The Mummy's Shroud

Starring: Andre Morell, John Phillips and David Buck
Momentum Pictures
RRP: 12.99
Certificate: PG
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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. It's great to see Doctor Who's the Master, Roger Delgado, as Hamid 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 gobbledegook 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.

All in all, an average but still enjoyable Hammer outing.

Ty Power

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