The Mummy's Shroud (1967)
"Beware the beat of the cloth-wrapped feet!"
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 Pharoah 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 it's mummy series is probably the weakest of the bunch. It follows the same formula as the previous two films: 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. Just as Universal had discovered in the 40s, there was only so much you can do with a slow, lumbering monster wrapped in bandages and Hammer quickly realised this. As a result, the budgets were being scaled back, the star power reduced and the sequels were becoming pale re-treads of the exact same story. The Mummy's Shroud was never going to have audiences queuing up around the block upon its release but rather was the sort of comfort food-style film that people would watch if there was nothing else on.
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 instalment, notably the villain of the title. The mummy here looks pretty feeble - it's more like a scarecrow with a cheesy grin on it's face - but at least comes off as more threatening and callous than the lumbering, bulky mummy from The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb. He takes some time to get motivated to start murdering so be prepared for plenty of dialogue in the run up to his carnage. But once he begins, there's some really brutal kills, with the mummy throwing people out of windows, crushing heads and dousing victims with acid. For all previous mummy films, both Hammer and Universal, have featured the revenge motive, it's The Mummy's Shroud where the creature really appears to be taking things personal and to the extreme.
The pacing of The Mummy's Shroud 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. Director John Gilling helmed one of Hammer's most underrated 60s efforts in The Plague of the Zombies but seems to have used up all of his energy on that one. This is a listless affair which doesn't get out of the blocks until far too late in the running time. At least Don Banks 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. Both David Buck and Maggie Kimberly as the younger protagonists are extremely dull and dour replacements.
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. Roger Delgado takes over the token evil Egyptian role. Fans of British TV and film will recognise 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" 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.
The Mummy's Shroud
Director(s): John Gilling
Writer(s): John Gilling (screenplay by), Anthony Hinds (from an original story by)
Actor(s): André Morell, John Phillips, David Buck, Elizabeth Sellars, Maggie Kimberley, Michael Ripper, Tim Barrett
Duration: 90 mins