Around the year 2000 B.C. there was a power struggle in the kingdom of Ancient Egypt between two brothers. One was Pharoah, and his pride and joy in life was his young son who he doted over and assigned a powerful guard, Prem, to see to the boy's safety, but one day that was no longer possible as his evil brother stormed the royal chambers with his troops and murdered the lot of them. Well, almost the lot, as Prem was able to save the Prince and they ventured out into the desert with their slaves, never to return...
Or at least the Prince was never to return, for Prem was pretty active around four thousand years later as you'll find out if you watch The Mummy's Shroud. This was part of Hammer's small cycle of Tutankhamen inspired Mummy movies which they seemed to be taking part in simply because they had obtained the rights to the character from Universal, and not because they had anything fresh and exciting to do with him. Their initial instalment in the franchise was the not bad at all The Mummy, for some the definitive entry even above the Boris Karloff-starring original, so you could observe Hammer got it right first time with this premise.
Not that it stopped them from producing more when there were profits to be had, so Curse of the Mummy's Tomb was next in line, followed by this, by which time the conventions were set in stone as if this was a Friday the 13th movie: revive the menace, set him to executing the cast, then overcome him for the grand finale. Yet actually Hammer's next movie in the series Blood from the Mummy's Tomb didn't feature that template at all, and without a Mummy it flopped, indicating the public were keen to see characters bumped off by the cloth-wrapped monster if we really had to have yet another of these. This left Shroud as the equivalent of one of those Universal sequels of the nineteen-forties.
In that it was all very professional, but not many viewers would get tremendously excited about it, rather regarded it as a timewaster if there was nothing better on. It was true the air of a script being reused instead of one written from scratch was the tone of this, but that's not to say there were no compensations, as for gore fans this was the bloodiest of the series as director John Gilling, in his last Hammer effort, thought what the hell and went to town on the real reason audiences were going to see this: to watch people die. The selling point here was ostensibly that the Mummy was the most authentic in design ever, but after Prem is revived we can tell the real appeal being targeted was the bloodlust.
Given most of them will end up dead before the credits roll, you did wonder if there was any point in investing anything in the cast, and almost to acknowledge this they were either stuffy or outright objectionable, as the financer of the expedition to uncover the Prince's tomb is wealthy Stanley Preston (John Phillips - not the one from The Mamas and the Papas) and he's a frightful boor, riding roughshod over everyone's feelings as all the while his wife Barbara (Elizabeth Sellars) patiently comments on his behaviour, as if waiting for the moment the Mummy gets his bandaged hands around her husband's neck. Indeed, the whole mood of the piece looked to be backing the Egyptians all the way, willing the incarnation of their past to exterminate these newcomers and opportunists. The acting was a mixed bag, with Michael Ripper doing wonders with his put upon assistant role, future Doctor Who villain Roger Delgado spitting out his spells with aplomb, but David Buck and Maggie Kimberly as the supposed good guys dull and undistinguished. Watch it for the deaths, really. Music by Don Banks.
[Studio Canal's Blu-ray looks bright, with André Morell's hair positively blue, and with a new making of, a tribute to Buck, trailers and a stills gallery as extras.]