Mummy Week Day 4: The Mummy’s Shroud (1967)

Written by John Gilling and Anthony Hinds
Directed by John Gilling
Starring Andre Morell, John Phillips, David Buck, Elizabeth Sellars, Maggie Kimberly
US Release March 15, 1967
RT 90 min.
Home Video Anchor Bay (VHS), Shock (Blu-ray – Australia)
Classic Horrors rating = 7 (out of 10)

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Although it sounds an awful lot like Peter Cushing to me, the uncredited narrator at the beginning of The Mummy’s Shroud (1967) is reportedly a gentleman named Tim Turner.  It’s still nice, though, to evoke Cushing as a loose connection to The Mummy (1959), which starred him and Christopher Lee.  It’s a hint that the third Hammer mummy movie, although not as good as the original (but then, what is?), is at least a step closer than to it than the second, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964).

Written by John Gilling and Anthony Hinds and directed by Gilling, The Mummy’s Shroud again takes the simple mummy legend and adds new elements that make it seem at least partially original.  The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb did the same thing, but the elements themselves were borrowed from other horror movies.  Here, for the first time, the mummy is not a high priest or member of a royal family.  Also, the power to revive the mummy is not held in a scroll or medallion, but in the shroud that covers the body of a member of the royal family.

Before the opening credits roll, we’re told (and shown) the history of this movie’s mummy.  In 2000 B.C., a son was born to the ruling Pharaoh.  When his wife died soon afterwards, the people raised a secret army and attacked the royal family.  Young Kah-to-Bey was the only survivor and was sent into the desert as a slave.  Prem (Dickie Owen) was his one true friend until the end, when he accepted the royal seal from Kah-to-Bey, carried him to his final resting place, and covered his body with the sacred shroud.

Nearly 2,000 years later, in 1929, an expedition to find the tomb goes missing and “speculation of their fate became headlines.”  Stanley Preston (John Phillips) and his wife, Barbara (Elizabeth Sellars) arrive on the scene.  Their son Paul (David Buck) is part of the expedition, led by Sir Basil Walden (Andre Morell).  Since he is apparently financing the venture, Stanley heads out with one of the search parties, confidently telling the press that his search party, the best equipped one, will be the one to rescue them.

The expedition has merely been delayed by a sandstorm, a case of bad luck that’s not surprising considering the expedition began on Friday the 13th.  They have found a mummy, whom they believe to be Prem, and are certain Kah-to-Bey’s tomb will be located nearby.  It is, of course, and the requisite local, Hasmid (Roger Delgado), appears out of nowhere with a knife to warn them about disturbing the crypt that his family has guarded for centuries.  Stanley arrives just in time to steal credit for the discovery from Sir Basil, who’s bitten by a snake.

It’s then that we learn Stanley is more than a jerk; he’s also a real villain, committing Sir Basil to a lunatic asylum so that he receives all the attention for the success of the exhibition.  Paul confronts his father about this and tells him that Sir Basil “hasn’t got a penny, but he’s better than ten of you!”  When Sir Basil escapes the institution, we’re introduced to Haiti (Catherine Lacey), a fortune teller who tracks Sir Basil’s movements through her crystal ball.  She has a surprise connection to Hasmid, who it turns out is also more than what he originally appeared to be.

As in The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, The Mummy’s Shroud reveals a lot of story before the monster is revived to wreak havoc.  The payoff is more rewarding here, though.  Returning to the fundamental concept of destroying those who desecrate the tomb, the mummy (Eddie Powell) becomes more vicious and creative as it eliminates its victims by strangling one of them, tossing one out a window, and throwing acid in the face of one.  Powell, a regular stand-in for Christopher Lee, is a more animated creature in Shroud than Dickie Owen was in Curse.

Meanwhile, Stanley attempts to leave town before the mummy gets to him.  He commands Barbara to pack her bags, but she tells him not to be concerned on her account because she didn’t enter the tomb.  She’s not going to leave until she knows Paul and his colleague/girlfriend Claire de Sangre (Maggie Kimberly) are coming with them.  Releasing what I assume to be years of frustration with her husband, she asks him, “How does it feel to have bought everything but the ability to be free?”

The style of The Mummy’s Shroud evolves from that of previous Hammer mummy movies, visibly belonging among the late 60s/early 70s films that use a lot of close-ups and zooms, as well as take place in actual locations rather than on sets.  It takes advantage of its budget better than its predecessor.  The final scene in which the mummy is inevitably destroyed looks fantastic!  Its bones crumble in on themselves as the once hulking monster is reduced to a pile of dust.  (I’ve read complaints about the effect, but I love it.)

Overall, it’s a creepy movie with some genuine scares.  More frightening than the mummy, though, is Haiti.  Rather than try to describe her appearance, just take a look at the picture below:

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Add a maniacal laugh and the thought of her is one to keep you awake at night.  The movie poster warns us to “beware the beat of the cloth-wrapped feet,” but I say to “beware the chortle of the Egyptian oracle.”

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