Of all the hor­ror mon­ster sub­gen­res, the mum­my movie might be the most dif­fi­cult to pull off in a mod­ern set­ting.  As visu­al­ly strik­ing as mum­mies are, their scari­ness is lim­it­ed by their slow mobil­i­ty and the Egyptian lore com­po­nent of their mythos lim­its how portable the sto­ry line is to dif­fer­ent set­tings.

Thus, Time Walker deserves cred­it for com­ing up with a high-con­cept take on this sub­gen­re that finds a clev­er way to trans­plant its famil­iar nar­ra­tive hooks in a present day ter­rain.  The premise revolves around the dis­cov­ery of a hid­den cham­ber in King Tutankhamen’s tomb by a California-based pro­fes­sor and archae­ol­o­gist, Prof. McCadden (Ben Murphy).  He brings it home and his boss, Dr. Rossmore (James Karen) rush­es him into pre­sent­ing it to the press… but the mum­my has dis­ap­peared when they decide to unveil it.  The mum­my was acci­den­tal­ly revived when a frat­boy lab tech, Peter (Kevin Brophy), gave it too high a dose of x-rays and he slipped out unno­ticed in the dead of night.

Prof. McCadden works with  col­league Dr. Melrose (Austin Stoker) and cop Lt. Plummer (Darwin Joston)  as he real­izes the mum­my is alive but things get worse.  It seems Peter also lift­ed a set of crys­tals from the tomb that he tries to sell and lat­er dis­trib­utes amongst his friends.  The mum­my needs those crys­tals for an unknown pur­pose and he sets out to chase down every­one who has them.  The dan­ger of tan­gling with the mum­my is enhanced by the fact that it has a strange fun­gus in its wrap­pings that is cor­ro­sive to human flesh.  Everything builds toward a sur­prise end­ing that reveals the mummy’s orig­in and why he needs those crys­tals so bad­ly.

Unfortunately, Time Walker’s exe­cu­tion isn’t as clev­er as its premise.  The script off­sets its ambi­tious plot hooks with the kind of limp, sketchy char­ac­ter­i­za­tions and pedes­tri­an plot­ting you’d expect from a slash­er movie.  In fact, it often plays like a slash­er movie with a mum­my sub­sti­tut­ed in for the usu­al psy­cho killer.  The film also telegraphs its twist end­ing long before it reach­es its finale, as the sto­ry­telling is a bit too spare to keep the Twilight Zone-esque rev­e­la­tion con­cealed.

Editor-turned-direc­tor Tom Kennedy has a solid grasp of pac­ing but his direc­tion tends toward a t.v. style bland­ness.  That said, there’s a nice pro­fes­sion­al sheen to the film despite its low bud­get: crisp pho­tog­ra­phy by future Hollywood d.p. Robbie Greenberg and an orches­tral score by Richard Band hint at a sense of atmos­phere that Kennedy can’t quite main­tain.  Explotation fans will want to note that there’s a few sur­pris­ing bits of gore and a flash of nudi­ty, both unusu­al for a PG movie.

The strongest attrib­ute of Time Walker is its cast.  T.V. star Murphy is con­vinc­ing in an arche­typ­al pro­fes­sor role and fans of Assault On Precinct 13 will be hap­py to see two of its alum­ni, Stoker and Joston, appear­ing together on screen again.  Brophy turns in a mem­o­rably ham­my per­for­mance as the film’s frat-boy cat­a­lyst, though it’s annoy­ing that he nev­er real­ly gets pun­ished for his mis­deeds.  Elsewhere, Motel Hell star Nina Axelrod pops up in a good-sized sup­port­ing role as Susie, Murphy’s girlfriend/assistant — one of the best sce­nes has the mum­my stalk­ing her through a build­ing at night — and fans of Friday The 13th Part 2 will be amused to see that film’s Jason, Warrington Gillette, appear­ing sans flour-bag mask as a hunky col­lege stu­dent who has his eye on Susie.

To sum up, Time Walker is a minor-league foot­note in the mum­my gen­re.  Its sto­ry­telling skills aren’t sharp enough to pull off its ambi­tious premise but it’s not a bad time-killer if you’re in a patient mood.  At the very least, the cast of famil­iar faces will amuse b-movie buffs to make it inter­est­ing for one view­ing.

Vampires, Mummies & Monsters Collection [4-Film Feature]

Vampires, Mummies & Monsters Collection [4-Film Feature]

Vampires, Mummies & Monsters Collection [4-Film Feature]      In The Velvet Vampire, a cou­ple accepts an invi­ta­tion from the mys­te­ri­ous Diane LeFanu (Celeste Yarnall, The Mechanic) to vis­it her in her seclud­ed desert estate. Unaware that Diane is actu­al­ly a cen­turies-old vam­pire, the cou­ple soon real­ize that they are both the objects of her seduc­tion and cravings…When Baron Frankenstein is killed by his cre­ation, his daugh­ter Tania (Rosalba Neri, aka Sarah Bay) cre­ates her own crea­ture using the bril­liant mind of her assis­tant and the body of her dimwit­ted ser­vant in Lady Frankenstein. She not only ends up with the per­fect lover, but one that can destroy her father’s killer. Also star­ring Joseph Cotten (The Third Man) as Baron Frankenstein.Lisa (Linda Blair, The Exorcist) was look­ing for­ward to a nice, relax­ing vaca­tion at the fam­i­ly cab­in, but instead she bears wit­ness to the bru­tal death of her friends and fam­i­ly at the hands of a group of mind­less punks in Grotesque. As the thugs close in on Lisa, they don’t real­ize they are about to come face to face with some­thing far more hor­ri­fy­ing than themselves.From deep with­in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, Professor Douglas McCadden ships the coffin of Ankh-Vanharis to the California Institute of Sciences, where X-rays reveal five dia­mond­like crys­tals hid­den with­in the coffin. Technician Peter Sharpe steals the crys­tals, but he doesn’t notice that the pow­er­ful X-ray has revived a green fun­gus. When the coffin is opened at a uni­ver­si­ty press con­fer­ence, the reporters uncov­er more than they bar­gained for. The mum­my has dis­ap­peared … the Time Walker is alive again!