Monday, 13 February 2012

The Mummy’s Shroud (1967)

The Mummy’s Shroud was the last Hammer movie made at Bray Studios. This 1967 production was also director John Gilling’s final movie. Hammer’s mummy movies are a bit of a mixed bag. The best of them was rather surprisingly their last, Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb, but The Mummy’s Shroud has its moments.

The plot is fairly standard for mummy movies. We start with a prologue, recounting events 4,000 years ago. The Pharaoh’s brother seized the throne and his devoted servant Prem set off into the desert with the heir Kah-to-Bey. When Kah-to-Bey was near death he presented Prem with the seal of the Pharaoh. Prem constructed a tomb for his beloved master and was later buried with him.

In 1920 an expedition sets out to find the tomb, led by the famous Egyptologist Sir Basil Walden (André Morell). One mummy had been found years earlier. Sir Basil believes it to be Prem. He intends to find the mummy of Kah-to-Bey. When the expedition fails to return a rescue expedition is sent, led by the wealthy Stanley Preston (John Phillips), the man who financed the original expedition.

Sir Basil and his team have in fact the tomb. They are warned off by a mysterious Arab (Roger Delgado) who claims to be the keeper of the tomb, but undaunted they carry on. The mummy of Kah-to-Bey is found and is taken to Cairo.

Of course there is a curse on anyone who disturbs the tomb of the Pharaoh. And of course it’s not very long before the first of those who entered the tomb meets an untimely end. One of the expedition members, Claire de Sangre (Maggie Kimberly) had already had psychic premonitions of doom even before the tomb was found.

There are no iconic horror stars in this film but there’s a solid cast and John Gilling’s script features more complex characterisation than you generally expect in a horror film. The most interesting characters are Stanley Preston and his wife Barbara (Elizabeth Sellars). Preston has already shown one side of his character, stealing the credit for the expedition’s success. This point is made in a clever scene in which he dictates his own self-serving account of the expedition to his long-suffering but faithful assistant Longbarrow (Michael Ripper) while the rest of the team is doing all the work and taking all the risks. When the curse claims its first victim we discover that he is a coward as well.

Barbara Preston has always despised her husband but she hadn’t realised until now just how much she despised him. She can’t bring herself to hate him - she merely feels sorry for him. It’s a nicely judged performance by Elizabeth Sellars.

The early part of the film is a little slow but as doom continues to pursue the expedition members it starts to hit its stride and there are some effective horror moments.

The mummy makeup won’t please everybody but I thought it did its job well enough.

John Phillips is rather good as Preston - like his wife we come to despise him but we almost feel sorry for him. He’s a man who has never been honest with himself and he’s more an object for pity than a villain. André Morell is reliable as always. Roger Delgado overacts outrageously. Maggie Kimberly can’t act at all but she looks suitably spooky. Catherine Lacey nearly steals the movie as a maniacal old fortune-teller.

Michael Ripper gets a more substantial part than usual and makes the most of it. He must have been overjoyed when he read the script and discovered he wasn’t going to be playing an innkeeper!

Not one of Hammer’s best but still a fairly entertaining movie and worth a look.

Anchor Bay’s DVD presentation is superb.

1 comment:

Shaun [The Celluloid Highway] said...

Yeah I actually quite like this one. In relation to the series as a whole it obviously falls way short of the 1959 original, and BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB. But it is vastly superior to the dire CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB...not only the nadir of The Mummy series, but also Hammer's brand of gothic horror in general. I'll have some reviews up soon for two Gilling obscurities; THE BRIGAND OF KANDAHAR, and THE SCARLET BLADE.