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4.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous & Creepy Hammer Horror Winner., 6 Mar. 2011
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This review is from: The Mummy [DVD] (DVD)
Hammer Film Productions rework some of the classic Universal Studios mummy material to great effect. Directed by Terence Fisher, this is not a remake of the seminal 1932 movie of the same name. Starring Peter Cushing (John Banning), Christopher Lee (Kharis/The Mummy), Raymond Huntley (Joseph Whemple) and Yvonne Furneaux (Isobel Banning/Princess Ananka), the film is written by Jimmy Sangster and was filmed at Bray & Shepperton Studios in England. Tho listed as being filmed in Technicolor, it was actually shot in Eastman Color using the Technicolor process. I mention the latter because Eastman Color has a different hue to it, something that makes this movie all the more affecting as a horror piece.

The plot sees three archaeologists (Stephen & John Banning & Joseph Whemple) desecrate the tomb of Egyptian Princess Ananka. This awakens Kharis, Ananka's blasphemous lover who was buried alive for his unlawful deeds. Taken from the tomb to London by Egyptian priest Mehemet Bey (George Pastell), the three archaeologists find they are being hunted down by the vengeful Kharis. The only salvation may come in the form of Isobel Banning who bears a striking resemblance to Princess Ananka.

This Mummy is adroitly directed by Fisher, his choreography for the action scenes is stunning. Lee's incarnation as the mouldy bandaged one is swifter than most, thus Fisher has him stalking around Victorian England one minute, then the next he's crashing thru doors or windows with brute strength. With murder his (its) only goal. It's a top performance from Lee as he really throws himself into the role, with his dead eyes ominously peering out from gauze swathed sockets sending those little shivers running down the spine. Technically the film belies the budget restrictions that was a staple of Hammer productions. The sets are very impressive with the Egyptian tomb set original and authentic looking, and the swamp based set-up nicely constructed. The latter of which provides two genuine horror classic moments. As first we see the Mummy for the first time as he rises from a foul bubbling bog, and then for the dramatic swampy finale. It's also atmospherically filmed by Fisher, with Jack Asher's photography utilising the Eastman Color to give off a weird elegiac beauty.

This is not about gore, Fisher and the makers wanted to thrive on atmospherics and implication. Something they achieve with great rewards. The Mummy would prove to be very successful in Britain and abroad, thus ensuring Hammer would dig up more Mummy's for further screen outings. None of which came close to capturing the look and feel of this first makeover. Crisply put together and with another in the line of great Christopher Lee monster characterisations', this Mummy is essential viewing for the creature feature horror fan. 8/10
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Nov 2014 18:13:53 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Nov 2014 18:15:52 GMT
D. Guenzel says:
Mr Owen: Just to clarify, Technicolor is a film printing procedure, not a film manufacturing procedure. Technicolor never manufactured celluloid motion picture film. Films printed in the unique Technicolor process were filmed on many different negative film stocks, such as Eastman, Fuji, Ferrania, etc. What Technicolor did was to make three color separations from the original single-strip negative, yellow, cyan and magenta. These three strips were then printed onto blank film stock in a manner similar to offset printing, using special dyes developed by them. So in effect, all Technicolor films were photographed on a single color negative film stock (Eastman, Fuji, etc.) then PRINTED using their three-strip printing process. All Technicolor prints have a certain wonderful richness to them and it doesn't matter what negative was used to shoot the picture. Their process supersedes any distinctive differences in the color negative so it matters little what "hue" Eastman negatives had. Ergo, it is somewhat misleading to conflate both Eastman and Technicolor.

Since the Technicolor printing process was, alas, abandoned in the 1970s all NEW prints made are printed onto a single-strip positive color film stock (Eastman, Fuji, whatever), even though the credits on the film's titles still say "Color by Technicolor". Sadly these new prints cannot even come close to the beauty and clarity of an actual Technicolor print, which is why some dvds and blurays never look as good as the originals, and that is perhaps why you are noticing a different "hue". If careful restoration is done by a knowledgeable film timer and film lab it is possible to get a very good color image but that is an expensive undertaking and very few invest the money to do so. The recent DRACULA (1958) bluray was at least a noble attempt to restore the film's colors to their original vibrancy but since the Technicolor process is no longer available the best they could do was to approximate it. They did a reasonably good job with the materials they had.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Nov 2014 10:19:12 GMT
Spike Owen says:

Thank you for the considered and informative post, it really is appreciated.

Have to say, though, that I'm surprised somewhat about your "hue" point of view. Consider the Technicolor of something like The Wizard of Oz and An American In Paris, with Eastman Color prints such as The Mummy. Core process is of course Technicolor, but there is a world of difference in visual richness between something like Eastman Color and Warner Color/True Color etc.

That's what I'm trying to convey here.

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