The Mummy 1999 is one of my favorite movies of all time. I saw the film with several of my friends and my family back when it opened in May of ’99. That Saturday, May 8th, is a day I will never forget. After a solid few months of hype, the collecting of toys, and excitement of trailers and tv spots, the first summer blockbuster of that year was finally upon us. Seeing it at a local theater in my neighborhood, my parents had already bought the tickets for everyone, so after a few slices of pizza, we all walked over and were allowed to wait in the lobby while everyone else waited on line.
This was the movie I had wanted to see for my birthday and so outside of it being The Mummy, there was already enough built in excitement for what was truly an event. I’ll always remember it this way, and it could just be my reworkings of a truly fond moment, but as we waited inside, the line for eager theater goers waiting to purchase their tickets seemed like a shot out of Dawn of the Dead. Countless people up against the glass doors, begging to come in, shouting even – ‘Open the doors!’ Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but it sure seemed that way as we waited.
Once inside the auditorium (5 or 9), everyone began to filter in. The Mummy had interestingly been oversold and several ticket holders had to sit in the aisles. It was amazing and, to this day, I’ve never seen another movie with this kind of energy. Maybe The Dark Knight Rises, but not even for The Mummy Returns.
To this day, Stephen Sommer’s The Mummy remains as one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s a sentiment that has been etched in nearly every UMU post since the beginning. Rick O’ Connell, from the moment he came on screen, to the walk back to my house with my friends and parents, playing out the scenes with me as Rick (of course) is a movie that I treasure just as much as Jonathan does with his treasure. So it was very exciting to share this Academy Award nominated film with my “little buddy,” Joe. A few weeks ago he saw The Mummy for the first time, and this is his review.
Death is only the beginning.
To this day I still remember the fanfare surrounding The Mummy but I only had a passing interest in it. It looked like a good movie, but only cool enough to want to see it eventually. Time went by and the movie spawned two sequels, The Mummy Returns and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, plus a spin-off franchise, The Scorpion King. I saw Tomb of the Dragon Emperor in theaters and own The Scorpion King on DVD, but in the movies-to-see part of my mind, the franchise as a whole fell to the wayside. Upon planning our “March of Mummies”, Steven and I decided to watch The Mummy and I discovered putting it off was a big mistake.
Universal’s 1999 remake of The Mummy was the third rendition of the famous monster movie up at that time, but it was exciting and enjoyable. While many Hollywood remakes fall victim to overspending, excess special effects or an overhauling of the original premise, The Mummy was remade just right. The movie opens with an elaborate camera pan over the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes where we see Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) embracing Anck-su-Namun (Patricia Velasquez), the mistress of Pharoah Seti I. When Seti discovers them, he is killed right before his bodyguards storm the palace. Anck-su-Namun tells Imhotep to run and she commits suicide. He goes back for her body and as he is trying to resurrect her, Seti’s bodyguards return. He is captured and sentenced to eternal suffering along with his men. They are mummified alive and Imhotep is covered in scarabs who begin to eat him alive. Fast forward to 1925, where the burial ground at Hamunaptra is disturbed, and Imhotep is awoken.
Brendan Fraser did a nice job in the lead role of Rick O’Connell, an American serving in the French Foreign Legion in Africa. He was funny, charming and serious whenever he needed to be and handled the action sequences well. He got so into the role, he passed out during the execution scene because his noose was too tight. It didn’t hurt having Rachel Weisz complementing his O’ Connell as Evelyn “Evy” Carnahan, an attractive but naive and often clumsy Egyptologist who feels she is not being given the chance she deserves to prove herself, hence joining Rick in Egypt and the ruins of Hamunaptra to find The Book of the Dead. The two had great chemistry together and played off of each other well. To be honest, I did not even recognize Rachel when she first appeared in the movie.
Arnold Vosloo did a great job as Imhotep. He had a menancing look to him that screamed villain. Vosloo even allowed himself to be “mummified alive” and spent up to four hours in bandages while shooting the scene. John Hannah was hilarious as Evy’s brother, Jonathan. He provided great comic relief and at one point sprained his wrist while shooting the film. Beni Gabor was a character we loved to hate due to his cowardly, conniving ways but Kevin J. O’Connor was great in the role and performed his own stunt when he jumped up behind Brendan Fraser so he could be “thrown overboard” in the riverboat scene. He even suffered bumps and bruises all over his body from various action scenes. One of my favorite characters was Ardeth Bay played by Oded Fehr. He was more than just guardian of Hamunaptra, he was a guardian of virtue. Bay had this way of knowing who had pure intentions and who had evil intentions and it’s evident when he always spares Rick’s life. Even in the tomb, he sacrifices himself for the good of the group and to preserve his homeland.
Director and writer Stephen Sommers made a fantastic movie. He is a great director and it shows here because of how respectful he was of the original movie, while managing to make a fun, enjoyable, Saturday morning matinee in the vein of Raiders of the Lost Ark. When the special effects were used, they were superb and well-done. The scenes of ancient Egypt were gorgeous and realistic. The cast and crew did an amazing job with standing 130 degree heat while filming in Morocco and Egypt. Jerry Goldsmith’s music was majestic and fit the movie perfectly, especially the piece that played during the ending credits of the film.
As I have gotten older and have really started to understand movies and the legacies they leave, I began to respect the original monster movies, so seeing The Mummy for the first time, I was amazed by it. It is such an excellent movie and now has made me want to watch the original to see how it all began and how far we have come today.