Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee lead the cast in Terence Fisher’s 1959 horror, The Mummy. It’s a classy and luscious looking film that uses Universal’s Mummy movies for inspiration, while giving it that unmistakeable Hammer feel.
The action begins in Egypt as archaeologist John Banning (Cushing), along with his father Stephen (Felix Aylmer) and Joseph Whemple (Raymond Huntley) uncover the long lost tomb of Princess Ananka. Tomb guardian, Mehemet Bey (George Pastell) is infuriated at their sacrilege and uses the Scroll of Life to raise-up High Priest (and Ananka’s former lover ) Kharis (Lee) to seek revenge.
Hammer films never broke the bank budget-wise, however they always managed to have impressive visuals. The Mummy is no exception. The Egyptian setting at the start of the film opens up the scope of things, adding an exotic feel. Things move into more familiar Hammer territory when the action moves back to England and Lee’s Mummy goes on a killing rampage.
The Mummy isn’t scary by today’s standards, but it is atmospheric. In a way, The Mummy is a precursor to James Cameron’s Terminator – he can’t be reasoned with and he can’t be stopped. Lee adds a sense of character to his shuffling creature. He’s helped by flashbacks that give him motivation and the opportunity to show his face. Stepping into Boris Karloff’s bandages is a tough job, but Lee manages to do it. Meanwhile, Cushing is as charming as ever, adding some daring-do to his bookish archaeologist.
The Mummy takes one of horror’s most enduring characters and adds two of the genre’s most iconic stars to deliver a film that still holds up fifty years on. Director Terence Fisher may not be a great stylist, but he knows how to build tension and use production design to its upmost, while The Mummy’s musical score adds a flavour of Egyptian mysticism.
The Mummy brings so many great horror elements together to create a wonderful movie. It’s a classy affair (odd considering the genre) that works a piece of authentic cinema. This is Hammer on a high.
The Blu-ray of The Mummy is a phenomenal package. The disc comes with a plethora of documentaries that cover not only the film’s production, but also the history of Hammer. The film also comes in its original theatrical ratio (a first), an informative commentary and booklet. Oh, and there’s also a bonus Terence Fisher movie, The Stolen Face (1952). A splendid monster-mash.