1999 by Ernest Lilley

Movies: The Mummy  Video: Sawicki's Picks

Contents  Contact  Focus   Bookshelf   Media Art in SF

SFRevu @ the Movies:

mummy.jpg (5623 bytes)
mummy4.jpg (15918 bytes)mummy3.jpg (11360 bytes)

The Mummy is a remake of the classic 1932 horror film of the same name, starring Boris Karloff. Or so it claims. The inescapable truth is that it comes closer to the later classic, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955, Universal Pictures). No, make that Bertie Wooster meets the Mummy.mummy1.jpg (61554 bytes)

The Mummy (Universal Studios 1999)

Cast: High Priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser), Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), Jonathan (John Hannah), Beni (Kevin J. O'Connor).

Director/Screenwriter: Stephen Sommers / Producers: James Jacks And Sean Daniel / Screenwriter: Lloyd Fonvielle (as a screenwriter, his credits include Cherry 2000…)

Long ago, the story goes, High Priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), fell in love with the Pharaoh's beautiful mistress and killed the Pharaoh in a fit of passion. No good deed goes unrewarded, and Imhotep's bounty was to be buried alive in a sarcophagus with a handful of flesh flesh-eating beetles - the better to suffer throughout eternity.

Imhotep isn't the kind of guy who gives up that easily. After three thousand years he gets another chance. Unfortunately, the audience winds up doing the suffering, despite Vosloo's strong performance. Once again he is cursed...but this time by a lack of support from the rest of the cast.

Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) is an American adventurer who joined the Foreign Legion. Fighting off an attack by "ferocious Tuareg Horsemen" in which his company is almost completely killed off, O'Connell stumbles on Hamunaptra, The City of The Dead. After a march out of the desert alone, and a few years of drunken debauchery in swinging Cairo, he's saved from hanging by the brother and sister team of Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and Jonathan (John Hannah) who are gamely carrying on the family tradition seeking archeological glory or at least treasure, respectively. She's a clumsy librarian and he's light-fingered gadabout whose parents were prominent Egyptologists.

Soon they're off to find fabled Hamunaptra in a race against "The Americans", another party led by the only other survivor of the Foreign Legion massacre - a weasely little thief named Beni (Kevin J. O'Connor).

They find the city and wake the mummy, who can regain his human form only if he consumes whomever opens the Sacred Book of the Dead. Fortunately for our adventurers, that means the "Americans". Down they go, six-guns blazing, while we try and keep count of the ten plagues that the legend says the mummy brings, locusts…beetles…asteroids…."Oh yes, my personal favorite," cries brother Jonathan as a mob of mummy worshipers bears down on the party; "boils and sores".

Soon our heroic adventurers are trying to put the mummy back in his box, which is something of a pity, since he's the only credible character in the movie. So what if he wants to sacrifice the librarian love interest and bring his beloved back to life? The Pharaoh's mistress was a heck of a lot better looking…and couldn't possibly be as annoying.

Where this movie fails is certainly not in the production. The sets are epic, the SFX are (yawn) terrific, and the story perforce follows the classic line - but the casting and tone are not equal to the job at hand.

Somebody decided that a bit of silliness would help sell this story. Where the original Mummy was dark, suspenseful and ahead of its time, this unwrapping is frivolous and obvious. And just when I thought that Hollywood had stopped mistaking SFX for story.

The Mummy is a remake of the classic 1932 horror film of the same name, starring Boris Karlof. Or so it claims. The inescapable truth is that it comes closer to the later classic, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955, Universal Pictures). No, make that Bertie Wooster Meets the Mummy. No, I'd actually pay to see that.

"Jeeves, see what this mummy fellow wants, would you?"

"Certainly sir…Sir, it seems he'd like to sacrifice your Aunt Agatha in order to bring back his beloved princess."

"Can't have it Jeeves. One can certainly see his point though. Tell him it won't do and send him on his way."

