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15 March, 2008

DVD Review: THE MUMMY (1999)

Title: THE MUMMY

Year of Release—Film: 1999

Year of Release—DVD: 2002

DVD Label: Universal Studios Home Entertainment



THE MOVIE

Over the past several years, Universal has chosen to revisit their iconic Monster franchises of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, releasing multiple DVD sets, such as the Legacy collections and the Bela Lugosi collection, and several big-screen, big-budget blockbusters either released or in production as I write this. Most notable of these has been the movie that sparked their reawakening of interest in the Monsters, Stephen Sommers’ 1999 mega-hit THE MUMMY.

The story is excellent, and perfectly matches Sommers’ style as a director. Playing more like an Indiana Jones adventure than a Classic Universal Horror, it’s a rollicking blast of fun from start to finish, and delivers exactly what I seek from movies: Entertainment.

Starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, and Arnold Vosloo, the plot concerns a search for the lost treasure city of Pharaoh Seti I, the fabled Hamunaptra. Evelyn, an Anglo-Egyptian librarian (a perfect performance by Weisz…) stumbles onto a map leading to the lost city. With the assistance of her brother Jonathan, she traces the map to the man from whom he stole it, Rick O’Connell. O’Connell, played with equal distinction by Fraser, is in prison, awaiting the hangman’s noose. They make a deal to free him, in order to secure his services as a guide.

The cast is superb, with not a dud in the bunch. Especially enjoyable are two minor characters who steal the scene every time they’re on camera, the Warden, played by newcomer Omid Djalili, and O’Connell’s erstwhile Foreign Legion comrade Beni, (a stellar performance from Kevin O’Connor…) who virtually dominates his all-too-brief amount of screen-time. John Hannah, as Evelyn’s somewhat degenerate brother, also shines in a supporting role.

Everything about this production is top-notch, from the beautiful photography to the stunning effects. In short, it’s a truly first-class Hollywood blockbuster in the best sense of the word!



THE DISC

As is standard from Universal, the disc is absolutely faultless, from the crystal clear audio, to the perfect transfer, to Universal’s usually thoughtful captions and sub-titles. I know I often make too much out of the quality of the disc, but when you’ve sat through as many poorly-done ones as I have, these bits of minutiae truly matter.



THE SPECIAL FEATURES

My example is the 2002 re-issue of the DVD, and has a few special features, the most noteworthy of which is the 40 minute long documentary BUILDING A BETTER MUMMY. Focusing on the reinvention of the classic Mummy movie, this is an interesting, informative piece, though I could have wished for more. And that would be true for the special features in general… apart from the de rigueur commentary and deleted scenes, (and a mildly interesting trivia section…) the documentary is essentially the whole of the extras on this DVD. I expected more from Universal on this disc, quite frankly.



IN CONCLUSION

I often say that Hollywood has forgotten how to do a good Horror film, and I stand by that statement. But they have no problem with good, old-fashioned adventures with mega-million dollar budgets and wall-to-wall effects shots. This is the kind of film the major studios really excel at; the kind that only they, with their vast resources, can properly pull off. And THE MUMMY is one of the best examples of the type in the past ten years. Even though this offering could be better, I’m very pleased to have it in my collection, and have no difficulty saying it should be in yours, as well.







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