Following the success of Dracula and Frankenstein, it was little surprise that Hammer decided to take on one of the other characters that Universal had success with in the 1930s – The Mummy. The British film company’s 1959 take on bandaged ancient Egyptians reunites Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and director Terence Fisher, and while the results aren’t as memorable as with the earlier movies, it is fun.
Cushing is John Banning, who is in Egypt on a dig with his father and others. They are just about to break into the tomb of the ancient Princess Ananka, which they believe will be a major discovery. Despite warnings from the locals they go ahead, only for John’s father to be terrified by something inside after he read an inscription on the coffin.
Three years later John and the treasures of Ananka – including the princess herself – are back in London, but the trouble isn’t over. Also in the tomb was a living mummy (Christopher Lee) who’s unleashed to take revenge on those who disturbed Ananka’s sleep.
As with many of Hammer’s movies in the late 50s and early 60s, there’s the sense with The Mummy that it knows it’s a little silly, but it wants to have a rollicking time anyway. It succeeds at that, as apart from an overly long flashback explaining where the Mummy came, it’s a very entertaining film. When the creature itself appears, Terence Fisher handles it well so that even now it’s a little creepy.
There’s a moment when one of the female characters is revealed to be the spitting image of Ananka when the whole thing feels like it’s going to destroy itself with lazy plotting, but this turns out to be a blip in an otherwise very well make Hammer horror flick. If you’ve enjoyed other of the company’s movies, you’ll probably like this one a lot too.
You can understand though why Christopher Lee was getting a little fed up with Hammer movies by this point. He wanted to take more serious roles, but here spends most of the movie stumbling around wrapped in bandages. He’s very effective, but for someone who’s always had a slightly grandiose impression of himself, you can see why he might have been getting annoyed with Hammer flicks.
This Blu-ray version includes the movie’s very first home-entertainment release at its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (about halfway between old style TVs and new widescreen ones). Along with that is an excellent selection of extras. There’s the interesting ‘Unwrapping the Mummy: The Making of a Hammer Classic’ documentary where experts and those involved with the movie talk about making it, from how Hammer worked to the intricacies of the production.
Even more interesting for Hammer fans is the documentary, ‘The House Of Horror: Memories of Bray’, which is all about the Bray Film Studios on the banks of the Thames in Windsor, where the company made most of its movies. It’s a fascinating look into the ethos and practices of the company, which hints at a family atmosphere that perhaps explains some of its success.
You even get an entire bonus movie, Terence Fisher’s 1952 thriller Stolen Face, about a plastic surgeon who starts making one of his patients look like an old love. It’s daft but like many of the director’s other movies is more entertaining that you might think. With several other worthwhile titbits, it’s a very good disc.
Overall Verdict: It may not be as well remembered as the likes of Frankenstein and Dracula, The Mummy is still a very good slice of Hammer Horror, given a great Blu-ray release here.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac