Monday, 10 June 2013

Osiris, Tao and the God of the Emerald Fingers.

Zita Johann as Princess Ankh-es-en-amon in The Mummy.
In 1932, one of Universal Studio's great horror movies was released. The Mummy, starring, Boris Karloff, made its eerie appearance hot on the heals of the successful Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931), and told the tale of two ancient star crossed Egyptian lovers, the high priest Imhotep (Karloff) and the Princess Ankh-es-en-amon, who fight against the barriers of death and time to be together, albeit unsuccessfully. Upon the Princess' untimely death, Imhotep, refusing to let their illicit love die, set about stealing the Scroll of Thoth, a book of  resurrection magic kept beneath a statue of the god Osiris. Osiris was the god of the dead, the underworld and the after life. He is often depicted wearing an Atef crown, a crown resembling that worn in Upper Egypt and which is flanked either side by curled ostrich feathers, symbols of the Osirian cult. In his hands he holds a shepherds crook and  a whip like object called a flail. Some times he is portrayed standing but at other times he is depicted as seated on his throne as he rules of the world of the dead. It is here, in The Mummy, that he is seated on his throne. As Imhotep accesses the scroll to resurrect his beloved, Osiris shows his disapproval of the priests' act by waving the statues arm holding the flail. It is the whip, not the shepherds crook of rescue, that signifies that the high priest has angered the gods. As Imhotep begins to carry out the unholy rites, he is stopped by the Pharaoh and his guards and sentenced to the living death that is the curse of the Mummy. But as the legend of the Mummy began, the statue of Osiris disappeared from the silver screen........... or did it?

Osiris in his traditional pose.
The truth is that in the world of B movies you can't keep a good prop down and in 1933 Osiris burst once again on to our screens, not as the God of the Dead, but as Zar, God of the Emerald Fingers. The movie was Wardour Films, Tarzan the Fearless (1933), and Osiris now sported a row of emeralds along his fingers which would serve as a temptation for any discoverer of the lost city, also named Zar. Tarzan the Fearless was released in both a 12 part serial form and as a feature and both versions included a plot line where some of the gems were stolen from the fingers, much to the anger of the high priest (Mischa Auer) and the citizens of Zar. Not surprisingly, it was left up to Tarzan (Larry 'Buster' Crabbe) to save the day. Sadly not all the serial version has survived (although Tarzan fans live in hope that some day all will be recovered) but it appears that the idol was featured in several chapters, including Chapter 6: Voodoo Vengeance and Chapter 8: Creeping Terror. But as Tarzan swung away from the lost city of Zar and into the deep jungle with his new mate, it would seem that Osiris, or Zar, or whatever it's name was now, would be gone from the silver screen forever.............or would it?

In 1936 Universal Studios brought the comic strip Flash Gordon onto the big screen in a 13 part serial. Also starring Larry 'Buster' Crabbe, this time as Flash Gordon, it tells the tale of three space travellers who journey to the planet Mongo to stop the evil Ming the Merciless (Charles Middleton) from destroying the Earth. It is in Chapter 2: The Tunnel of Terror, that Ming decides to marry Flash's love interest Dale Arden (Jean Rogers)

against her will. As the ceremony begins, the statue of Mongo's god Tao is seen standing in the centre of the chapel, an idol that is none other than the statue of Osiris now masquerading as an alien god. Thankfully for Flash and Dale the wedding doesn't go ahead and Flash eventually saves the Earth. It is also here that Osiris had his last screen appearance......or was it?

In 1940 Universal Studios decided to make a follow up to it's 1932 hit The Mummy, entitled the Mummy's Hand. Although this sequel actually followed the reign of terror of a different living mummy, Kharis (Tom Tyler), footage of the Mummy's origin story was reused from the original, with the front on shots of Boris Karloff removed and appropriate shots of Tom Tyler dressed identically added in. In this origin story, Prince Kharis seeks to resurrect his lost love, Princess Ananka, with the use of the sacred tana leaves. The leaves are kept in a box identical to the one which housed the Scroll of Thoth in the original movie and the box is kept beneath the very same statue of Osiris. As in the original, Osiris shows his displeasure at Kharis' resurrection plans for the Princess Ananka and waves his flail at him. Very soon Kharis is apprehended and sentenced to undeath as a living Mummy. Many may have believed this was the statues last film appearance......but it wasn't.

In 1944 the 5th film in the Mummy series, The Mummy's Curse, starring Lon Chaney Jr, was released, and once again the Mummy's origin was retold using stock footage from The Mummy's Hand, which inturn used stock footage from The Mummy. And there in the middle of the flashback was Osiris, storing the tana leaves beneath his feet and waving his flail disapprovingly at Prince Kharis as he had at Imhotep before him. Due to this reuse of stock footage, not only does the Osiris statue make its 5th screen appearance (and is referred to as Isis), but Kharis is portrayed by four different actors, Karloff and Tyler in the flashback and Lon Chaney Jr and his stunt double, Eddie Parker, in the main body of the film. This would be the last outing for the Mummy until 1955's Abbott and Costello meet the Mummy and even then it would be yet another bandage dragger named Klaris (Eddie Parker) that would feature in this comical take on the series. But no where to be seen amongst the hijinks  was Osiris, or Tao, or Isis or Zar of the Emerald Fingers, the statue itself possibly having gone to the great props warehouse in the sky many years before it had lived on in stock footage.







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