Review: The Mummy / Cert: PG / Director: Terence Fisher / Screenplay: Jimmy Sangster / Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, George Pastell, Yvonne Furneaux, Felix Aylmer / Release Date: October 14th
One of the all-time great movie monsters, the Mummy, gets the Hammer treatment here. The very British studio produce a very British incarnation of the tightly-wrapped Egyptian behemoth. As so often with Hammer productions, Christopher Lee is there front-and-centre as the bad-guy of the piece, taking on the titular role. On the other side of the coin, you have Peter Cushing doing his very best to unravel the mystery of the Mummy.
In the 1890s, a bumbling group of British archaeologists come across the sacred tomb of Princess Ananka. Deciding not to heed the ominous warnings of the Egyptian locals, the group arrogantly enter the hallowed place. Much to their later regret, their discovery has awakened a certain protector of Ananka – the High Priest Charris, aka the Mummy. Led by a typically-token fez-wearing believer (Pastell), and hunting the group down one by one, the Mummy avenges the desecration of the sacred tomb. With Cushing’s John Banning realising that he is next on the bandaged-one’s shitlist, he has to take evasive action to protect himself and his loved ones, but not before he can finish his glass of ice-cold milk.
The Mummy is a charming film, arguably one of Hammer’s finest self-produced titles; the setting, tone, and mood are all note-perfect. In typical Hammer style, there’s a very British stiff-upper-lip feel to the tale, as every single character, even the villains on show, are well-mannered and polite, almost tripping over themselves to apologise at the most alarmingly frequent of instances.
Fans of similar films will find the performance of all of the actors on show a joy to watch. Peter Cushing is as Peter Cushing as he’s ever been, constantly stumbling over his manners, all the while managing to keep his portrayal at just the right level of hammed-up to make it work. Lee, as both the human Charris and his mummified incarnation, shines. Lee’s larger-than-life Mummy towers over the rest of the cast, with the iconic villain given one of his most violent and brutish outings. The supporting cast, most notably George Pastell, all deliver at exactly the right times. Lee himself suffered multiple injuries during the filming of The Mummy, the efforts of all involved resulted in a great film.
Aficionados of classic horrors from the Universal and Hammer heydays will love The Mummy. As for modern audiences, they may well find the acting and direction a little too over-the-top and hard to take seriously. Then there’s the age-old question of why so many Egyptians choose to speak English to each other even when in their own country…