for 9.99. Less than the price of 8 pints of Guinness and you too can have two minutes of Sybil Danning and 84 minutes of “The Tomb” – pity it’s not the other way round!
What atrocity will we examine next time? Decisions, decisions. Not had a prison movie for ooh, at least two issues, so perhaps it’ll be “Bad Girls Dormitory”, the most pointless bimbo-behind-bars film I’ve yet seen. Or maybe Fred Olen Ray’s contribution mentioned above, “Prison Ship Star Slammer”. Then again, Rob Dyer (a curse on him) has sent me the prequel to “Return of the Barbarian Women”…
**** 3. “Because I cut off his legs. And his arms. And his head. And I’m going to do the same to you”