Retro Review: The Mummy’s Shroud

2011/07/28 15:21:09 +00:00 | Andrew Smith

In 1920, an archaeological expedition discovers the tomb of an ancient Egyptian child prince. Returning home with their discovery, the expedition is keen to prove their original theory that another mummy found is not that of the prince but just his mummified bodyguard who was given the bracelet of the Pharaoh by the dying child.

The expedition members soon find themselves being killed off by the mummy when a guardian of the tomb reads off the prince's burial shroud to bring it to life.

Hammer's third entry into its mummy series is probably the weakest of the bunch. I mean mummy films have never exactly been anything special - in fact they're all the same. Someone finds a tomb, defies a warning not to go in, brings home some relics and is soon killed off by a mummy for desecrating the tomb. Much like having Dr Frankenstein create another monster or getting Dracula to terrorize a few nubile young women, there is only so much you can do with a slow, lumbering monster wrapped in bandages.

I guess there is a certain comfort zone in watching the same thing time after time. Hammer's foray into this repetitive sub-genre has been decent, if somewhat flat. You can clearly tell that the budgets that their horror films were getting were beginning to dry up and instead of improving on previous installments with better effects, the mummy films seem to get worse. Case in point is The Mummy's Shroud.

The Mummy's Shroud is typical of the Hammer film - lavish sets, vivid colours, haunting music, etc. But they're pretty unremarkable in that little happens in them that hasn't happened in other films. No attempt is even made to differentiate this one from the other mummy films. In fact many elements of the film seem to have got worse from the previous installment, notably the villain of the title.

The mummy here looks pretty feeble - it's more like a scarecrow with a cheesy grin on its face. It doesn't have the same powerful presence as the previous mummies and isn't as scary as a result. However given the origins of the mummy via the plot this could be forgiven for most of the time (I'm guessing that the dying bodyguard wouldn't have been able to afford a proper mummification nor have the tools to do it, hence the reason he looks cheaper). He also takes some time to get motivated as well so be prepared for plenty of dialogue in the run up to his carnage.

The pacing of the film is very deliberate which is pretty much my polite way of saying it's slow as hell. Everyone involved from the director, the writer to the actors just seem to be running through the motions. There's no rush. No one is in a hurry. It's almost as if everyone is standing around waiting for something to happen. At least Don Banks also gives us a classical flavoured Egyptian musical score which helps the film along. Say one thing about the Hammer films and that's no matter how poor the film's may have been, the music was always top drawer.

Semi-regular Hammer actor André Morell is given top billing and much like I stated in my review for The Plague of Zombies, Morell's acting ability makes him a very good lead role. It's the sort of role that the likes of Peter Cushing can play in their sleep but it's nice to see someone else get their turn in the spotlight. Unfortunately his screen presence is cut tragically short which means the film looks for someone else to fill the shoes of the main hero and no one else is able to match up to his talent.

I think the bonus of the film is seeing Hammer regular Michael Ripper actually get a reasonably meaty role for a change. This guy was in more Hammer films than anyone, usually playing small roles such as innkeepers or coach drivers. Here he is given a lot more to do and it's for the best because he's a joy to watch as Longbarrow and is easily the most sympathetic person in the film. After all of the abuse he puts up with from his boss, he still gets killed in horrible fashion by the mummy. Poor bloke.

Roger Delgado takes over the token evil Egyptian role. Fans of British TV and film will recognize him as The Master from Doctor Who and the role here is no different as he's in "moustache-twirling" villain mode. But there's just a real sense of "been there, done that six times before" and we have. Between Hammer and Universal, they pretty much covered all of the possible mummy bases.

The Mummy's Shroud was the last of Hammer's films to be shot at Bray Studios, marking the end of a sixteen year association. It's a shame they couldn't have ended on high instead of this rather unoriginal and downright tiresome mummy film. Dull, uninspiring and lazy at times, The Mummy's Shroud won't go down as one of their better efforts.