Sunday Night Movie: The Mummy (1999)

themummy3 So, Sunday night I was in the mood for adventure. After pulling out several film from my collection for consideration I settled in 1999’s remake of The Mummy. In general I am not a  fan of remakes, but there is a statute of limitations and any film over 70 years old is not automatically off the remake list. (That doesn’t mean you should remake all good movies older than 70 years, just it is something that can be considered.)

The Original The Mummy, a vehicle for rising monster star, Boris Karloff. There are no historical myths about monstrous mummies. The process of mummification was one used in ancient Egypt to preserve the body after death because the owner of said body was going to need it in the afterlife, not to hunt down tomb robbers and look up lost loves.

In the 1920s and 1930s there was a veritable mania about Egypt going on worldwide and the script for The Mummy (1932) tapped into that mania for a new monster to be played by Boris Karloff and created by Jack Pierce. The film proved popular enough to spin off a chain of sequels  Only the first film starred Karloff and the sequels grew progressively  worse. At the end of the franchise all semblance continuity had been abandoned and little remained to recommend the movies.

In the 1990’s Universal wanted to launch their monster franchises and one of the film that sought to do it with was The Mummy. The projected bounced from production team to production team but none were able to crack how to remake the classic film. Director writer Stephen Sommers cracked the beast with two insights. First that it would work best as a period film, set in the 1920’s when the craze for Egypt was high and everyone and their brother dreamt of looting tombs and getting rich. Secondly, that the original film was not about a bandage wrapped limping monsters, but about a powerful priest and a love beyond time.

Armed with these two points Sommers gave us a film that fit perfectly into our time. The outstanding digital effects from ILM created a Mummy unlike anything we had ever seen before. A cast of talented actors including Brendan Fraiser and Rachel Weisz along with just the right amount of winking at the camera gave us an adventure film that was fun, exciting, and a little scary. (The need to keep the film a PG-13 rating prevented real horror for creeping onto the screen.)

Sadly, Sommers was not so good at crafting sequels. The Mummy Returns was a bland, bored mixture of camp and stupidity.  Sommers continued to disappoint me with the horrid film, Van Helsing. Only two things redeem the production of Van Helsing, one is the performance by David Wenham, who stole every scene he was in. The other was that is helped Universal release the Legacy Collections of DVD for their classic monster films.

We’ll see if the reboot of The Wolf Man matches the reboot of The Mummy, but I doubt it.