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Universal Studios Home Video presents

The Mummy: The Ultimate Edition (1999)

"Death is only the beginning"- Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo)

Stars: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Arnold Vosloo
Other Stars: John Hannah, Kevin J. O'Connor, Jonathan Hyde, Oded Fehr
Director: Stephen Sommers

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Action-oriented violence
Run Time: 02h:04m:35s
Release Date: 2001-04-24
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ A-A+A+ A-


DVD Review

Stephen Sommers' 1999 retooling of The Mummy saga has given new life to the idea that a 3,000 year old dead guy doesn't necessarily have to shuffle around wrapped in gauze like Boris Karloff to be deadly. This new, fresh Mummy is true evil, and commands the sand, locusts, scarabs, mummies and townspeople to do his bidding. Combining well-placed humor, Indiana Jones-styled action, and great CG effects (check out the wall-walking zombie guards during the climax), Sommers' has not only built the framework for a potential studio franchise, he has actually put together an entertaining thrill ride.

The title character is, of course, Imhotep, the Pharoah's priest, played by hulking baldie Arnold Vosloo. As we learn in the opening sequence, in the days of ancient Egypt, Imhotep is sentenced to a grisly death after being caught in affair with the Pharoah's mistress, thong-wearing Princess Anck-Su-Namun (Patricia Velazquez). His punishment, after his faithful servants are mummifed, is to be buried alive in a sarcophagus of flesh-eating scarabs, under the curse that should his resting place be disturbed, unstoppable evil will be unleashed upon the earth.

Jump forward to the 1920's, and we meet Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser), a gun-toting treasure seeker/mercenary in Cairo, recruited by prim, proper librarian Evelyn 'Evie' Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) and her brother, Jonathan (John Hannah), to lead them to the mythical Hamunaptra, The City Of The Dead, and its legendary riches. Unfortunately, that is where Imhotep is buried, and in case you really couldn't foresee this plot point, Imhotep is released, and all hell—literally—breaks loose.

At first, Vosloo's Imhotep is a sinewy mess of decayed flesh and exposed musculature, intent on killing those who released him in order to steal their organs to rebuild himself. This is where some truly impressive CG effects occur, as Imhotep slowly regenerates with each kill, and his flesh gradually becomes whole again. He does not have much dialogue, and what little he does is spoken in ancient Egyptian (complete with subtitles). However, he creates a memorable, even slightly sympathetic screen villain, with not much more than an occasional evil grimace.

Fraser, while not required to put in a Gods And Monsters-caliber performance, is extremely likable as an action hero lead, and is one of the reasons The Mummy works so well. He shoots, stabs, skewers, leaps, kicks and punches like an old pro. As the 'hero', the role of O'Connell is vital, and can really make or break this type of film. If played too broadly as a second rate "Indy" clone, it can fail painfully; and if played too seriously, it can take the "fun" out of a movie like this one. Fraser's O'Connell can wisecrack without seeming forced, and then turn around and do battle with a dozen attacking mummies.

Until the release of The Mummy, the the well of good old, all-around action adventures had been a bit dry lately. The Indiana Jones trilogy became the recent benchmark for adventures featuring swashbuckling heroes and ancient treasures, because the films have been able to find a fine mix of action and humor. Video game goddess Lara Croft will be appearing on the big screen in the summer of 2001, and despite having roots in computer games she, too, owes a tip of her Uzi to Indiana Jones for paving the way, but more importantly, to The Mummy , and its director Stephen Sommers. Credit should also be given this movie for re-opening the door to serial-style adventure storytelling, meshed with eye-popping effects.

Comparing this film to the Indiana Jones series is in no way a disservice to Sommers. Indy and The Mummy hero, O'Connell, are themselves a successful throwback to the rugged stars of adventure serials prominent in theaters long ago. The story-telling concept is the same—paint your heroes into a corner with no hope for escape, and then get them out. There have been many pale imitators, hoping to force a rugged, wisecracking explorer down our collective movie-viewing throats. In this sequel-heavy era of filmmaking, it is also obvious that the studios would love to find the next hit franchise, preferably not based on a Saturday Night Live character, and The Mummy has given Universal just that, with two sequels set for release (The Mummy Returns and The Scorpion King).

