Tag Archives: cult classics

Hammer’s “Mummy” Series – Review

19 Jul

Many moons ago, I did a two part review on Hammer Film’s Dracula movies starring the late, great Christopher Lee as the title character. Hammer didn’t stop it’s remakes of Universal monster movies there, however, with a long running series of Frankenstein films and also a series of Mummy movies. This four film long series ran from Hammer’s hay day in 1959 to 1971, when the company was in its decline. While there are certainly aspects of these movies that have that genuine Hammer horror feel, a few of the outings feel like complete rehashes of what’s already been done, and one even seemed completely devoid of any and all types of thrills.

Like I said the series started in 1959 with The Mummy and continued after quite a few years in 1964 with The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb.

 

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The series continued in 1967 with The Mummy’s Shroud and finally ended in 1971 with Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb.

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At the risk of sound repetitive, I really only need to give one basic summary for the first three films in this series. Pretty much throughout these movies, archaeologists discover ancient tombs containing mummies and priceless artifacts, which they use to try to make a profit at a museums or as sideshow attractions. The mummies in the tomb awaken because of a curse and then begin to kill members of each expedition one by one. Now, Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb changed the pace up a little bit with an expedition team finding a perfectly preserved Egyptian princess buried in a sacred tomb. This princess has been reincarnated as a professor’s daughter and is soon tricked into working to bring the evil princess back to life… by killing members of the expedition, so the basic formula is pretty much still there.

The Mummy starts the series off with a bang, and it unfortunately never quite achieves the thrills and fun that are packed into this movie. Part of that may be because this is the only film in the series to feature Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. These two Hammer titans clash just as good as they always do in this film. There’s one excellent scene in particular where the mummy, played by Lee, unexpectedly crashes through Cushing’s glass door and lunges at him with a vengeance that has been boiling up for a thousand years. There’s also a memorable flashback sequence that shows how Lee’s character, Kharis, became the mummy. The Mummy is a wonderfully creepy Hammer classic that shouldn’t be missed.

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So, like I said before, the first film of this series is unfortunately the peak of all the excitement. The next two sequels can be best described as incredibly lackluster. The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb has almost no redeeming qualities. The actual mummy in this movie has very little screen time, and pretty much just lumbers around. The scenes all have the appropriate atmosphere, but no actual climax that is worth watching. Terence Morgan’s character is really the only interesting part of this movie, so honestly, just skip this one.

The Mummy’s Shroud thankfully steps things up a little bit, but not by all that much. Take the atmosphere away and replace it with a much cooler mummy and some really awesome death scenes, and you have this movie. Being released in 1967, this starts the period when Hammer began its fall into obscurity. People just weren’t interested in what they were making, and when films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were released, people REALLY weren’t interested. Like I said though, this movie has some redeeming qualities. The death scenes are over the top and memorable, and they also give the mummy something to do. There’s also a great climactic scene in which the mummy appears to disintegrate before our very eyes. I don’t really have too much to say about this one other than it showed where Hammer was at at the time, and it has some wonderfully eerie scenes that make it worth at least one watch.

The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb Dickie Owen

 

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Finally, it seemed like Hammer saw that they couldn’t just have another movie where a guy wrapped in cloth terrorized upper class British men who accidentally resurrected it. Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb is actually based off of a novel by Bram Stoker called The Jewel of the Seven Stars, which is a story about archaeologists working to revive an Egyptian queen. That’s more or less the story of this last movie, but it steps up the “Hammer Factor” big time. There’s plenty of blood, eerie scenes, and…well… let’s just say there’s plenty of Valerie Leon to go around… It was also nice to see a different sort of story than the other movies. This makes Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb the best in the series after the original 1959 movie, but also an underrated Hammer classic.

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This Hammer series is ultimately pretty uneven. There’s really only one awful movie in the bunch, and that’s The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb. Just a step above that we have The Mummy’s Shroud, which has some really memorable scenes. Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb and The Mummy are the real stand out film in this series, since they have the most style and are all around just better made movies. Any fans of Hammer films have probably already been exposed to these movies, but if you’re new to their works, stick with the first and the last films. Those ones just scream Hammer and rank as some of their best work.

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