While it may have taken a little while for the dust to settle after the HD format war, the last remaining studio that was firmly in the red camp comes out from behind it's cover waving a white flag in one hand and a blue box in the other. What's actually in that blue box - and more importantly the quality of what's in it - will determine that studios commitment to the winning camp.
We all know now that that studio is Universal - and timed nicely to coincide with the theatrical release of The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Empire in early August - the first disc out of a blue box from Universal is 1999's The Mummy, starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah and Arnold Vosloo as the creature, it's a kind of remake of the 1932 classic from the same studio starring Boris Karloff.
Most of you probably know the story by now (this being one of the demo discs on SD DVD for many years), but for those of you that don't, here's a brief recap.
Fraser plays Rick O'Connell, an officer serving in the French Foreign Legion in the 1920's. His unit have marched from Libya to Egypt to a town called Hamunaptra on the promise of treasure beyond their wildest dreams. Whilst they are looting the town, they are attacked by a tribe and chased away - but O'Connell seems to disturb something as he hides at the base of a giant statue. He wanders of into the desert - left to die by the tribe - or so they think...
To cut to the chase, it seems that O'Connell found what appears to be a key in Hamunaptra - and this has been stolen by Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah), brother of Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), an accident prone librarian from Cairo. O'Connell has been sentenced to hang for “having a very good time” - but he's the only one who knows where the ancient city of Hamunaptra is. Evelyn offers the prison warden (played by Omid Djalili)25 % of everything they find if he lets O'Connell go. On the boat to the city, they come across Beni , O'Connells right hand man when he was in the legion, who has offered to take a team of Americans to the ancient city for the riches on offer.
We now have a race on our hands. However, Evelyn is still in possession of the key that O'Connell found there originally - so they appear to have the trump card.
The Americans find the book of the dead - a 3000 year old book that holds the secrets of Hamunaptra - but should never be read from.
O'Connells team in the meantime have found a coffin containing a body that was mummified 3000 years ago - but has not yet fully decomposed...it seems that the occupant of the coffin suffered the most violent and prolonged death that the ancient Egyptians could dream up - involving being buried alive along with 100's of scarabs - flesh eating ancient insects.
Being the jealous type, Evelyn steals the book of the dead from the Americans and reads from it with disastrous consequences. She has raised the creature that the ancient tribe have sworn to keep buried for the last 3000 years - and he wants his bride back!
What happens next can only be described as a bit of a rollercoaster ride of Indiana Jones proportions - but, try as it might, it never quite reaches the dizzy heights of the Harrison Ford classic...
I remember when the film was first released, it made a big fuss of paying homage to Karloffs 1932 classic. If I remember correctly, it was even re-released on SD DVD at the same time as the 1930's film was released in a four disc boxset - the latter of which contained trailers for this particular version. We know that this movie went on to spawn a few sequels - The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King and - though not really a sequel but along the same lines - the awful Van Helsing. Having seen all of the sequels, I can say - hand on heart - that this is the best of the bunch by a mile - and here's why...
Being the first, it seemed to have had all of the “original” ideas. World War 1 flying ace, the creature taking control of the desert sand and terrorising our heroes with it...two scenes replicated in The Mummy Returns - albeit with a balloon and water. The Scorpion King was a film that misfired on every cylinder - but before I'm flamed out of town here - I'll admit that it does have a certain charm about it, particularly to wrestling fans and fans of The Rock. I've mentioned Van Helsing once - and apologise for that so no more. But all of the sequels stole all of their fundamental ideas from this first film.
Director Stephen Sommers seems to have a firm grasp of his subject matter and the plot is solid and works. At the time, it seemed to everyone that watched the movie that he had discovered a new action hero for the 21st century in Fraser - but he chose to go on a make a series of lower key films that never really hit the heights of brought the best out of him after The Mummy. Maybe he's made the right choice in coming back to the action genre with the third in the series this summer - along with Journey To The Centre Of The Earth which is having it's theatrical run now here in the UK.
Rachel Weisz adds the glamour (and the brains) whilst comedy support acts John Hannah and Omid Djalili lighten the mood somewhat with some half decent support performances.
But this kind of movie will rise or fall on the quality and performance of the villain - in this case Arnold Vosloo. And I'm pleased to say, I'm glad he's not my Mummy! Helped along by some (then) state of the art CGI effects, Vosloos creature is both terrifying and charming at the same time. Recognising similarities between Evelyn and his love Anck Su Namun (played by Patricia Valesquez), he tries to charm her and she very nearly falls for it...and our hero now has a girl to rescue along with Mummy's to dispose off...
Given it's now nearly ten years old and sequels are still being produced says a lot for the success of this particular movie. As an action film, it flies along at an incredible pace and barely takes time to draw breath. Some good performances from both leading and supporting cast members adds to the fun and excitement.
if you haven't seen The Mummy yet, I can heartily recommend that you run out and buy this disc on release day. If you have seen it before, isn't about time you watched it again...?
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