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Director: John Gilling
Cast: André Morell, John Phillips, David Buck
Length: 90 min
Rating: FSK: 12
Label: Anolis Home Entertainment
Release Date: May 30, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1,66:1
Audio: German, English: 2.0 Mono DTS HD Master Audio
Subtitles: German (optional)
- Audio Commentary with Dr. Rolf Giesen and Volker Kronz
- The Beat Goes On: The Making-Of „The Mummy‘s Shroud
- Remembering David Buck
- Interview with Eddie Powell, conducted by Stephen Laws (Manchester 1998)
- Trailer / US TV-Spots
- British promo flyer
- Image Gallery
- 32-page booklet written by Dr. Rolf Giesen, Uwe Sommerlad and Uwe Huber. Only included in Steelbook.
In the mid 1960’s, Hammer was making films back to back. Using the same slightly redressed sets and largely the same actors and camera crews, they released the films as double-bills. The Mummy’s Shroud was paired up with Frankenstein Created Woman in 1967, and became the last production ever to be shot at Hammer’s beloved, Bray Studios. It also marked the last collaboration between director John Gilling and Hammer, and one reason that’s often cited is his displeasure with the final result of The Mummy’s Shroud. At the end of 2012, StudioCanal released the film on blu-ray for the first time in the UK, in a superlative restoration. Now, German company Anolis Entertainment is releasing it in Germany, in an English-friendly set.
The Mummy’s Shroud has received some mediocre press over the years, not least from the director himself, who is said to have found it embarrassing. Certainly the film is put at a disadvantage by starting out with an awkward and unnecessary prologue, which tells the story of Egyptian prince Kah-to-Bey and his slave, Prem, who must forever guard his master’s tomb. The prologue is all but ruined by sketchy production values and, more importantly, by the dreadful acting of Dickie Owen as Prem. But once we get past this hiccup, the rest of the film is informed by Hammer’s typical stylishness and solid acting from most of the principals—including two standout performances from Catherine Lacey and Michael Ripper.
Peter Cushing once jokingly remarked to Christopher Lee, “It looks like we’re going to be in another Michael Ripper film!” Ripper was a scene stealer, and in few films is this talent more obvious than in The Mummy’s Shroud. He plays a timid little man at the beck and call of a demanding business tycoon, and his ability to both evoke sympathy and make the audience laugh is quite a magic trick. The other standout is Haiti, the old fortune teller who is played, with frightening flamboyance, by Catherine Lacey, marking one of the most memorable characters in Hammer’s oeuvre. André Morell is his usual, dignified self, and the rest of the cast consists of solid British character actors, though Maggie Kimberly is a little wooden.Of course a Hammer film wouldn’t be a Hammer film without first rate production design, and The Mummy’s Shroud doesn’t disappoint. Although scenes that take place in the Egyptian desert (shot at the Sand and Gravel Quarry, Buckinghamshire) look cheap and unconvincing and when a fierce desert storm rages, putting our heroes in peril, you can clearly sense the presence of a wind machine positioned just out of frame.
Special mention should be made of Don Banks’ powerful music score that really makes you feel the weight of the intervening centuries, that we are witnessing the resurrection of something truly ancient and mysterious, and that is surely what any good “Mummy” score needs to convey.
Also worth mentioning are the “mummy destruction” effects, masterminded by Hammer’s regular FX man, Les Bowie. The final scene may not have quite the emotional impact of Christopher Lee’s hand grasping the scroll of life just before the bog swallows him up in Hammer’s first Mummy, but in purely physical terms, it is a memorable destruction of the titular monster.
The Anolis Entertainment release uses the StudioCanal restoration of The Mummy’s Shroud that was released in the UK last year, and which we reviewed here. To recap its technical merits: the 1080p presentation looks clean, with bright and natural-looking colors and contrast. Unlike some StudioCanal restorations, this one isn’t over-sharpened, nor the film grain scrubbed clean. In fact, it looks quite natural and organic, yet the natural film grain is unobtrusive. In all, one of the best restorations of a Hammer film to come from StudioCanal.
Both the English and German LPCM Mono tracks sound clean and bright, much like the video. Dialogue is crystal clear and the music track has a nice body, if perhaps a little thin in the top registers, which is inherent in the original recording. There is very slight hiss but is not a distraction. The film defaults to the German dub when you first put the disk in, but it’s easy to switch to the English track. Optional German subtitles are included.
The extra features consist of the same ones that are included on the UK Blu-Ray, plus a few added bonuses. First is the excellent 22-min featurette, The Beat Goes On: The Making of The Mummy’s Shroud, produced by Flashpoint Media and directed by Marcus Hearn. It features many behind-the-scenes production shots, film footage, and detailed history and analysis from some of the foremost Hammer experts of the day, including Jonathan Rigby, Denis Meikle, and David Huckvale. Next, we have Remembering David Buck, a 5-min featurette, hosted by the actor’s wife, Madeline Smith. She recounts their all too brief life together before David succumbed to cancer. Next, we are given the original trailer (in HD) and a lengthy image gallery.
Not content to leave well enough alone, the good folks at Anolis have also included a full audio commentary, but in German only, so I’m afraid I can’t review it. We also get a 50-min, onstage interview with Christopher Lee’s stunt double, Eddie Powell, who played the mummy in The Mummy’s Shroud. He talks at length about his career and especially about the work he did for Hammer. Next, we are given a detailed look at every page of the original German pressbook for The Mummy’s Shroud, as well as a painstaking, illustration by illustration journey through the original Mummy’s Shroud comic, published in the House of Hammer magazine.
The folks at Anolis Entertainment always try to put something extra into their home video releases, and this care and commitment to fans has garnered them much praise over the years, both in Germany and abroad. The Mummy’s Shroud may be one of Hammer’s lesser titles, but fans of the genre should seek it out for the two standout performances cited above, as well as to be once again put under the spell of that unique fairytale atmosphere that only Hammer could uniquely conjure up.