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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Mummy
The Mummy
Universal // PG-13 // July 8, 2008
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Justin Felix | posted June 29, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

In the beginning, there was The Mummy, a 1999 remake-in-name-only of the immortal 1932 horror classic starring Boris Karloff.

It was released as a "Collectors Series" DVD - loaded with extras - after the film made its rounds in movie theaters.

Then there came the "Ultimate Edition" DVD of The Mummy, timed to tie in with the movie's sequel The Mummy Returns. It ported over most of the "Collectors Series" extras and added much more. So much more, in fact, that Earl Cressey rated it a "DVD Talk Collectors Series," the highest advice level on this website, in his review back in 2001.

Approximately 7 years have passed since the "Ultimate Edition" of The Mummy was released, and lo and behold, a second direct sequel to The Mummy (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) is set for release in theaters. And even though collectors have been treated to the "Ultimate Edition" of this movie, Universal has revved up yet another edition as a tie-in to their latest feature.

How does the company one up an "ultimate edition?"

Apparently, it doesn't. It just does the same thing - to a lesser extent - that it did as it moved from the "Collectors Series" to the "Ultimate Edition": port most of the extras over, offer a new transfer, add a few minor new extras, and voila, the "2-Disc Deluxe Edition" of The Mummy is born.

More on the numerous extras below. Let's get into the movie itself.

I am a huge fan of the old Universal black and white horror classics from the 1930s and 1940s, and have been my entire life. Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi will always be two of my favorite actors. The 1932 Karloff vehicle The Mummy has some well-filmed horrific moments - not the least of which is the scene where the young archaeologist is driven to madness upon seeing an animated mummy crawl away from him, his hysterical laughter absolutely chilling.

When I initially saw the 1999 version of The Mummy, knowing little about it beforehand, I wasn't really prepared for what I saw. Expecting a horror film update, this new movie seemed to have little to do with the original. It was goofy, and filled with cartoonish violence and over-the-top performances.

But over the years and with repeated viewings, I've come to admire this film on its own terms. If you leave your intelligence at the door, this is a fun romp reminiscent of Saturday afternoon serials with lots of gunplay, outrageous characters, and damsels in distress.

Perhaps the only thing tieing the 1999 version of The Mummy to its 1932 predecessor is its prologue (which introduces two characters in the same predicament as the original). In it, the audience first meets the titular mummy himself, High Priest Imhotep, as he was thousands of years ago. Imhotep has got it bad for the pharoah's concubine, Anck Su Namun, a woman all other men are forbidden to touch. One of the film's highlights is the introduction of Anck Su Namun, beautifully played by Patricia Velasquez in full body paint. One of the actors in a commentary track for this movie suggests it's a scene burned in the memory of every 14-year-old boy, and he's quite right in the sense that it's one of the more memorable entrances in movie history.

Imhotep and Anck Su Namun are caught in their forbidden love. Imhotep is cursed and buried; Anck Su Namun commits suicide, believing her beloved will find a way to return her to life.

Thousands of years pass, and it's now the 1920s. Adventurer Rick O'Connell is saved from a hangman's noose at the last possible moment by the intervention of Evelyn, a librarian who believes he knows the location of Hamunaptra, the city of the dead {and unbeknownst to them but knownst to us, the burial place of Imhotep}. Rick and Evelyn, joined by her brother Jonathan and his would-be-killer Warden Gad Hassain, go on an expedition to find this lost city of the dead, hoping treasures await them.

It's not spoiling anything, of course, to say that something far more sinister than treasure awaits them.

Despite its silliness, there's a lot to praise in The Mummy. For one thing, it's surprisingly funny despite the horror hokum that goes on. Brendan Fraser, in the role of Rick, brings his physical comedy to this role quite well. Several supporting characters, while serving as broad stereotypes (including a band of insensitive American cowboys), offer a lot of humorous moments - mostly in the slapstick mode.

There's an impressive sense of scale in the proceedings as well. For instance, the movie opens up with a computer generated tracking shot of ancient Egypt that still impresses nearly ten years later. The desert is a scene for several elaborately-staged battles with hordes of combatants. And while not exactly realistic, quite a few digital abominations are on display, including swarms of flesh-eating scarabs and armies of mummies.

The Mummy is not a great film per se. But, it is one of the best big budget movies in the last decade that provides pure escapist fantasy fun. I like it more each time I watch it, and this latest DVD incarnation of the movie comes loaded with extras.

I just wonder what the next home video edition of this movie will be called. The "Ultra-Ultimate Die-Hard Collectors 3-Disc version?"

The DVD

Video:

The back cover art of this release describes it as a "2-Disc deluxe edition digitally restored for optimum picture quality." And boy, Universal is not kidding. The anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 video presentation offered on the feature The Mummy is nothing short of fantastic. Colors are great and the image is sharp. I didn't notice any artifact or defect as I watched the movie, and this is one of the best video presentations I've seen on DVD in quite a while.

