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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Horror > The Mummy (1999/HD-DVD)

The Mummy (1999/HD-DVD)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: C     Film: C-



I hoped that Universal’s 1999 revival of The Mummy would be a fun return to the Horror film on a grand scale.  Instead, writer/director Stephen Sommers turned it into a silly semi-populist action romp that had more to do with Indiana Jones than Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi.  The result was a huge hit that has spawned a sequel and terrible spin-off (Scorpion King) and a now unsure franchise future.


Brendan Frazier is Rick O’Connell, an American who decided to be in the French Foreign Legion.  In this, he joins an archeological expedition that seems to be interested in science and history, including the smart, beautiful Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and a British expert in the field (Johnathan Hyde) among others.  In their zest and idiocy in reading a certain section of a sacred text aloud when they should have shut up, a plague of locusts arrive and the legendary Mummy soon follows.


Unfortunately, a good screenplay does not follow in this endlessly silly and jokey film that was in fashion as a “leave your brain at the door” before 9/11 ended that kind of film for the most part.  The actors are not bad, but they mostly run away from digital effects throughout and this is no match for the 1930s Universal classics or the few effective mummy horror tales since.


Universal did back this film with a big budget and more money than usual actually lands up on the screen.  However, I was bored when I first saw it and found it more trite than ever before.  As a matter of fact, I was so bored that one moment with the locusts that summed-up the film for the worst and it had me and my guest laughing for at least a half-hour afterwards as it played, saving us from the torture of this flick.


The plague arrives; all hell (literally) breaks loose.  At this point, I wondered what they would do next now that something had happened.  Then, out of nowhere, the doctor pops up, looks at the screen and the audience (in effect breaking the fourth wall) and immortally utters in his thick British accent: “Oh my God!  What have we done?”


That prevented this from being a total bomb and we had so many answers to his question that we would need an essay to list them.  Needless to say none of it had to do with making a really good film, even if it was a hit.



The 1080p digital 2.35 X 1 High Definition image was shot by the late, great Adrian Biddle, B.S.C., whose camerawork made the film a hit, even with al the bad-on-arrival digital work all over the place.  That does not mean this is a great looking film and this transfer has its limits, looking like an older HD master.  Besides the dated effects, you have mixed colors, some scenes with detail and depth issues and just a lack of overall fidelity that makes it not as good as it could be or as the 35mm print I saw in its original release.


The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 sound mix has its moments, helped by a better than average score by the late great Jerry Goldsmith, who could even help a poorer film like this to some extent.  This was a DTS showcase in its time, but the mix has not aged well.  I doubt Dolby TrueHD 5.1 would help that much, but I would be curious to hear that.  Otherwise, fans will not be disappointed, but this is not a demo HD-DVD overall.  Wonder if this is the same material as the old D-VHS D-Theater edition?


Extras include three feature commentaries: one with Sommers & Editor Bob Ducsay, one with actors Oded Fehr, Kevin O’Connor & Arnold Vosloo, and another with Frazier.  You also get featurette Building A Better Mummy, visual and special effects formation, storyboard-to-film comparison, deleted scenes and theatrical trailers.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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