Released in the late Sixties, when the great Hammer Horror empire was at its decadent height – producing both some of its most revolutionary and progressive offerings, and simultaneously some of its most lukewarm franchise reheating, 1967’s The Mummy’s Shroud – the third of four Mummy films from the studio – is obviously sitting on the hob with the latter.
At its core a fairly generic tale, obviously inspired by the ‘real’ mythology surrounding the 1922 excavation of King Tutankhamun’s tomb and lurid deaths that followed, in which an unconvincing cloth-caked stuntman (Eddie Powell, who later did stunts in Alien, Aliens, Batman and Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade) shuffles around murdering an ensemble of Hammer regulars at the urging of blacked up future Doctor Who villain Roger Delgado, before disintegrating into a big pool of dust and bone when the right incantations are muttered over the titular shroud.
Directed by John Gilling a year on from his stone-cold classics 1966’s Plague Of The Zombies and The Reptile, there’s an obvious effort to try and embellish the cliches – of which there are many in this vague 1920s Egypt of fezzes and cackling fortune tellers in which the core cast are being whittled down one-by-one – with an interest recurring motif of vision and self-obsession. Thoughtfully underline by the fantastic documentary ‘The Beat Goes On: The Making Of The Mummy’s Shroud’ – the female characters all have some degree of foreknowledge, terrifyingly deranged fortune teller Haiti (Catherine Lacey) most obviously, Eygptologist Claire de Sangre (Witchfinder General‘s Maggie Kimberly) has pangs of foreboding, and, Barbara Preston (Elizabeth Sellars), the wife of bullish financier and Most Deserving Of Mummy Death Award Winner Stanley Preston (Village Of The Damned‘s John Phillips), seems quietly condemning of where this is all leading, while the men all see the bandaged bad’un lurch at them through reflections, shadows and blurred fever visions.
With the likes of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing both a little more demanding of their roles come 1967, The Mummy’s Shroud isn’t being dominated by any one super-charismatic star, instead relying on a standout ensemble of regular supporting actors including the masterful Michael Ripper as twitchy lackey Longbarrow, and of course Quatermass And The Pit‘s André Morell as ill-fated archeologist Sir Basil Walden.
Obviously dwarfed by John Gilling’s two previous Hammer offerings, as well as the lush and defining 1959 version of The Mummy (featuring the dream team of Cushing and Lee, as well as writer Jimmy Sangster and director Terence Fisher) The Mummy’s Shroud may be at its core very much like its tired old antagonist – another horror trope dragged from the crypt far too many times to be effective or interesting – but there’s an talented cast and crew trying as hard to avoid that fate as their on screen counterparts.