The Mummy

Imhotep is at it again. No Boris Karloff shuffling his way up behind a stuttering, stupefied scholar this time, but rather raunchy 3-D gooey skeleton that badly needs a supply of fresh flesh. He begins his physical
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The Mummy
® 1999 Universal Pictures International
regeneration once he's supplied himself with a new tongue and set of eyes (courtesy of one member from the visiting crew that pays no heed to ancient curses) and starts making his merry way about the temple tunnels.

The story line has changed with time (i.e. written and directed this time around by Stephen Sommers), but has managed to draw upon many of the familiar "mummy" traditions.

Once upon a time (1719 B.C., to be exact), the Pharaoh's mistress, Anck-Su-Namun (Patricia Velasquez) and a smiling, lusty high priest named Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) were doing the deed behind the ruler's back. Once caught, Anck-Su-Namun was condemned to death. She accepted this terrible fate, mostly because she knew Imhotep had a secret recipe to bring her back to life. This, not surprisingly, involves performing an unholy act, something to which he has never been averse. While administering to her body (certainly a one-minded man), he was attacked by guards before managing to get her spirit back into her carcass. Once set upon, his tongue is cut out (The tongs used on the tongue bring back shades of Christopher Lee) Now his unholy act has become an unspeakable one. His punishment doesn't end here, however. He is mummified alive (with a curse upon him that will keep him alive forever) and buried with giant blue scarab beetles that feed upon human flesh. (When it's dinner time in Egypt, who's gonna' worry about worms?) There's only one little problem that wasn't given sufficient thought by the other priests. While he remains buried underground, his strengths will increase tremendously. So much so, that should he ever be released, the ten plagues will be unleashed over the land and the end of mankind as we know it (and he knew it) will follow.

Let's face it, some guys'll do anything for the right girl.

That's the background (which, nevertheless, we all get a chance to view in encapsulated form). Now for the action. Legionnaire Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser, sporting an Indiana Jones-like attitude) has to save the day in 1923 as he battles the mysterious cult of Bedouin forces protecting mankind from unknown forces of evil and, eventually, and eventually fights off the forces of evil too. The secret warrior- guardians are led by the handsome, but death- dealing Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr). The greedy, untrustworthy weasel beside Rick during the initial sequence, is Beni (Kevin J. O'Connor). As they both fight to save their skins on the plains of Hamunaptra, legendary City of the Dead, Ben takes flight and leaves Rick to fend for himself.

Sometime later, Rick is residing in a less- than-four-star desert prison when Jonathan (John Hannah), a money hungry upper-class English playboy, stumbles upon him (,though no one seems to stops and wonder how). Jonathan's sister, Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), a ditsy, but attractive Egyptologist, upon discovering Rick's knowledge of the location where her long-sought-for Hamunaptra lies, bargains his way to freedom. Rick is now pledged to join Rachel and her brother in their search for the golden book of mysteries. Besides, Rick, who may hide it with his less than debonair attitude, is beginning to develop a liking for Evelyn with her intelligent, but hopeless ways.

Let's face it, some guys'll do anything for the right girl.

There's also a group of American scavengers on the trail who will, ultimately, serve as first sacrifices. No Rambos these. Laughing at ancient curses, as is the wont of modern Americans, little do they expect the exhausting encounters that will confront them once the bane of Egyptian kings has been released from his plight. Every encounter just seems to suck the energy out of them.

Now, this is where the fun really begins: Imhotep not only returns after thirty-seven centuries wanting the girl he left behind, but also craving absolute power and more deluge than even Noah could imagine. Immy turns out to be the kind of guy who, if you saw him on a desert in the middle of a sandstorm, you'd want to ask him, "Haven't I seen your face somewhere before?" From the smile wears, you can tell that he's hiding more in his book of tricks than a cellarful of kebabs.

Imhotep seems to be having a merry old time, picking himself up, dusting himself off, and starting all over again. Bullets may not phase him and punches may not daze him, but he seems to be having trouble with the felines once again. There are moments, others may comment, when it pays to be a cat lover.

Yes, Universal Pictures still, thankfully, takes time out now and again to give us the kind of thrills they constantly used to scare us with back in the days of black and white. Industrial Light and Magic has supplied the numerous stunning special FX (under the supervision of John Berton) alongside make-up FX supervisor Nick Dudman, including big bad bugs, stretchable mouths, regenerating skin, super sandstorms and almost anything else that turns up. (Once cannot help reflecting upon the endless hours spent by Ray Harryhausen in order to achieve skeleton battles in early FX masterpieces like "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad" and "Jason and the Argonauts" while watching some of the impressive computer animation work done here. Thanks again, Ray, for inspiring so many.) Chris Corbould, special FX supervisor for the entire movie, remarks, "The CGI elements in The Mummy are pretty paramount. There were so many visual effects required by the story that would be impossible for us to achieve, and ILM was creating things we couldn't create. Normally in a film, visual effects would be enhancing something that we were doing, but in The Mummy we were enhancing their work."

Director Sommers has been ultra-clever in assembling his tech backup. They're all acquainted with the dark side of the cinema and include DP Adrian Biddle ("Aliens"), production designer Allan Cameron ("Starship Troopers"), editor Bob Ducsay ("Deep Rising"), and costume designer John Bloomfield ("Waterworld"). Let us also not forget the contribution of Jerry Goldsmith's score to the atmosphere. Although the film is lots of fun, the die-hard horror lover will discover, somewhat to his dismay, that it spends a good portion of the time being a swashbuckling-romantic-comedy instead of concentrating on sending spine-chilling thrills or terrifying tinglers toward the audience. This approach was the personal decision of writer/director Sommers as well as his producers. Pity. Especially for Mr. Fraser, who, although he is perfection, could have added an even bigger notch to his impressive belt of performances by showing us how he does gothic. Maybe next time. Ms. Weisz is hindered considerably, on the other hand, by the sexist rendering of her character as written into the script for achieving comedic value. (It almost makes one pause for consideration when Ardeth Bay cries out "Save the girl. Kill the creature.") Kevin J. O' Conner is flawless in his performance of Beni, the creep who makes your skin crawl (, yet always remaining comedic, even to the end).

Tannah leaves, anyone?

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett