From Novel to Film pt. 21: Jewel of the Seven Stars / Blood from the Mummy's Tomb

Jewel of the Seven Stars (1903) is an Egyptology-flavored gothic horror novel from Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. Blood from the Mummy's Tomb is the Hammer Horror adaptation of the novel from 1971. It was adapted in other places, as well, perhaps most notably as The Awakening with Charlton Heston in 1980, which I somehow never saw despite my parents having it on VHS for all of the VCR era. (Hell, maybe they still do - I'll check next time I visit.)

As an adaptation, Blood is quite a bit different than its source material. A popular misconception is that The Mummy (with Boris Karloff) is based on Jewel, but it is not. For all that Blood has in common with Jewel, however, both it and The Mummy might as well be based on Stoker's book.

Broad-strokes-wise, all the three works really have in common is the same sort of Ancient Egypt/ violated tombs story arc.

I read the story in paperback, with only the revised 1912 ending, like some damn rube. You can download it to your mobile device here and read either the 1912 version or the original. Or even have it read to you. Next we'll be able to remotely resurrect mummies ourselves as an app, sidestep all the ritualistic hoopla.

The novel opens with Malcolm Ross, a London barrister, being called to the home of the lady he admires, one Margaret Trelawney, on account of her father falling into a mysterious coma. Actually, "admires" is putting it mildly. He's infatuated with her. In his sublimated and eccentric late Victorian way:

"She had marvelous eyes; great, wide-open, and as black and soft as velvet, with a mysterious depth. To look in them was like gazing at a black mirror such as Doctor Dee used in his wizard rites. I heard an old gentleman at the picnic, a great oriental traveler, describe the effect of her eyes 'as looking at night at the great distant lamps of a mosque through the open door.'"

Played in the film by Valerie Leon, whose eyes may fall short of this hyperbole. Whose wouldn't?
She's certainly a memorable Margaret/ Queen Tera, regardless.

The film eventually has the elder Trelawney fall into his coma, but not until 30 minutes into the story. It's not the center of the drama as it is in the book, just one of many plot twists. And his name is changed to Fuchs, for some reason, (played by Andrew Keir) and Malcolm becomes "Tod Browning" (played by Mark Edwards). Also, Tod and Margaret start the film as lovers, so the whole burgeoning-love-in-our-protagonists'-hearts plot from the book is excised.

Also: the story takes place in the 1960s, not the early 1900s.

These changes didn't bother me. Most of the changes didn't bothered me. I like updating it to the 60s (go-go boots! Hippie beards!) and I'm fine with skipping the courtship altogether, particularly the Victorian courtship of the book. I was disappointed to see some of the characters I enjoyed from the novel (such as Dr. Winchester and Detective Dolan, who stood watch over the comatose elder Trelawny with Malcolm and Margaret, and fought a few more ghost-mummy attacks) dropped from the story, particularly Detective Dolan, who, upon Trelawney's awakening, leaves the novel, eager to get back to "wholesome, criminal work." But again, so much of the novel is re-arranged and discarded that their absence is hardly felt.

Anyway, that's how the novel begins, with Mr. Trelawney under a mystical coma-curse, repeatedly attacked by what appears to be a cat, and everyone else watching and worrying. The film begins things with a woman being entombed in Ancient Egypt. Before the priests seal the sarcophagus, they hack off her hand and throw it to the jackals.

Whereupon it crawls back into the tomb.

As soon as the priest seal the tomb, they are all brutally killed by a sudden and furious sandstorm. The astral "ka" of Queen Tera - the woman just entombed - has exacted her first revenge. All of this is in the book, too, but it is only recounted in the novel upon the appearance of one Mr. Corbeck:

Played by James Villiers (one of the actors to play Tanner in the James Bond movies.)

Corbeck is the film's main villain - though you could argue Queen Tera, sure - but he is not villainous in the novel at all. He is Trelawney's longtime assistant, only recently returned from Egypt with the lamps from Queen Tera's tomb in the Valley of the Sorcerer. These are necessary for the ritual Trelawney is planning to resurrect the long-dead queen.

