Fred Olen Ray's At It Again: THE TOMB (1986) Review

Oh, Fred Olen Ray, you old devil, you. Why do your movies have so much potential? Scalps had a great premise, great gore effects, and a lean runtime, so how did it turn out to be the bona fide turd that it is today? All the right ingredients are in the batter but you don’t know how to work the oven. You just have to get me all excited by just showing me what awaits me with The Tomb, but do you deliver? With this much potential there’s no way you could fail…right?


THE TOMB (1986) Review

John Banning (David O’Hara) is a tomb raider who discovers a long-lost tomb in Egypt that was unearthed by an earthquake. He begins robbing it of its goods, and accidentally releases Queen Neratis (Michelle Bauer), a vampire. He escapes and makes it back to the States, where he sells the stolen relics to various scholars, including Dr. Howard Phillips (Cameron Mitchell). Unfortunately, Nefratis has followed him back from Egypt and forces him to tell her where her precious possessions are. She begins to bump off the historians one by one, leaving Phillips’s daughter Helen (Susan Stokey) and her newfound love interest David (Richard Hench) to stop her.

Well, Fred, you did it again. The first thirty minutes of The Tomb are great. In that timeframe, there are two title cards (in case you forgot the name of the movie in the span of three minutes), an explosion, a gunfight, a live musical number of “Tutti Fruitie” by an Egyptian themed band, fun credits, one cool vampire, a severed head, a torn throat, a bar fight, a chase set to a cheesy song, and Cameron Mitchell. After that, all aboard the slow train to Dullsville. Of all the films I’ve ever seen, this one has some of the greatest potential out of all of them. I mean, just look at this cast: Cameron Mitchell (Blood and Black Lace), John Carradine (Shock Waves), Michelle Bauer (Bloody Movie), and Sybil Danning (Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf)! It’s a like B-movie wet dream! Then there’s the artwork that depicts it as an action-packed thrill ride, and to top it off, the wonderful first half hour! What went wrong?

Ineptitude. The writing is bland and awful, the direction is severely lacking of any sort of style, and in the end, there’s really no point to this movie ever being made. Nothing memorable happens, and everything that gets set up to be great collapses in on itself like a house of cards in a sandstorm, and with just as much flavor. Most of the actors are just going through the motions, and with the dialogue they’re given, I really don’t blame them. Even Banning’s dialogue, which is supposed to be witty, falls very flat, and sadly, he’s the best character in this squat-and-push effort.

Cameron Mitchell did alright in his role, John Carradine was pretty good (every time the camera was on him, there was a second or two pause before he started talking, which I found to be odd), Michelle Bauer was really bad, and Sybil Danning, in her two minutes of screen time as a femme fatale, was alright as well. The other actors, however, were atrocious. O’Hara did okay with the material he was given as Banning, even though his character is highly underused and only comes in at the beginning and end of the film. What a waste.

There are some good things hidden in here, though. The gore and make-up effects that we briefly see are good, and some of the bad moments are funny when they’re not grueling to sit through. The opening scene where Danning and O’Hara have it out along with several other men, as well as the fun opening credits with that catchy song, gave the film a strong start that the rest of it couldn’t match. Everything about The Tomb should be great. The dream cast, the great artwork, the promising beginning, and the good effects. Unfortunately, Olen Ray screws it all up. There’s almost no fun to be had save for a few scenes of goodness, but it’s hard to remember them over the suffocating stench of incompetent writing and directing. It took me a month to finish this movie, and there was hardly what I would call a reward at the end of the journey. I want to recommend this highly, but I can’t. This one pretty much deserves to rot in VHS hell, never to see the redeeming light of a DVD release. At least, we can only hope that much.

The Verdict: The Tomb sets up everything to be an exploitation glimpse of Heaven, but there’s no blood, no nudity, no real laughs, and just talking. Lots of talking. The good moments manage to shine through, so a hesitant recommend is in order. Just brace yourself before and don’t fall for Mr. Fred Olen Ray’s lies.

Score: 4/10

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