After remaking Universal’s Frankenstein and Dracula in the mid to late ‘50s, British Hammer Studios turned their attention to The Mummy. After a successful production with Hammer’s dream team of director Terence Fisher and stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, The Mummy went the way of other popular Hammer horror films and became a series. Released in 1967, The Mummy’s Shroud, the third entry, sandwiched between the more successful The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb and Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, represents the end of an era for Hammer. It was the final film shot at the famous Bray studios, and lacks any of their major stars. Though it is considered one of the studio’s lesser efforts, The Mummy’s Shroud still contains some of the chills, visuals thrills, and workman-like ethic that make even their lesser known efforts beloved by so many horror fans.
In 1920, a team of archaeologists hunts for the hidden tomb of Kah-To-Bey, a famous child pharaoh who was hidden by his loyal manservant during a palace coup. Locals warn them to leave the tomb unmolested, because it is cursed, but this of course goes ignored. They discover the tomb and one of expedition leaders, Sir Basil, is bitten by a snake and quickly becomes delirious. The other expedition head, businessman Preston, has him committed to an asylum to steal all the glory. Prem, the young pharaoh’s bodyguard, is accidentally revived, and goes on an insane killing spree, picking off everyone who opened the tomb one by one. Unlike the more staid deaths from Karl Freund’s original film, these imaginative killings include things like defenestration and death by acid. The surviving members of the expedition have one choice: destroy the mummy themselves or wait for an inevitably grisly fate.
The actors here are a talented group, and even though there’s no leading man or lady, the ensemble makes up for this absence. Michael Ripper (The Revenge of Frankenstein, Brides of Dracula, etc) and André Morell (Cash on Demand), among others, represent Hammer’s successful ability to cast from the same group of similarly strong actors throughout their films.
Christopher Lee’s regular stunt double, Eddie Powell, stands in as the titular mummy. Director John Gilling is responsible for two of Hammer’s most underrated films, known as “Cornish Classics”: The Reptile and Plague of the Zombies. This is his final film with Hammer, and he allegedly hated it – though he still brings the delightfully creepy atmosphere from his Cornish films and a competent sense of tension, despite the film’s predictability. Fortunately, The Mummy’s Shroud ends on a very high note, with one of the best conclusions in any of their Mummy films, which sort of makes up for its unnecessary prologue.
Studio Canal’s region B 1080p AVC transfer of The Mummy’s Shroud in HD looks bright and clean, with no damage and a nice clean up from Studio Canal. The disc’s 1.66:1 aspect ratio will please anyone who had the misfortune to see this film chopped up on television. The colors pop, and dark, shadowy scenes are particularly lovely. This transfer also allows Arthur Grant’s dramatic lighting to shine (no pun intended), as well as Don Mingaye’s art direction, which is a definite strong point for the film. Even though this might be a lesser Hammer effort, there is nothing slight about the style. The special effects from Les Bowie and Ian Scoones are particularly stunning, and are definitely some of the best non-CGI mummy effects out there. A man is unconventionally burned alive, and the mummy’s destruction scene is particularly impressive.
The disc has an LPCM Mono 2.0 audio track in English, with subtitles for the hearing impaired. The audio transfer is clean and clear, and the score from Hammer regular Don Banks sounds good, if a little loud. There is a slight hiss in the background, though this shouldn’t distract, unless you are listening to the film on some very loud amps.
Though this release is sadly missing an audio commentary, there are a nice number of extras. There’s a twenty minute documentary, The Beat Goes On: The Making of The Mummy’s Shroud, which features Marcus Hearn, historians Denis Meikle and John Jonston, Don Banks, and several others. A short tribute, Remembering David Buck, is a remembrance of the late, beloved actor by Hammer actress (and his wife) Madeline Smith. A lengthy stills gallery includes ads, lobby cards, posters and more, and there are a number of Hammer trailers.
The Mummy’s Shroud is not the most exciting Hammer film; it plods along, hoping that its competent, stylish death scenes will cover up its lack of originality or depth of plot. With that said, Hammer enthusiasts should still enjoy this last ditch effort from a studio whose heyday was coming to an end.
NOTE: This DVD/Blu-ray release of The Mummy’s Shroud is region 2, which means you will need a multi-region DVD or Blu-ray player to view this if you live in the U.S. It was released in a loose series with two other Hammer films, the dark period drama, Rasputin the Mad Monk, and one of Hammer’s satanic classics, The Devil Rides Out.
– By Samm Deighan