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Danger Still Lurks in the Land of the Pharaohs

Hammer’s the Mummy’s Shroud

by Tony Nash

(#7 and the finale of The Month of Hammer Horror)

(all opinions are of the author alone)

(Some spoilers will be present)

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The Mummy’s Shroud (1967) PG ****

David Buck: Paul Preston

John Philips: Stanley Preston

André Morell: Sir Basil Walden (as Andre Morell)

Maggie Kimberly: Claire de Sangre (as Maggie Kimberley)

Michael Ripper: Mr. Longbarrow

Richard Warner: Inspector Barrani

Roger Delgado: Hasmid

Elizabeth Sellars: Barbara Preston

Catherine Lacey: Haiti

Tim Barrett: Harry

Dickie Owen: Prem

Bruno Barnabe: The Pharaoh

Toolsie Persaud: Kah-to-Bey

Eddie Powell: The Mummy of Prem

Based on a story by: Anthony Hinds (as John Elder)

Written & Directed by: John Gilling

Synopsis: When the Pharaoh is overthrown by a rival, his loyal servant Prem leads the rightful heir into the desert for safety until the usurper himself is overthrown. When the boy dies from exhaustion, Prem vows to protect him even in death. When an expedition led by Sir Basil Walden and funded by the greedy Stanley Preston finds the desert tomb of Prem and the rightful king, a half-crazy Arab nomad, whose family has protected the tomb for centuries, vows that Prem’s curse on the foreigners shall be fulfilled.

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Hammer’s third Mummy film once again has no relation to its predecessor, but still offers a nice interpretation of the classic story. In this go around an entire archeological team finds itself being hunted by a vengeful mother-son duo using the resurrected Mummy of the Pharaoh’s loyal servant. What Hammer does to make this film different from the others is its use of an ensemble cast. By not having one or two actors or actresses be the main focus of the film, viewers are allowed to follow the story and action more closely as each performer gets his and her moments in the spotlight. Some would say this might be a hindrance to the film’s success but in this case works in its favor as it offers a different and interesting approach in telling the tale. While a very by the numbers and standard fare, even for a Mummy film, the utilizing of a more theater like cast without the schism of big names gives the film a much needed and necessary leg up within the franchise.

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The two big names in the cast are André Morell and John Philips, very noted and respected stalwarts of British Cinema. Morell plays a dedicated and honest archeologist and Philips plays a glory and fame seeking callous businessman. Philips’ character is jealous of Morell’s character because the latter has been more like a father to the former’s son than the father himself. Philips’ character goes so far as to even discredit Morell’s character by having him declared insane, which was still a criminal offense in Egypt in the early 20th century. At some point in the film Philips’ character appears to have had a pang of conscious, but his actions and personality make it impossible for him to act otherwise.

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Michael Ripper, one of Hammer’s most reliable, if not the most reliable, character actor, gets the rare opportunity to play a character with depth and dialogue. While his role as Longbarrow has him as a somewhat sniveling yes man with no backbone, Ripper still manages to get the audience to feel sympathy for him as at times he appears to not want to do some of the things he does, but for one reason or the other regarding circumstances, seems to have no choice. The cast of the film being a more ensemble one allows Ripper to express a talent he rarely got the chance to display on camera, and in doing so was able to obtain much more interesting roles later on.

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Doctor Who fans will be interested in seeing the original Master to Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, Roger Delgado in the film. The Briton with Spanish roots gets to really play things to the hilt as a mad Egyptian/Arabic nomad who, along with his equally mad mother, decides to use the Mummy of Prem to seek vengeance for what they see as desecrations of sacred sights of Egypt. Unlike other cult-like worshippers of previous Mummy films, Delgado and the actress playing his mother are primarily played up as fanatically demented, leaning more on the demented side than fanatical, when it comes to the Pharaohs and spirits of Egypt. They seem to act more on a personal vendetta, not avenging the gods they’re supposed to be devoted to. This carelessness is what leads to the downfall of their plan as by not following accordance with the laws of the cult has in their own way made them infidels to the religion they belong to.

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Writer and Director John Gilling wasn’t overly impressed with Anthony Hinds original story, nor with the notion of doing a Mummy film after his success with The Plague of the Zombies  and considered this to be the worst film he ever made. Gilling even went as far as to distance himself from Hammer and filmmaking in general, forever viewing the project as an insult. Gilling may have not been impressed, but today’s audiences consider this to be an above average Mummy film. What it lacks in story it wholly makes up for it visually. While very by the numbers plot wise, and one dimensional on characters, the film is still very well made and finely acted. The cinematography of the film, particularly the angles, is well photographed, offering up a unique way of telling the story. Not very good, but not very bad either, the film is still entertaining and offers interesting new ways of telling Mummy tales.

(Out of the four Mummy films Hammer made, the first one and this one are the one’s I watch the most. While very average, the film is still photographed beautifully and keeps up the tempo and atmosphere. The UK and Australian Blu Rays offer the best transfers and audio of the film and are well worth the money.)

(This is the finale of the Month of Hammer Horror, but I will list all my favorite Horror’s as a specialty on Halloween. Private matters last week had me posting later than usual, but all is starting to look good and hopefully I’ll be posting regularly in the future.)

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

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Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

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