"Very good, Sir..

 return to top of section

mummy-1932.jpg (19848 bytes)

Put it back. Bury it where you found it. You have read the curse. You will dare defy it? - The Mummy (Universal - 1932)

The Curse of the Mummy is surely to have the compulsion to see every Mummy movie ever made. Here's a not guaranteed to be complete listing;

mummy-video.jpg (14528 bytes)The Mummy (1932) Universal Pictures. Boris Karloff
The Mummy's Hand (1940) Universal Pictures
The Mummy's Tomb (1942) Universal Pictures. Lon Chaney Jr.
The Mummy's Ghost (1944) Universal Pictures. John Carradinemummysshroud.jpg (21501 bytes)
The Mummy's Curse (1945) Universal Pictures. Lon Chaney Jr.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955) Universal Pictures.

The Mummy (1959) Hammer Films. Christopher Lee.
Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964) Hammer Films.
The Mummy's Shroud (1967) Hammer Films.
Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971) Hammer Films.

The Awakening (1980) Charlton Heston.
The Mummy Lives (1993) Tony Curtis.
Bram Stoker's The Mummy (1997) Lou Gossett, Jr.  

mummy-ppbk.jpg (32452 bytes) The Mummy or Ramses the Damned by Anne Rice
ISBN: 0345369947 / Ballantine Books Ppbk Oct '91 / Review by Ernest Lilley

If you want to read something from Anne Rice where blood burns rather than sucks, The Mummy (or Ramses the Damned) may wrap things up for you.

In this version, an archaeologist opens the tomb of Ramses II, and falls fatal victim to the tomb's curse. The treasures are shipped to his daughter Julie in England, where the mummy comes to life not as a putrefied member of the living dead, but as the  perfect man. Though Julie falls in love with him, he can't get his old flame out of his mind, especially since all the museums have made her a tourist attraction. When Ramses stumbles across Cleo's mummy in a museum he plots to bring her back to life as well. Unfortunately, death was not kind to Cleopatra and she is reanimated as a "horrid monster, a walking corpse of rotting flesh and a disoriented mind that kills without mercy." Ramses walks out on his once beloved, never a wise move.

Though originally written as a script bible for a movie, the author was so disgusted with the monster that Hollywood was making out of her book that she walked out and turned it into a paperback...which then went on to the Times Bestseller list.

return to top of section

sawicki.jpg (5336 bytes)
Go to Steve's Web Page

Video: Sawicki's Picks Soldier (Warner ) / From Dusk to Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (Dimension Films) / Sliding Doors (Paramount)

Spring is in the air and my heart is full of gladness. After last month’s despairing group of offerings I shuddered to enter the video store again. Still, hope renews and blinds our intellect. Off I went once more, with a fistful of dollars and the hope that I'd be spending an evening full of adventure and sense of wonder. Those of you with a critical eye will have noticed that I try to balance each column with an offering of SF, fantasy, and horror. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s a real stretch. Still, stretching is good for you. Done right it makes you more flexible, done wrong it leaves you in great pain.

Did I find anything to watch this month? Well, two out of three ain't bad...

soldier.jpg (14635 bytes)

I actually liked this film, even given the glaring idiocies and the fact that Russell speaks only six words in the entire film. - Steve Sawicki


My daddy always said, "When you want to hammer a nail, don't do anything fancy. Just get a hammer and pound the son of a bitch." - Soldier

Soldier, Warner, Rated R (for violence), 100 minutes, Starring Kurt (call me Ahnold) Russell as Sgt. Todd, Jason (not 606) Scott (not 608) Lee as Caine 607, Connie (I pout, I look good, what more do you want?) Nielsen as Sandra, Michael (I can beat you with one eye out) Chiklis as Jimmy Pig, Gary (hunching small) Busey as Capt. Church. Directed by Paul Anderson III, Music by Joel McNeely, Written by David Webb Peoples.

If you thought Snake Plisskin had communication difficulties, then you should not watch this. The time is the near future and the military is growing children and training them to be perfect soldiers. If a child falls behind, either physically or mentally, the military shoots them. Public schools could learn from this method of discipline.