Sound:

The movie on disc one has three audio language tracks: English, French, and Spanish. All three are Dolby Digital 5.1. The English language track sounds fantastic: dialogue is clear, and sound effects and explosions are well-presented during action scenes. A quibble I have with The Mummy is that Jerry Goldsmith's bombastic score, while appropriate for a film like this, comes off a little strong in the mix - sometimes dominating rather than enhancing the action on the screen.

Subtitles are available in Spanish and French. There's also an English language subtitle option for the deaf and hard of hearing. Additional subtitle options are available for some of the commentary tracks included on disc one. More on that in the extras section . . .

Extras:

This 2-Disc deluxe edition of The Mummy comes loaded with extras.

Disc one, to begin with, sports three separate feature commentary tracks. The first is with director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay; the second has lead actor Brendan Fraser; and finally, the third has actors Oded Fehr, Kevin J. O'Connor, and Arnold Vosloo. All three were available on the previous "ultimate edition" of the movie. Of the three, the one with Sommers and Ducsay is the most insightful in terms of the film's production - which I suppose makes sense given their respective roles of director and editor. A really nice touch with the feature commentaries is that the second two involving the actors are both subtitled for the deaf and hard of hearing. While the Feature Commentaries menu mentions this feature, one has to find the appropriate subtitle option through the DVD player, as no link is present for this option.

Rounding out disc one's special features are a few deleted scenes. They don't look as sharp as the main feature, but it's nice to have them nonetheless. Subtitles are offered in English, Spanish, and French, though these need to be activated through the DVD player as the menu - again - doesn't offer links to these subtitles. The deleted scenes collectively are fairly brief and don't amount to much.

Disc Two has quite a few featurettes, which will be reviewed one by one. So, strap yourself in . . .

What would a DVD clearly released to tie in with a sequel due out in theaters shortly be without some kind of promotional fluff on that film? The first option on disc two is The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Sneak Peek. It's a very short three minutes and basically is composed of the principal filmmakers talking about how great the movie's going to be intercut with snippets of behind the scenes footage. At least it was in anamorphic widescreen.

An Army to Rule the World Part 1 is another brief featurette, this time about The Mummy. It has Bob Ducsay and Stephen Sommers talking over some of the choices they made as scenes from the movie are played. It's okay, but kind of redundant considering their commentary track on disc one. This featurette runs 4 minutes.

Unraveling the Legacy of the Mummy briefly reviews the history of Universal horror films in the early 1930s before segueing back to the new version of Mummy. This featurette runs 8 minutes and while okay, it doesn't offer much.

Visual and Special Effects Formation covers several key visual effects in the movie. With narration, this featurette is interesting to watch and even has a submenu that allows the viewer to skip to a particular section of the featurette. This runs 9:27 if the Play All option is selected.

Building a Better Mummy runs 50 minutes and is probably the most substantive extra on disc two. It basically serves as an in-depth documentary on the making of The Mummy. It's well-done and is enhanced by the next four briefer but informative extras.

A Storyboard to Screen Comparison does exactly what the title states it does: playing scenes from the film with their corresponding storyboards. It runs 6:23 and has a submenu that allows the viewer to skip to a particular scene.

A Photograph Montage has stills from the movie presented in a slideshow format accompanied with music from the film's score. This runs 4:19.

Egyptology is an interactive part of this disc that provides information on ancient Egyptian gods, artifacts, and other cultural subjects.

Pharaoh Lineage, like the Egyptology extra, is an interactive section that covers the history of the pharaohs. Both are interesting extras, if you're in the mood for reading from your television screen.

The requisite theatrical trailer to The Mummy is also included.

Rounding out the extras on disc two is a digital copy of the movie. The merit in the recent fad of having digital copies included with DVDs has been debated quite a bit here in the DVD Talk forums and elsewhere. I'm not going to chime in on it, but the extra is here should you need it. Just a note: It's a Windows Media digital file at 1.6 Mbps, and the liner notes state the file is not compatible with Apple Itunes / Ipod, Sony PSP, nor Microsoft Zune.

Finally, depending upon how far down the time stream you are from me, it should be noted that the cardboard slipcover of this DVD has a sticker attached proclaiming that a free movie ticket to The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is included inside. Valued up to $7.50, the ticket is supposed to be valid from 1 August 2008 to 24 August 2008. The advanced copy of this DVD that DVD Talk was sent for evaluation didn't have a coupon inside, but it seemed to me that it would be of the printed variety and not the kind where you're given a code and have to go to a website to print out a ticket yourself.

Final Thoughts:

Yes, Universal is double-dipping yet again with The Mummy, but I've decided not to tsk-tsk this too much in my review. On its own terms, this DVD is loaded with extras (some would say it's overkill, probably). The Mummy is a fun, mindless action adventure yarn. The benefits of this DVD edition - again, on its own terms - are plentiful. Fantastic video and audio quality. Three commentary tracks - all worthwhile to varying degrees. A lot of featurettes on both the movie and its general subject matter. There's even a free movie ticket included. You can't ask for much more than that in a standard DVD release.

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