In present-day Egypt, Andoheb (George Zucco) travels to the Hill of the Seven Jackals, obeying a royal summons from the High Priest of Karnak (Eduardo Ciannelli). The dying priest recounts the story of Kharis (Tom Tyler) to him, including his theft of sacred tana leaves, which can restore life to the dead Princess Ananka, beloved of Kharis. For this, he was buried alive, his tongue cut out, the tana leaves buried with him. If the brew of three tana leaves is administered to the creature at the full moon, he will be kept alive. If the tomb of the Princess is despoiled, a brew of nine leaves will awaken the mummy to walk and defend the tomb.
In 1940, archaeologist Steve Banning (Dick Foran) and his sidekick Babe Jenson (Wallace Ford) discover a broken vase in a Cairo bazaar. They believe it is a genuine ancient Egyptian relic and that the hieroglyphs on it constitute clues to the location of Ananka’s tomb. With the help of Doctor Petrie (Charles Trowbridge) of the Cairo Museum, Banning prepares an expedition, but this is against the wishes of Andoheb, who also works there. Banning and Jenson meet an American stage-magician named Tim Sullivan (Cecil Kellaway), called The Great Solvani, who agrees to fund the quest.
But Andoheb visits Solvani’s daughter Marta (Peggy Moran) and tells her the two archeologists are frauds and he doubts the whole expedition. It leaves in search of the Hill of the Seven Jackals with both Solvani and his daughter tagging along. They stumble onto the Tomb of Kharis, with the mummy and the tana leaves, but there is no sign of Ananka’s Tomb. Andoheb appears to Doctor Petrie in the tomb and Petrie feels the mummy’s pulse. Andoheb prepares the tana brew with nine leaves and the mummy walks, killing Doctor Petrie and escaping through a secret passageway through the mountain. It returns to kill an overseer, attack Solvani, and kidnap Marta. Banning enters the secret passage and Jenson goes around the mountain to track Kharis down.
Enthralled by Marta’s beauty, Andoheb plans to inject her and himself with tana, making them both immortal. Jenson guns down Andoheb and Manning tries to rescue Marta. But Kharis appears, immune to bullets. Marta tells Banning and Jenson that Kharis must not drink the tana serum and Jenson shoots the container. When Kharis drops to the floor to lap up the spilled serum, Banning overturns a brazier over him and he is engulfed in flames. The team returns to America with Ananka’s mummy and the treasures from the tomb.
The film was directed by Christy Cabanne and produced by Ben Pivar of Universal. Money was saved by using stock footage from the Mummy, sets from Green Hell by James Whale, and the music from Son of Frankenstein. The Mummy’s Tomb in 1942 was a direct sequel of this movie. The critics were not kind. It was largely dismissed as the same old mumbo-jumbo, and the actors, who had been abused by the producers, seemed listless and not terribly frightened. As for me, I badly missed Boris Karloff. To make the mummy seem more frightening, Tom Tyler’s eyes and the inside of his mouth were blacked out in closeups. The grand tomb-set from Green Hell was used in this and other Universal movies. Dick Foran’s adventurous character was an inspiration for Indiana Jones. Tom Tyler had been a weightlifter before becoming an actor and those skills came in handy.