In any case, Sgt. Todd was one of these children, and has gone on to become one of the best of the batch. He kills Russians, he shoots invaders on far moons, he shoots through women to get to targets. He's damn near perfect. Until, of course, the military designs the next batch of soldiers. Sgt. Todd gets chosen to show that the old boys can beat up the new kids, but fails. This means that the military must hide this error (I'm not sure why, but they must) by dumping Todd and similar outmoded warriors on a garbage planet. (Okay, I don't know why they don't toss the garbage into the sun, either.)

Once on the planet, Todd finds a whole clan of people living in a very inhospitable environment, which includes lots of green snakes, who appear in groups and then, evidently, hide for a while, because they can't be found. Todd is taken in by the group, which eventually must reject and eject him due to his violent ways. This lasts for about a day, because you'll never guess which planet the military wants to use to test out their new troops... Okay, you don't have to guess.

I actually liked this film, even given the glaring idiocies and the fact that Russell speaks only six words in the entire film. Granted, he uses them in different combinations, but there are still only six. He can't count, either, but I'll leave that for you to discover. Full of action, full of pathos, a small child is saved, people die, and the good guys win. What more do you want from a Sci-Fi flick?

slidingdoors.jpg (17327 bytes)

Cheer up. Remember what the Monty Python boys say.

"Always look on the bright side of life"?

No, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition." - Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors, Paramount, Rated R (sexuality and language), 98 minutes, Starring Gwyneth (still not nude) Paltrow as Helen, John (I'm British you know) Hannah as James, John (I could be British too if I tried harder) Lynch as Gerry, Jeanne (I'm the foil here) Tripplehorn as Lydia, and Zara (American bad girl) Turner as Anna. Directed by Peter Howitt II, Music by David Hirschfelder, Written by Peter Howitt.

This is perhaps the best alternate-world movie I've seen to date. It’s so understated that many people don't even know they're watching Science Fiction. The basic idea is simple. Helen gets fired and heads home via train. The problem comes when she misses the train by just a hair because a small child gets in her way. At least this is what happens in one universe. In the other, the child's parent keeps better tabs on the wayward offspring and Helen makes the train, just by a whisker. From this point on, we are treated to two versions of Helen's life. Many things remain the same. Many things change. Just what and how is the meat of the film.

Director Howitt does an excellent job working this back and forth. Many lesser directors would have either woven a tedious and repetitive tale, or created one so obtuse as to be incomprehensible. Instead, Howitt plays off his actors’ strengths and uses a variety of cut points to change focal scenes.

Let me note that the acting is very, very good. Paltrow does an excellent job with the split character of Helen, and both John and Lynch do great jobs as her suitors. Sure, there are moments of credibility-straining synchronicity and idiotic behavior, but it’s done in a human context and that's what being human is all about, isn't it?

Rent this film, and see it with a friend or two.

texasbloodmoney.jpg (20065 bytes) From Dusk to Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, Dimension Films, Rated R (violence and nudity, oh boy!), 96 minutes (seemed like forever). Starring Bruce (who?) Campbell as Barry, Tiffani-Amber (stripper name) Thiessen as Pam, Robert (who??) Patrick as Buck, Stacie (I think I got cut out in the final edit) Bourgeois as Marcy, Duane (Who???) Whitaker as Luther, and Bo (Why?) Hopkins as Sheriff Lawson. Directed (really?) by Scott Spiegel, Music by (Uncredited), written by Scott Spiegel and Duane (this explains why Luther gets so many lines) Whitaker.

Little nudity, little sense, no plot, and a director who thinks paying homage means stealing only the bad parts from others. Idiocy reigns in this Tarantino knockoff which takes everything bad from a number of films and actually makes it worse. Stupid camera angles, weird effects, no story to speak of, and everyone is pretty ugly to boot. Frankly they didn't die fast enough for me. If this film had lasted somewhere around ten minutes, it would have been about right. Sure, it would have been a short film, but some of the best films are short. Aieee carumba, the director discovered the loco weed or the peyote buttons just before writing and shooting this.

Unless you enjoy films made for no apparent reason, avoid this one like the piece of wretched trash it is.

return to top of section