On this day in Film History: The Mummy (1999)

(note: this is a day early because I will be very busy tomorrow)MV5BMTcwMjQ3Mjk0MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzcxNTYxMTE@._V1_UY1200_CR85,0,630,1200_AL_

On this day in film history, The Mummy (1999) was released to theaters and became a surprise hit. The film is an extremely loose remake of the 1932 Boris Karloff film of the same name. In this story, starting in Ancient Egypt, the high priest Imhotep engages in a forbidden love affair with Anck-Su-Namun, the Pharaoh’s mistress. On pain of death, no other man is supposed to touch her, but the two persist anyway, until they are caught red-handed by Pharaoh himself. Imhotep kills Pharaoh to protect his secret, but the guards have already been alerted. Urging her lover to flee, Anck-Su-Namun kills herself, knowing that the penalty for what she has done is death anyway. But Imhotep is not content to let his lover die: he takes her body to the great (fictional) treasure city of Hamunaptra and there begins a ritual that will bring her back to life. But just as the ritual nears completion, the Medjai, Pharaoh’s protectors, halt the process and Anck-Su-Namun’s soul is sent screaming back to the Underworld. For violating the most sacred taboo, Imhotep is condemned to the worst punishment imaginable: he will be made one of the Undead, and should he ever be released, it would mean the end of the world. The proper story begins over three thousand years later, when, guess what, Imhotep gets loose….

I once thought I would never like this movie. All I saw at first were the scary scenes with the Mummy (before he completely regenerates) and his henchmen, I didn’t really process the underlying story. Far from being a simple action-horror flick, The Mummy is really a great story about the depths one will go to in the name of love. Because, for all his “evilness”, Imhotep is really a man desperately in love, and he will do ANYTHING to keep that love alive.

The excellent score was composed by the late great Jerry Goldsmith and it really helps to make the story even better than it already is.

There’s a funny series of moment involving Rick’s one time friend Beni. He’s been obsessed with saving his own skin for the entire film, but he’s also obsessed with wealth too. Having been in league with Imhotep for most of the story, Beni is finally given his reward when Imhotep permits him to take as much treasure as he wishes (shortly before all hell breaks loose). Now during the fight, note that Beni initially gets away clean: he’s got a camel LOADED with enough treasure to allow him to live like a prince for the rest of his days. But that’s not good enough for Beni, he HAS to go back for more. This proves to be his undoing (Evelyn had earlier told Beni that guys like him ALWAYS get what’s coming to them in the end) as while he’s dragging away one final bag of treasure, Beni gets trapped inside the temple as the booby traps (that he inadvertently triggered) seal the temple and all its treasure away forever beneath the sands. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the temple is swarming with flesh-eating scarab beetles. But Beni should be safe for a while because they don’t like fire and Beni has a torch. Too bad torches don’t burn in a closed-in environment without fresh oxygen….

Are the effects slightly dated (being 17 years old after all)? Yes. Are some moments a little too cheesy for their own good? Yes. Is the movie fun to watch nonetheless? Absolutely!

*film poster is the property of Universal Pictures

For more “On this day” posts, see here

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