18th dynasty Egyptian pharoah Amenhotep (Paul Naschy a.k.a. Jacinto Molina Alvarez) is a bloodthirsty tyrant who tortures and kills innocent virgins (who else?) as part of a blood sacrifice so he and his beloved concubine, Amarna (Rina Ottolina) can attain immortality. His evil comes to an end when he is poisoned by righteous sorcerer Amen-Ra who, for an additional “fuck you”, entraps his soul forever as a mummified corpse. Centuries later American husband and wife archaeologists Nathan (Jack Taylor) and Abigail Stern (Maria Silva) unearth Amenhotep's tomb. The pair unwisely bring the mummy to London where their British financier, Sir Douglas Carter (Eduardo Calvo) enlists the aid of Egyptologist Assad Bey (Paul Naschy, in a second role) to decipher its secrets. What no-one knows is that Assad and his glamorous assistant, Zanufer (Helga Liné), are devotees of Amenhotep. With their help it's not long before the mummy prowls the streets of London abducting local virgins for its grisly rituals. Then Amenhotep discovers Sir Douglas' half-Egyptian daughter, Helen (Rina Ottolina again) is the reincarnation of his lost love, Amarna.
One of the endearing things about Spanish horror films from the Seventies is how wholeheartedly they embrace the concept of gothic romance, something notably lacking in contemporary horror. As arguably the most important player amidst the vintage Spanish horror scene, actor and screenwriter Paul Naschy came to specialize in portraying lovelorn monsters whether in his long-running Waldemar Daninsky series of werewolf movies, his romanticized reinterpretation of Dracula in Count Dracula's Great Love (1972) or his necrophiliac hunchback in The Hunchback of the Morgue (1973), one of his best films. A perverse streak of gloomy gothic romanticism also runs throughout La Venganza de la Momia a.k.a. Vengeance of the Mummy a.k.a. The Mummy's Revenge, a splendid addition to Naschy's roster of reinterpretations of classic movie monsters and one of a handful of his collaborations with director Carlos Aured. The pair made some notable films together including Horror Rises from the Tomb (1972), Curse of the Devil (1973) and House of Psychotic Women (1974) before an acrimonious split that Naschy in subsequent interviews put down to “professional jealousy.” Miaow.
Plot-wise, Vengenza de la Momia covers ground not too dissimilar from Horror Rises from the Tomb with a weak-willed descendant once again in thrall to a monstrous ancestor, blood rituals, two sets of obsessive lovers pitted against each other and the scintillating presence of Helga Liné. Yet it is executed with great style and performed with winning sincerity by an accomplished cast. Aured's prowling camera combines deftly with the impeccable lighting by D.P. Francisco Sanchez, another Spanish horror veteran, to create a potent sense of menace and unease. As screenwriter Naschy crafts an appealingly florid comic book romp that plays around with one of his favourite themes, the concept of perverse passion existing as part of a person's blood lineage that cannot be tamed. Early on Helen's father remarks that her mother's blood has overruled her English education and she proves instantly susceptible to the monster's hypnotic allure even sharing a kiss with the grotesque creature. Similarly, the misguided Assad ignores the pleas of his lover Zanufer and remains adamant that because he carries the blood of Amenhotep a great future awaits.
Interestingly, Naschy draws Zanufer as comparatively sympathetic. For while she assists Assad in procuring virgin victims for Amenhotep she takes pity on the tortured Helen (who bears guilt over her mother's death), urges Assad to abandon their evil cause and eventually attempts to save Nathan and Abigail, who prove likeably resourceful heroes. Beautiful Helga Liné essentially plays Vulnavia to Naschy's The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971). Frankly with her at his side it is a wonder Amenhotep bothers pursuing Helen at all. One of the most reliable players in Euro-cult cinema, Liné was always a treat to watch on screen in superior genre fare from fun fumetti romps like Kriminal (1966), Mister X (1967) to the powerful giallo My Dear Killer (1972) and such fine horror films The Dracula Saga (1972), Santo vs. Doctor Death (1973) and Black Candles (1981). She also made a vivid impression opposite Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in the international co-production Horror Express (1972) and went on to work with Pedro Almodóvar on Labyrinth of Passion (1982) and Laws of Desire (1987).
It is a lavish production by Naschy standards with eye-catching costumes (Helga Liné looks especially fetching in skimpy occult attire) and some accomplished gore effects. Monster fans will have great fun watching the shambling mummy crunch heads that squirt cherry syrup or smash faces into a waxy pulp. For all its kitsch comic book qualities the mummy remains an intimidating presence and racks up an impressive body-count before the film reaches a haunting, quite unexpected conclusion.