Sunday, October 17, 2010

Going Shopping: Blood from the Mummy's Tomb

The meek shall NOT inherit the earth. They can't be trusted with it.

Hammer's 1971 Blood from the Mummy's Tomb is a film of pere-version, in which the usual savant v. monster dynamic is a true family affair - between the Egyptologist father (originally to be played by Peter Cushing, then played by Andrew Keir) and the doubled figure of Tera, 'evil' Egyptian princess stashed in his basement, and her reincarnation: his daughter (!) Magaret Fuchs (both played by Valerie Leon). The stars are correctly aligned in true Lovecraftian fashion and Tera is ready to return in her 'vessel' of Margaret and begin her reign...
Set in its own present, the film layers the late 19th/early 20thC misogyny of its sources - Stoker's The Jewel of the Seven Stars and Rider Haggard's She - with late 60s/early 70s misogyny vectored through 'sexual liberation' - folding together two moments of confrontation between a disturbed imperial masculinity/patriarchy with radicalised feminism. As Valerie Leon noted her role consists mainly in displaying as much cleavage as possible, but the fact that her father has 'awakened' her into the role of Tera suggests something more like the Fritzl basement underpins the libidinal dynamics.

The Two Daughters

The Two Fathers

While the savant-father, and his various colleagues on the expedition, seem to belong firmly to the Edwardian, the exception is Corbeck (played by James Villiers). Camply seductive counter-figure of the perverse father, he 'seduces' Margaret into becoming what she is, as he regards Tera not as evil, but as a female unbermensch 'beyond good and evil'. A very British Charlie Manson, Corbeck channels Nietzsche in his desire to escape the shackles of bourgeois morality.

Tera/Margaret sees herself as the reincarnation of love, all suggesting the 'evil' of hippie amoralism threatening to return from the cosmic Egyptian past in a 'new age' apocalypse of wanton libido, not confined to a father waiting until his daughter is 21 before he is able to become her servant (Margret already has a de rigeur 'cool' 60s boyfriend, who 'Tera' offs in his sports car with a useful tree ram).

Margaret / Tera refers to the collection of the various (crappy) tomb-objects required for her reincarnation as 'going shopping' - a deadly male fantasy of female consumption ('I'm going to kill you'). Of course, in the final ritual for the bringing to earth of Tera's age of cosmic love/evil father and daughter ally to kill Tera. This literally brings the house / basement down. The final scene has Margaret as the mummy - not Egyptian but the biopolitical 'mummy' of bare life, the bound figure of feminine jouissance. As a nurse helpfully explains, she has no name because she has no family and all the others were crushed in the collapse.

Beyond the paternal function, at least in the imagination of Hammer, lies not the libidinal terror of the antinomian promise of 'liberation' but the new shackles of the life drive as inexpressible horror of bound libido. 1970s film would play again and again with the topos of rape as discipline. Here the binding is literalised, as the 'mummy' (and the mother's death in Margaret's moment of birth was the condition of her binding to the father), against the threat of some 'naming' and libido not propped on the father.

No comments:

Post a Comment