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PETER CUSHING LIMPING THROUGH HAMMER'S 'THE MUMMY'

Title: The Mummy Year: 1961 Rating: **1/2

The greatest HAMMER director Terence Fisher's third of four Universal Classic Monster remakes, and unlike the darkly plush Victorian scenery of Frankenstein, The Werewolf and Dracula, the rudimentary Egyptian locale basically resembles a movie set. And yet the story's economically shot and easy to follow as Peter Cushing's archeologist father loses his sanity after unveiling an entombed princess, later experienced via flashbacks where even Christopher Lee's title character... her dedicated high priest Kharis... is, like that sunny locale, too exposed for the sake of Hammer's otherwise eerie, enigmatic style...

But when the characters return to England with rolling hillsides and in this case, boggy swamp marshes, it's all more natural, palpable, lived-in, and thus the revenge tale begins, providing Lee's MUMMY... like his Frankenstein's Monster and Dracula... an lean, energetic agility, deliberately contradicting Boris Karloff's lumbering powerhouse in Fisher's least inspired venture, hollow even during a narrated flashback told by a permanently limping Cushing to token constable Eddie Byrne. Meanwhile, the "present timeline" feels rushed after Lee's too easily awakened by an Egyptian zealot's chant: And our bandaged beast conveniently seeks/finds his victims like a traveling salesman covering familiar ground. Which isn't altogether unworthy since the body-count aspect pays off. Just realize THE MUMMY is Hammer's ready-made popcorn flick instead of their usual fine wine; which doesn't mean there's nothing vintage here: John Williams must have been influenced by the awestruck tomb-entering music for RAIDERS but, overall, compared to the more famous, fleshed-out Monster revamps, this one kinda sphinx.

Hammer Films presents THE MUDDY from 1959 (got a big laugh on the Hammer group)

Eddie Byrne helped blow up the Death Star that Peter Cushing in STAR WARS

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