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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Mummy's Shroud


Starring: Andre Morell, John Phillips and David Buck
RRP: £22.99
Certificate: PG
Available 22 October 2012

An Egyptian pharaoh loses his queen in childbirth, but gains a longed-for successor to the throne. Devoted to the child, Kah-to-Bey, he nurtures him toward manhood. However, the pharaoh's younger brother plots against the throne, raising a secret army which then attacks the palace. Although the pharaoh is brutally killed, Kah-to-Bey is saved by his sacred protector. Along with a group of slaves they escape across the desert (which looks surprisingly like a London quarry). The boy falls fatally ill, and the slaves drop like flies through exhaustion and lack of sustenance. Finally, the guardian lays the boy to rest.

Cut to 1920, and an expedition financed by wealthy industrialist Stanley Preston and led by archaeologist Sir Basil Walden to find the lost tomb of Kah-to-Bey. When the expedition becomes lost in the same quarry, Preston is persuaded to embark on a search for them. Walden and his party set up camp to await the passing of a sandstorm. They have run out of water and debate turning back; but the storm uncovers the entrance to the tomb, and Preston catches up with them, so they investigate the tomb together. A modern day guardian of the tomb appears and threatens them. Undeterred, they uncover the boy's bones and the shroud which covers them, returning to the city with the remains and placing them alongside the already uncovered upright mummy of the original guardian. Much to the disgust of the others, Preston takes all the credit for the find, but becomes increasingly less sure of himself when those who entered the tomb begin to die...

Although this example of Hammer horror is played straight, it comes across as quite quirky. There's nothing wrong with that, because it puts a smile on your face rather than making you groan at its shortfalls (let’s face it, there’s only so much you can do with the stalking mummy premise). It's great to see Doctor Who's the Master, Roger Delgado, as Hasmid the modern day guardian of the tomb. The man may have been as benevolent as a daisy-chain, but on camera he exudes evil. Having said that, in this instance he does ham-it-up a little, skulking in doorways and mumbling fluent gibberish. I began to think he'd been drinking the water.

The stereotypical crone fortune teller is also fun, and so it's no surprise to discover they are working together. When Walden is set-up by Preston and committed to a sanatorium, he promptly escapes, only to be offered sanctuary by the crone. Walden says, "Please help me! Let me rest." The fortune teller replies, "Soon you will be dead. Then you can rest." Priceless dialogue. Hasmid utters his gobbledygook and the mummy-guardian of Kah-to-Bey walks in and throttles the poor bloke.

There's no Frankenstein's monster-like staggering here; the mummy walks remarkably well for someone who's been standing still for 4,000 years. I'll bet David Blaine couldn't do that one; lying in a box for a month? Pah! That's nothing.

There are a couple of nice touches regarding the mummy. The close-up of the cold blue eyes opening for the first time is effective, as is its disintegration at the conclusion. The mummy's own hands crumble the rest of its body like dry plaster, although the camera lingering too long finally reveals that the hands are reaching up through a hole in the floor. Sir Basil Walden suffers rather less than divine retribution for his selfishness, and the hieroglyphics on the shroud reveal the words of death, as well as animation. If these words had been spoken earlier the cast might have saved themselves a lot of trouble.

All in all, an average but still enjoyable Hammer outing. I reviewed the first release of this film on DVD in 2003. Again, the very professional reconstruction has left us with a near crystal-clear image, which brings an old film back to life. However, once again, I have only been supplied with the copy DVD for review, when the retail release is essentially a Blu-ray disc, accompanied by a DVD version.

Although there is a very nice animated menu, the extras are a little thin on the ground, compared with the two other recent hammer releases, Rasputin the Mad Monk, and The Devil Rides Out. There is no commentary, but then there was no stand-out star for The Mummy’s Shroud, more of an ensemble cast, nearly all of which are no longer with us. Perhaps the inclusion of a commentary by a Hammer historian or enthusiast, such as Mark Gatiss, could have been considered. There is a documentary, The Beat Goes On: The Making of The Mummy’s Shroud; and a short piece, Remembering David Buck. Then we get the Trailers and a Stills gallery.


Ty Power

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