Here's his approaching-mad-scientist-but-isn't-he-right,-though? rousing Braveheart speech from the novel:

"Life and resurrection are themselves but items in what may be won by the accomplishment of this Great Experiment. Imagine what it will be for the world of thought - the true world of human progress - the veritable road to the Stars, the itur ad astra of the Ancients - if there can come back to use out of the unknown past one who can yield to us the lore stored in the Great Library of Alexandria, and lost in its consuming flames. Not only history can be set right, and the teachings of science made veritable from their beginnings; but we can be placed on the road to the knowledge of lost arts, lost learning, lost sciences, so that our feet may tread on the indicated path to their ultimate and complete restoration."

The film keeps the lamps' significance, but has them already in Fuchs' possession.
I like how their placement corresponds to the seven stars of the novel's title. (The Plough, aka The Big Dipper)

Several characters are invented to accompany Corbeck's and Trelawney on their initial expedition to the Queen's tomb in the film. (My favorite of them is Aubrey Morris.) They remove everything within at once and spirit it back to England - no need for Corbeck's return visit to get the lamps. This sets up the pattern of the film, i.e. the Queen, via her modern-day agents, Corbeck and Margaret, visit each of these companions in turn, killing them and returning the items to Fuchs' house.

The settings are more or less the same from novel to film, except the end of the book takes place in the Trelawney's seaside villa, tucked away from everything else. In a cavern beneath it, as a matter of fact, with pulleys that the old man brags about installing for just such a purpose, and electric light and all the wonders of 1903. 

In the film, the ritual takes place in Trelawney's ultimate man-cave in the basement.

Before we get to the end, though, Margaret is more overtly hypnotized and controlled by the ancient Queen in the film than she is in the novel, where Margaret becomes mysteriously more and more forthright and assured. Many reviewers pinpoint this as Stoker's commentary on the "New Woman," i.e. the suffragette, no longer awaiting permission to actualize. Makes sense to me. It's ironic, and likely intentional, that it is the manifestation of a decidedly Ancient Woman that heralds this new era of Woman. At least in Stoker's imagination. (As it would for Wonder Woman's creator several decades later.)

In the book, it is Margaret's cat, possessed by Queen Tera's mummified cat familiar, who is activated by her astral commands.
In the film, her familiar is changed from cat to snake.
As she becomes more and more under the spell of Tera, Tod tries to keep up. But can't.
Adios, Tod.
Then she goes on a killing spree.


In the original ending to the novel, Queen Tera speaks to those assembled for the Great Experiment through Margaret, and her father asks if she is willing to sacrifice her familiar (the cat) to achieve her goals. Though distressed, she agrees. They destroy the cat and then perform the ritual. The storm that is raging outside shatters the windows, and chaos ensues. When the smoke clears, literally, Malcolm discovers everyone is dead, and the mummy of Queen Tera has vanished.

It's an ambiguous and downbeat ending, to be sure. Perhaps that's why Stoker's publishers urged him to come up with something different for the 1912 edition. There, the elder Trelawney still negotiates the destruction of her familiar, but only the mummy disappears. Everyone is knocked unconscious, but no one is killed. There is a coda where Malcolm and Margaret marry, and it is left ambiguous whether the Queen transferred herself into Margaret, or perhaps their offspring.

Is it odd that they're so insistent on the mummy-cat's destruction? On one hand, it's been attacking them throughout the book. On the other, they're basically telling their new Queen that they're going to destroy her tomb-and-astral-companion of millennia. Beyond that, though, it seems a little odd for the sequence of events. If I have a criticism overall of the book, it's that once Trelawney awakens, he dominates the narrative with lectures and too many arbitrary decisions. 

In the film, once Trelawney awakes, he is filled with doubts about the whole thing, and he and Margaret (after eliminating everyone else in the movie) have a last-minute change of heart.

They attack Corbeck and the awakening Queen.

It ends with nurses discussing their patient, this bandaged-up lady. 

Is it Margaret or the Queen?

