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review added: 8/27/99



The Mummy
Widescreen Collector's Edition - 1999 (1999) - Universal Studios

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Mummy (1999) Film Ratings: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B+/A

Specs and Features

125 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:29:56, at start of chapter 14), Amaray keep case packaging, Building a Better Mummy documentary, full-length audio commentary with director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay, 3 deleted scenes, 4 theatrical trailers (2 for The Mummy, plus showcase trailers for End of Days and For Love of the Game), 5 scenes shown in step-by-step visual effects comparison with commentary by VFX supervisor John Berton, cast & crew bios, production notes, Egyptology 101, DVD-ROM features (screensavers, The Mummy game and web links), animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) & French (DD 3.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

What great fun! With The Mummy, Director Stephen Sommers and company have managed to craft a big-time nifty B-movie, and a fitting homage to the original Universal horror classic. The story goes like this: 3,000 years ago, an Egyptian high priest named Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) dares fate by attempting to consummate a forbidden love affair with the Pharaoh's consort, Anck-Su-Namum. They're caught, after having killed the Pharaoh. Anck-Su-Namum kills herself, and Imhotep is mummified alive, buried in the ancient city of Hamunaptra, and a horrific curse is placed on him. The curse works like this: Imhotep will suffer, undead, for all eternity, and should someone try to resurrect his soul, he'll come back a horrible monster, bringing with him plague and pestilence enough to destroy the Earth. Doesn't exactly sound like a nice way to spend the afterlife, does it?

Jump to 1932, and enter one Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser), an American fighting in the Egyptian desert in the French Foreign Legion. O'Connell and his fellows are defending the ruins of the very same Hamunaptra against a Bedouin attack. O'Connell barely survives, but not before getting a hint that there's serious evil afoot among the ruins. A few years later, back in Cairo, a pretty young archeologist named Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and her brother come into possession of a map, that they believe leads to Hamunaptra, which is only rumored to exist. Actually, the map (and the key that came with it) was stolen from O'Connell himself, who's now rotting in jail under a death sentence. Evelyn saves O'Connell from being hanged, in exchange for leading her and her team to Hamunaptra. He does, and of course, the two fall in love. And along the way, they manage to accidentally awake Imhotep, who wreaks all kinds of creepy, crawly havoc. Imhotep also takes a liking to Evelyn, and plans to use her as a human sacrifice to resurrect his lost love. Can O'Connell save her, and destroy Imhotep before it's too late? Well, let's see... given the fact that The Mummy 2 is already in the works... hhmmm....

This movie is just great fun. This is grand, glorious adventure, in the tradition of the Saturday afternoon matinees of old. The script, as written by a gaggle of scribes, including Sommers himself, is a refreshing adaptation of the original classic horror tale, with a touch of Indiana Jones thrown in for good measure. The direction is fairly tight, the acting is all appropriately campy but just fine, and the special effects (courtesy of Industrial Light & Magic) are first-rate. I sure would like to see Brendan Fraser do more good films, and less George of the Jungles and Dudley Do-Rights. The guy's good here, but I think he's got talent that we hardly ever see anymore, and is only hinted at in this film. To be sure, there are problems of logic with The Mummy, not the least of which is, what O'Connell's done (between the time we see him fighting in the desert, and the time we see him rotting in jail) to merit being sentenced to death? Then again, who cares? You shouldn't ask such questions of a B-movie anyway. Just sit back, pop up some popcorn, and enjoy. And there's plenty here to enjoy, including a great, sword-swinging homage to pioneering visual effects legend Ray Harryhausen.

As special edition DVDs go, this disc really delivers. To start with, you get the film in its original widescreen aspect ratio, enhanced for anamorphic widescreen displays to boot (note that a separate full frame collector's edition version is also available for those who prefer it). The transfer is pretty good generally - you do see some occasional NTSC artifacts, and some light "ringing" on edges that bespeaks edge enhancement. But the color is rich and accurate, and the contrast is very good, with deep (yet detailed) blacks. The print used in the transfer is of good quality, with only minor occasions of dust and dirt visible.

The surround sound on this disc isn't quite as fun as I might have expected, but it's still generally excellent. What I mean by that, is that given the type of film we're talking about here, there isn't nearly as much nifty use of surround sound as I think there could have been. The rear channels do get a workout, and there's great bass, but much of the surround sound use is for atmospheric fill. You will hear one of two nifty little audio tricks, though I wanted more.

But it's the extras on this disc that really deliver. You get a good commentary track with the director and editor, as they talk about the special effects, the location work, and even give you a hint of the story for The Mummy 2. There is a section of trivia and history on Egyptian lore and mythology, as well as production notes, and cast & crew information. You get a pair of trailers for this film, as well as a sneak peak at the trailers for Universal's upcoming End of Days and For Love of the Game - a nice touch. There's a great, 50-minute documentary on the production, entitled Building a Better Mummy, which focuses largely on the effects. There are even a trio of deleted scenes, and DVD-ROM features. But my favorite extra on this disc, is a section where you get a look at how the special effects were done on 5 separate scenes in the film. You can view each scene in 4 different stages of completion, from the original plate photography, to the final film version, with audio commentary by effects editor John Berton to explain how it was all done. Very cool.

What else can I say? The Mummy is a blast, and it's a disc well worth spinning. I missed this flick in the theaters, so I'm glad such a loaded DVD version is available for me to experience at home. Make no mistake, The Mummy is completely entertaining, and just darned good fun.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com




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