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Anchor Bay presents
"He says that death awaits all who disturb the resting place of Kah-to-Bey."
DVD ReviewHammer, the British studio that put horror movies back on the cinematic map in the late 1950s and 1960s, knew a good thing when they saw it. This led to several long-running series, such as the Christopher Lee Dracula films and the Peter Cushing Frankenstein movies. Somewhere between the hit series classification and the pure one-shots come the Mummy movies.
These were rather different from the Dracula and Frankenstein films, which shared common characters and actors. Each of the Mummy films was more or less self-sufficient, without much in the way of continuity from one to the next. This was useful, since Mummy curses tended to kill most of the cast, but it also gave the movies a feeling of repetitiveness.
The third of the entries in Hammer's Mummy films was The Mummy's Shroud, and it's probably the least of them. As always, we have the invasion of the tomb, and the mummy's curse, fulfilled by the stomp of the millennia-dead corpse that somehow becomes reanimated. This film, however, takes the step of dropping the reincarnation theme which had been a fixture of Mummy cinema since the 1932 Boris Karloff original; there is no modern reincarnation of an Egyptian princess to be found here.
The archaeologists, led by Sir Basil Walden (Andre Morell), are hunting for the lost tomb of the boy king, Kah-To-Bey in the year 1920. A mummy which was previously believed to be that of Kah-To-Bey rests in a museum, but newly-found documents indicate that this mummy is in fact Prem, a servant to Kah-To-Bey and not the pharaoh himself (the latter point of which should have been obvious since Kah-To-Bey is about seven years old, and the mummy about seven feet tall). Stumbling onto the burial cave, they are met by Hasmid Ali (Roger Delgado), whose family has been guarding the body for centuries. He warns them of the curse, then disappears. No sooner has he gone than Sir Basil is badly bitten by a snake.
Meanwhile, Stanley Preston (John Phillips), the financier behind the expedition has set out to look for the lost exploring party, which includes his son, Paul (David Buck). Reunited, they enter the tomb of the pharaoh and remove the (unmummified) body of Kah-To-Bey and reunite it with the mummy of faithful Prem. The shroud which was used to cover the boy goes along with him. Before you know it, Ali has swiped the shroud and reads off the mystical "words of life and death" written thereon to reanimate Prem's mummy. He goes on a rampage of terror, brutally murdering those who desecrated the tomb.
The whole affair is rather by the numbers. We have little in the way of surprise or tension, and no one seems to be having much fun with this, other than the wildly overacting Catherine Lacey as the maniacal seer Haiti (mother of Hasmid Ali). The low budget treatment of the film is apparent in a number of places; the mummy (Eddie Powell) isn't wrapped except on his hands and forearms. Otherwise, he looks more like he's wearing a white suit. No doubt this was a measure to save a few dollars on make-up time. When Paul swings an axe at the mummy, there is a ludicrous insert cut of the axe being imbedded into an obvious dummy, then we cut back to live action, where the mummy himself is now menacing the hero with the axe. This has to be a first and only occurrence of a mummy being reduced to threats with an axe. However, the climactic sequence is extremely well done; no doubt the entire effects budget went to the final disintegration of the mummy.
While the murders are brutal (usually involving crushed heads), they mostly happen offscreen. We see blood stains when the body sags to the ground, but that's about it. The film is really tailored to the kiddie market more than anything, so the violence is quite toned down from what it could have been. Thankfully, Hammer regrouped a few years later for the excellent Blood From the Mummy's Tomb. Anchor Bay, how about that one?
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic picture looks quite good. There are a few speckles, and a little chroma noise in the introductory sequence, and the colors are a bit dated. Overall, however, blacks are excellent and there is good shadow detail. The picture is made somewhat harder to analyze since most of the film is in sand and khaki colors; however, when other colors do come onscreen (such as the eponymous shroud), they are bright and vibrant. Another very nice job by Anchor Bay.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The sound is a decent 2.0 mono track. I didn't detect any clipping or distortion. Dialogue is easy to understand throughout, and the music comes through cleanly. There is no noticeable hiss. Not flashy, but it gets the job done; at least the original mono track is preserved.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
2 TV Spots/Teasers
The primary extra is another episode of The World of Hammer. This one, entitled, "Mummies, Werewolves and the Living Dead," is kind of a miscellany of themes that weren't big enough to make up an entire episode. As always, these consist of full-frame clips of films, linked by an Oliver Reed narration. The themes are somewhat stretched, since the films shown include Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires and Captain Clegg which is an historical drama rather than a horror film proper. All four of the Mummy films are, however, accorded their time in the spotlight. This is one of the better episodes of the series, although it tends to give away the climaxes of many of the films.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsThe Mummy's Shroud is a somewhat cheesy and minor entry from the Hammer studios; the curious may want to rent it, but those who like their horror gory will probably be disappointed. A very nice transfer, however.
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