DIRECTOR Terence Fisher WRITER Jimmy Sangster STARS Peter Cushing; Christopher Lee; Yvonne Furneaux DVD & BLU-RAY 14 October
Following the worldwide success of Dracula the previous year, 1959 saw Hammer quickly rushing into a production of The Mummy. Once again reuniting the team of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and director Terence Fisher, this would complete the trilogy of Universal Pictures creatures that had started with The Curse Of Frankenstein (review here). This was Hammer’s golden period, consistently excellent productions charged with blood, violence and erotica, and audiences couldn’t get enough of them. Much is talked of the influence of Dracula (review here) and Frankenstein, but The Mummy deserves to sit comfortably between them. It’s a superb horror movie from a studio at the top of their game.
Lee’s star rating, of course, had gone through the roof since portraying the Count, and here he’s given equal billing as Cushing, portraying the Egyptian high priest Kharis both in life and in resurrected death as the titular character, whose tomb is disturbed and who swears vengeance on all those who desecrated him. Lee is brooding in scenes as the priest and downright frightening as the Mummy; swathed in dusty bandages and with only his eyes visible, he is as haunted as the undead being he has been forced to become. Cushing is as you’d expect, cool and enigmatic, and it comes as a surprise to a generation who first encountered him in Star Wars just what a lean leading action man he was for Hammer.
There’s a fine cast supporting the two horror icons: Yvonne Furneaux as the romantic interest, Felix Aylmer as the Father, and especially George Pastell as stooge Mehemet Bay are excellent, and their faces will be well known to Hammer aficionados. Production, based around some fine sets for Egypt and (naturally) Bray Studios for the English countryside and interiors is lush, a Hammer trademark in full effect here. The picture for this release has been fully restored — and presented in the correct aspect ratio for the first time — and pays worthy homage to the work of the crew. A commentary by official Hammer historian Marcus Hearn offers much insight into the production and this era of the studio in general. A second disc offers a wealth of bonus material: a detailed documentary, “Hammer’s Rep Company”, which focuses on the collection of supporting actors who appeared time and again; a vintage episode of Hammer House Of Hammer that concentrates on Cushing; and “Memories Of Bray”, which looks at the iconic setting of dozens of pictures. Trailers, promo reel, and even a full and virtually unseen crime caper by Fisher (Stolen Face from 1952, which reveals what a versatile director he was) round out a great package.