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reviews added: 6/7/02

The Mummy
Ultimate Edition - 1999 (2001) - Universal

review by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

The Mummy: Ultimate Edition Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A-/A*

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A/A+

*C+ if you already own the Collector's Edition

Specs and Features

Disc One: Widescreen
125 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:29:56, at the start of chapter 14), custom dual disc Amaray keep case packaging, Building a Better Mummy documentary, audio commentary (with director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay), audio commentary (with actor Brendan Fraser), audio commentary (with actors Oded Fehr, Kevin J. O'Connor and Arnold Vosloo), cast and crew bios, production notes, Egyptology 101, DVD-ROM features (including website archive, script-to-film comparison, The Mummy PC game demo), animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD & DTS 5.1), subtitles: English, Spanish and French

Disc Two: Full Frame
125 mins, PG-13, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:29:56, at the start of chapter 14), highlights from The Mummy Returns, 3 deleted scenes, 5 scenes shown in step-by-step visual effects comparison (with audio commentary by VFX supervisor John Berton), 3 storyboard-to-film comparisons, photograph montage, Pharoah Lineage, 3 trailers (for The Mummy, The Mummy Returns and The Mummy PC game), DVD-ROM features (same as on Disc One), animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 5.1), Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: English

My first thought after seeing The Mummy theatrically in 1999 was, "I probably would have loved this if it had been directed by Sam Raimi and starred Bruce Campbell." Granted, that's my first thought after seeing a lot of movies but this time, it actually made sense. The Mummy aims to be nothing more than a thrill-a-minute fun ride featuring a square-jawed adventurer doing battle with hordes of the undead. Nobody delivers movies like that quite like Mr. Raimi and his pal Bruce.

Actually, I had fully expected to love The Mummy. I thought director Stephen Sommers delivered the B-movie goods in his previous outing, the monsters on a cruise ship opus Deep Rising. With The Mummy, it seemed like Sommers and company had their tongue far too far in cheek. I love the 1932 version of The Mummy, atmospherically directed by Karl Freund. Freund and Boris Karloff were able to wring some genuine tension out of the situation. The new movie emphasizes thrills and effects over suspense and horror. While it might be an effective late '90's adventure movie, and it does indeed boast some truly impressive visual effects, that's not what I want to see when I see a movie called The Mummy. But my opinion counts for less than nothing in the ultimate scheme of things. The Mummy sold a lot of popcorn, so Universal followed it up with The Mummy Returns and The Scorpion King. I didn't bother to see either of them, but somehow I doubt that my personal boycott of these two films will dissuade Universal from making more Mummies.

Universal has released The Mummy a couple times now. The first release was way back in 1999 and it was a very respectable special edition chock-full o' extras (that release was reviewed by Bill Hunt back in the day). In 2001, Universal gave the title the "Ultimate Edition" treatment, obviously to ride the coattails of the then-premiering The Mummy Returns. Well, the second movie's been out on DVD for a while now and The Scorpion King is about to visit discount theatres on its way to home video, so how does the Ultimate Edition hold up? Is it a substantial improvement over the still available Collector's Edition or is it just marketing?

First off, the movie's so nice, you get it twice. Disc One presents the feature in all its anamorphic widescreen glory, complete with a new DTS track. The second disc gives you the option of watching a panned and scanned Mummy and no DTS. The anamorphic picture on Disc One is pretty darned amazing. I ended up watching this disc on two different monitors, and while I saw some edge enhancement and brightness that I found annoying on the first TV, the second was rock-solid and crystal clear. As for the audio tracks, the DTS mix is stellar. Whooshing sand, skittering scarabs and Jerry Goldsmith's score (which I do admit to enjoying) fill the room. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is also quite nice - if you don't have a DTS decoder, don't feel too bad.

As for the extras, every single feature from the first release has been brought over to the Ultimate Edition. The first disc boasts two new commentaries. The first is by Brendan Fraser and it's got to be one of the worst commentaries I've ever struggled through. Fraser has nothing to say and fills his time with pointless observations and exclamations like "Ouch!" whenever somebody's run through with a sword. It's like being stuck in a theatre next to a guy who reads every sign and subtitle out loud and talks back to the screen. The second new track is by Oded Fehr (who plays Ardeth Bey), Kevin J. O'Connor (Beni) and the mummy hisownself, Arnold Vosloo. This is considerably more interesting than the Fraser track, as these guys at least talk about the movie. And thank god for Vosloo, who has apparently listened to a commentary track or two in his day and kind of acts as an unofficial moderator, asking Fehr and O'Connor questions whenever things get too quiet.

Other new features include a storyboard-to-film comparison for three scenes, a script-to-scene DVD-ROM feature, and a Pharoah's Lineage feature for those who thought Egyptology 101 was the best thing about the original release. And then the marketing begins. There's also a promotional puff piece about The Mummy Returns. There's a trailer for The Mummy Returns. There's a DVD-ROM weblink that apparently connected you to a live webcast from the premiere of The Mummy Returns but doesn't do much for you anymore. Even Arnold Vosloo takes time out of his commentary track to plug… that's right…The Mummy Returns. After a while, it's hard to figure out if you're watching a DVD or an all-Mummy episode of Entertainment Tonight.

So is your The Mummy DVD worth an upgrade? Depends on what you're looking for. If you crave a new and improved DTS track, absolutely, but if you want more extras, proceed with caution. The three scenes chosen for the storyboard-to-film comparison are hardly the most compelling scenes in the movie. The Fehr/O'Connor/Voslooo commentary is a nice companion to the Sommers/Ducsay track, but Brendan Fraser's is a colossal bore. As for the rest, if you're interested in The Mummy Returns, you should just buy that disc instead. If you don't have The Mummy on DVD yet, and are at all interested in it, by all means go Ultimate. If you do and you're happy with it, you're not missing much here.

Adam Jahnke
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