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

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 One Two
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen 1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes no
Anamorphicyes no

Image Transfer Review: A beautiful anamorphic transfer, with colors that are sharp and crisp. The film portrays the desert scenes, as well as those in Cairo, in a rich, heavy bronze tone that almost lets you feel the blistering sun, and the dark subterranean tomb sequences have a solid black level with no drop outs. Cinematographer Adrian Biddle's on-screen color scheme doesn't vary much, and leans toward being fairly constant, as the majority of shots feature tans, browns, golds and sand. However, despite this fairly limited palette, the colors look vibrant.

A full frame transfer is available on disc 2.

Image Transfer Grade: A+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: On the widescreen disc, both the DTS and 5.1 mixes thunder with pounding hoofbeats and Jerry Goldsmith's majestic score. Dialogue is crystal clear, and Vosloo's Imhotep speaks demonically, with deep, resonant bass that rattles the walls, while the ghostly spirit howls of Princess Anck-Su-Namun swirl around the room. The only thing missing, sadly, is a "score only" audio option. Overall, a damn fine sounding disc.

The full-frame version skips on the DTS track, and provides a French 5.1 as well as a Spanish 2.0 Surround mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+ 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish (English only for the full-frame version) with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Mummy Returns
3 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by Brendan Fraser; actors Oded Fehr, Kevin J. O'Connor and Arnold Vosloo; director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. "How Did They Do That?" sequences
  2. Photographic montage
  3. Egyptology 101
  4. Pharoah Lineage
  5. DVD-ROM extras—Script To Scene, Screen Savers, The Mummy PC Game demo
Extras Review: My rule of thumb when evaluating the various "Special"-this and "Ultimate"-that DVD releases, is that if I can salvage one or two worthwhile extras, I'm satisfied. This two-disc set is busting at the seams with extras, some terrific, some ok. A minor beef is that I wish the "Script to Scene" feature was not "DVD-ROM only", because I would rather view it on my television than my PC monitor.

Building a Better Mummy: A great documentary about the creation of the stunning visual effects that Industrial Light and Magic put together for The Mummy. After tracing the roots of the original 1932 Universal release, the ILM team describes in detail how the creepy mummy effects are painstakingly created. If you're a geek for special effects info, like me, this feature is for you.

The Visual and Special Effects: A brief, but impressive series of 5 "How Did They Do That?" sequences. Narrated by visual effects supervisor John Berton, each of the selected scenes are broken down into 4 components, live shots and CG effects, culminating with the finished sequence. Included is discussion of the scene where Imhotep eats the scarab that crawls up his neck, and into his cheek.

Highlights on The Mummy Returns: Since Universal figures they have a captive audience, they foist a typical studio issue 10-minute promo for the sequel. Not necessary, but entertaining, in a fluffy, self-promoting kind of way.

Egyptology 101: An informative text-driven section that provides background on various elements of Egyptian history—Artifacts, Plagues, The Gods, The Immortals, Maps.

Pharoah Lineage: Another text-driven section delving into the royal lineage of ancient Egyptian rulers through the centuries.

DVD-ROM extras—Script To Scene, Screen Savers, The Mummy PC Game demo: As a rule, I have yet to find any DVD-ROM extras that have truly been a value add to any release to date.

Free Movie Ticket: A nice plus, only valid 5/4/01 - 5/20/01, is a free movie ticket to The Mummy Returns. If you take advantage of this extra, it's like saving $9 off the purchase price.

Photographic montage: If you like looking at photos, you'll love it. A photo montage of film images set to the Goldsmith score. Interesting once.

Extras Grade: A-

Final Comments

The Mummy: The Ultimate Edition delivers a perfect mix of special effects, action, horror, comedy, and even a little romance. Sommers' has successfully merged these elements into a thoroughly entertaining "popcorn" movie. Don't question logic, don't analyze the plot; just enjoy it. If you already own the original release, you will not lose any sleep without the extras included here. However, if you haven't picked up a copy of either, the "Ultimate Edition"is the version to add to your collection.

Rich Rosell 2001-06-20