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A&E Home Video presents
King Tutankhamun: The Mystery Unsealed (1996)

"And when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense, inquired anxiously, 'Can you see anything?' [I responded,] 'Yes, wonderful things!'"
- Howard Carter

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 30, 2006

Stars: Frank Langella
Director: Lisa Bourgoujian

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (somewhat disturbing mummy imagery)
Run Time: 00h:49m:44s
Release Date: January 31, 2006
UPC: 733961746068
Genre: documentary


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B+B+B B+

DVD Review

One of my great memories of the 1970s was a field trip to the Field Museum to see the treasures of King Tutankhamen (or Tutankhamun, as this keepcase cover spells it). Now those treasures are on tour in the US once again after nearly 30 years, making this disc devoted to the Boy King and the discovery of his tomb timely indeed.

The discovery of Tut's tomb in 1922 in the Valley of the Kings, the only basically undisturbed burial chamber of a pharoah ever to be found, made headlines around the world. Ever since, the glorious treasures from that tomb have fascinated people. This documentary, from the Mummies series, covers the history of the find in depth, as well as archaeologist Howard Carter's career prior to his greatest discovery. Particularly interesting is his rather brute force approach to finding Tut's tomb: excavate everything likely in the Valley of the Kings right down to the bedrock.

Frank Langella contributes the narration, while there are a number of interviewees from various museums who fill in archaeological details. Historians contribute what little is known for sure about Tut's brief reign, and his important role in reuniting Egypt after the heresies of Akhenaten. Still photos and a few bits of silent footage from Carter's excavations provide immediacy to the story. We also get quite a few shots, in close detail of the treasures from the tomb, allowing a vivid examination not possible even in person.

One interesting point is the straightforward debunking of the entire 'curse' story, which basically gets appropriately short shrift. The one point that may cause some viewers discomfort are rare shots of the unwrapped mummy itself, which had been dismembered by Carter in order to remove it from its coffin. The film winds up with excavations of a nearby site in 1995 that had been buried by Carter's rubble from the excavations for Tut, which promised equally interesting finds. It would have been nice to include a short update on this point to let the viewer know what, if anything, has been found in the last decade.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The film footage all looks fine, with some mild edge enhancement and aliasing that is particularly an issue on still photographs. On the whole, however, the film has excellent color and good detail that belies its television origins.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 audio is almost entirely localized in the center channel with Pro Logic engaged; only occasional surround information is included. While it has a narrow soundstage, the audio track is very clean and the narration is always easily understandable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
2 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The extras are two more hour-long programs related to Tut. A Biography episode devoted to Howard Carter provides even more background information and discusses his post-Tut life in some detail, including his resentment at being disregarded for knighthood. More problematic is the Investigating History episode devoted to the supposed Curse. It has some merits, such as taking an epidemiological approach to determining whether the curse is real. The show is rather schizophrenic in presentation, with interviewee after interviewee denying there is any such curse (for example, no such curse was inscribed on the tomb, nor anywhere in the tomb) and the narrator breathlessly plunging ahead in the faint hope that there really is one. He pays no attention, for instance, to the fact that Lord Carnarvon, who died shortly after the tomb was opened, was in Egypt in the first place because of his extremely poor health. On the positive side, it includes substantially more footage of the Carter excavations, making it a valuable document if you disregard the narrator's rantings.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

A solid if too short look at the tomb of the Boy King, with a nice sharp transfer. Two bonus documentaries provide interesting looks at two diverse facets and help provide substantial value.

 


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