FINAL VERDICT: For the novel, the Dark Dimension's review sums it up pretty well:

"The trappings of a classic Victorian-era tale are present (...) the house is full of Egyptian tomb furnishings, including sarcophagi and mummies. Trelawney has left detailed and ludicrously uninformative instructions behind. Servants quit as strange events unfold. Margaret and Malcolm experience instant and oh-so-chaste love at first sight, with soulful looks and sincere pledges of devotion aplenty. Doctors drop everything to make days-long house calls. Detectives arrive and bumble around. Pseudoscientific theories and spiritualist ideas are earnestly proposed, intermingled, and expounded upon. There is the old seaside mansion pummeled by a howling storm. There is even the classic "lights out" bit at a climactic moment. There is a definitely spooky atmosphere to it all." 

I think that's a fine list of Victorian gothic horror (or detective) tropes. And if you are fine with embracing all or any of the above provided the payoff is worth it, I say Jewel will appeal to you. Be forewarned that the ending does not tie everything up into a neat package, though. (Either ending, but certainly the original.) 

The film is probably exactly what you imagine when you hear the words "Hammer Horror."

A successful if not exemplary example of such.

As if living up to the popular myth of the Mummy's Curse, Blood was a troubled production - Peter Cushing, cast as Trelawney, was forced to withdraw when his wife was diagnosed with emphysema, and five weeks into the six week shot, the director, Seth Holt, died of a heart attack, on set. 

(finished by Michael Carreras) with a


  1. An unhappy coincidence - just saw a headline that Aubrey Morris died today. R.I.P.

  2. I'd heard of, but never got around to reading Stoker's novel, and this is the first time I ever heard of the movie adaptation.

    Still, just based on this review there's already one aspect that sounds familiar enough.

    Ah, the subliminally sexual sentences of Stoker! Was there literally nothing this guy could write that wouldn't turn out like a Freudian field day? As a matter of fact, based on Stoker's descriptions, it should be obvious what part of the female anatomy he's comparing her eyes to (the somewhat irony is it also reminds me of a Magritte painting I once saw in a book collection, which makes me wonder if the painter got it from the Stoker novel, perhaps?).

    I'm willing to believe that Stoker may have been inspired by the liberated women of his generation, though whether his thoughts were as charitable as Marston. Then again, based on Lepore's book, I get the feeling that Marston's thoughts on women may not always have stemmed from the entirely best of motives. Also, the irony in all that for me is that the real inspiration for Wonder Woman is still, essentially, an object as genderless an unconcerned as the moon (known as Diana in Roman (not Greek) mythology (which means she's more Italian than Amazonian?)....

    ...I'll go take my meds now.


    1. I must have missed your comment when you first posted it, my apologies.

      If you've never read it, you might enjoy the essay on Bram Stoker that's in Ian Svenonius' "The Psychic Soviet." The whole book is pretty great, but the essay on Stoker (as well as the one on Tolkien) is pretty fun. Tongue-in-cheek but thought provoking, to be sure.

      Marston was certainly an interesting guy. He and Camille Paglia should have co-authored a book.

  3. (1) I would suggest that maybe Mila Kunis's eyes might be up to that description whereas Valerie Leon's are not. But Leon is still okay-doke in my book. I don't think I've ever seen in in anything outside of a Bond movie!

    (2) Ka? Ka-ka.

    (3) I dislike most sentences that begin with the phrase "They destroy the cat," but I guess sometimes that's just how it is.

    (4) I've never read any Stoker outside of "Dracula," but I've long thought that I probably ought to. This sounds like it'd be up my alley.

    1. I must have missed this comment as well - the Mummy's curse!! I get notifications for everything else, so it must be Queen Tera.

      I've read Dracula and this from Stoker. I'm going to google him momentarily and see how much else is out there. I still want to read all Wells and Verne and have made little movement on either front since 2001 or so.

      This could be the year!

    2. I've had a Wells omnibus for years and got a Verne one last year. Maybe I'll actually read them one of these days. It's nice to have them on-hand for when that day finally arrives!

    3. BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Have still not read any more Wells, Verne, or Stoker.

      Have watched the first two seasons of The Love Boat since writing the above, though.

      Take THAT, turn-of-the-20th-century-ers! It's an open smile, on a friendly shore.

    4. Look, man, you're not playing Pokemon Go, so you're still in the plus column as far as I'm concerned.