After a horrible opening narration which flubs its Egyptology to suit the needs of the film, we're introduced to Danny Freemont (Casper Van Diem), an Indiana Jones styled archeologist who has made it his life's work to find the ancient emerald tablet of the late King Tutankhamen which is rumored to give great power to anyone who should be so lucky as to possess it…. power enough to rule the world!
Freemont has a problem, however – everyone thinks that he's full of beans, and rightly so. Who in this day and age would believe an ancient legend from thousands of years ago? No one, save for Morgan Sinclair (Jonathon Hyde), a rival of Freemont's and a brilliant archeologist in his own right. Sinclair is not alone in his ambitions, however, as his fellow members of an underground secret society crave the power that they all understand the tablet will provide them with. So intent are they on acquiring said tablet that they will do whatever they need to do in order to get their hands on it, including murder.
After bumbling around a little while, Freemont manages to convince a few other rag tag adventurer types to help him out on his quest for the tablet, specifically an pretty female doctor named Azelia Barakat (Leonor Varela), and off they go to beat Sinclair and his cronies to the treasure. What no one counts on is the fact that maybe the long dead King Tutankhamen doesn't want his belongings disturbed and maybe if they are it'll anger him enough that he'll do something about it…
Not even the ultra-coolness of Malcolm McDowell, who has a supporting role here as Mr. Cairnes, can save this turkey. Owing a whole lot to Raiders Of The Lost Ark and the various films that inspired it (as well as it's two sequels), and mixing in some rather uninspired themes from Stephen Sommer's The Mummy (bad CGI, specifically), The Curse Of King Tut's Tomb could have been a lot of fun if there had just been more effort put into making it stand out from the pack.
The problems lie not in the casting or in the performances – while no one here is going to win any awards for their performances they all do fine in their parts – but with the writing itself. From the opening narration the stage is set for what turns out to be a predictable and poorly paced movie that piles on cliché after cliché to the point where it gets old fast. Considering that the film clocks in at one hundred and seventy minutes, the fact that there are long stretches where the tired screenplay becomes quite boring is a bad thing indeed.
To Casper Van Diem's credit, the guy tries here. He's likeable enough in the lead and while he obviously doesn't have the charisma of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, we can at least get behind him and hope for him to win the day. Unfortunately, that isn't enough to make this anything more than a by the numbers adventure film, complete with the requisite love interest and all too obviously sinister bad guys. Maybe that's the point, and if one had to guess it's probably safe to assume this was made for family audiences or younger audiences (it did air on the Hallmark Channel) which is fine if it's done well. Unfortunately it isn't. Egypt is typically a very cool place to film and adventure movie (though in this case it's India doubling for Egypt though to the filmmaker's credit they do a good job of hiding that), this has been proven time and time again, but here not even the settings and locations can really do much more than simply give us a little bit to look at while the cast tries in vein to bring an overblown script back to life.
The picture is presented in a pretty good-looking 1.85.1 widescreen transfer (mastered in high definition, so says the packaging). There are some mild compression artifacts present during a couple of the darker scenes (this is a constant, unfortunately), as well as some mild edge enhancement but none of it is overly severe. Colors look pretty bold and robust without coming across as overcooked except for a few of the shoot out and action scenes where they've been intentionally muted, and the flesh tones in the film remain life like without turning too pink or too orange. It isn't a perfect transfer with the aforementioned minor authoring issues, but there isn't any print damage worth complaining about (the image is almost pristine in that regard). The movie looks pretty decent here.
Echo Bridge has provided audio options in both Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and DTS 5.1 Surround Sound with an English closed captioning option. If you've got the hardware to make it happen, the DTS track does have the slight edge over the 5.1 for the simple reason that the bass is stronger. Either way, however, you'll find little to complain about here with either choice as both tracks provide plenty of nice bass response where appropriate, clear dialogue, and nice directional effects throughout. The film score is tight and bouncy and neither the music nor the effects ever over power the performers. There were one or two scenes in the film where the surrounds could have been used a little more effectively but other than that, this disc sounds good.
Aside from the trailers that play before you can get to the main menu (you can bypass them using the menu button on your remote), there are two featurettes. The first, The Dark Secrets Of The Hellfire Council, features interviews with Malcolm McDowell and Simon Callow, both of whom talk about what the Hellfire Club is all about and who could have possibly been involved in it. This one clocks in at three minutes. The second featurette is Shooting Egypt In India and it covers what it was like shooting in one of the hottest places in the world and how they made it look like Egypt, rather than India. There are some interesting war stories in here about some of the climate related difficulties that the cast and crew had to deal with, and it runs for just under seven minutes in length.
While the movie looks and sounds fine, it just flat out isn't very good and at almost three hours in length, you'll probably find yourself look at your watch more than you find yourself looking at the screen. There are a few inspired moments, but not enough to make The Curse Of King Tut's Tomb anything other than a lame made for TV movie, even if it does have a few cool cast members to its credit. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.