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FATHER GEEK puts Universal's THE MUMMY into perspective.

FATHER GEEK just got back from the free Austin advance preview screening of Universal’s THE MUMMY at the Regal Lincoln Cinema. Went with Harry, Quint, Robogeek, Hooper, and the LA Insider pro-magazine-writer dude that’s been visiting us the last couple of weeks. The place was packed. We got in line at 5:30 for the 7:30 screening, there were about 25 line-people in front of us. We had headed over to the theater straight from Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, an Austin institution since long before Harry was born, “Writer-dude” who is heading back west tomorrow realized he hadn’t eaten any smoked flesh while in Austin except in our backyard and wanted to sample some pro-smoking for comparison’s sake.

I guess ol’ FATHER GEEK should give you a little of my “Mummy” experience for background at this point so you know were I’m coming from in this review. First off I’ve been a single male parent to my 2 offspring the last 15 years.... oops.... wrong mummy story. Oh yeah, well I grew up watching all those old Universal “Mummy” flicks from the 30’s and 40’s at Drive-ins and on late night TV down in San Antonio in the 1950’s. I subscribed to Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine beginning with issue number 2 and I had a scrapbook of my favorite Monster clippings I put together from them and other sources. Mummys were some of my faves as a kid. As a youngster THE MUMMY’S HAND with Tom Tyler as the creature was my favored one and I had seen it on several occasions by the time I entered James Russell Lowell Junior High School. Remember there were no videotapes, laserdiscs, or DVDs when I was growing up, If it wasn’t on the Tele (remember no cable, SA had only 2 stations until 1959) or a motion picture screen it might as well not exist. I didn’t see Karloff’s phantastic 1932 effort until I was 16. It then became my absolute ideal in Mummy movies. THE MUMMY’S CURSE, THE MUMMY’S TOMB, and THE MUMMY’S GHOST all from Universal while nice amusement just didn’t cut the mustard when compared to the first two. Then came the Hammer color Mummy series of the 60’s. The first of these with Chris Lee as the creature came out in 59 I think and while beautifully intense still didn’t unseat Karloff’s THE MUMMY in my mind, but it pushed “Hand” into 3rd place. The others (like THE MUMMY’S SHROUD and THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB) in this stylish and bloody cordon of musty, moldy British thrillers finished far behind the holders of the first 3 spots. In college I was introduced to the Aztec Mummy a long running Mexican chain of loco y extranjo horror. While barrells of fun, THE ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY and ROCK & ROLL WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY just aren’t very good motion pictures. Of course I was watching undubbed, un-subtitled Mexican prints out at the old El Captian drive-in and I may have missed alot of the plot and character development. In 1973 I caught Paul Naschy in his lust for young virgin blood in THE MUMMY’S REVENGE. Still no contest! It had been 41 years since Karloff ‘s slow, eerie eye opening scene, could no one un-throne him? Could no one shoot a better, more atmospheric film than Karl Freund, who started in the industry in 1905 shooting DER GOLEM, METROPOLIS, DRACULA, MAD LOVE, and KEY LARGO among others? Then about 1976 or 77 I spotted BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB out at the old Longhorn Drive-in and this chiller bumped 1940’s “Hand” into 4th place, but the one that started it all in 1932 still reigned supreme. Other blood splattered gore fest mummy themed flicks presented themselves to me in the years to follow to no avail. I had hope in 1980, a big budget entry with Charlton Heston and Susannah York (two favorites of mine) called THE AWAKENING came out, bah humbug, a total failure. Another decade passed with no real challenge for the champion. 61 years had been torn from the calendar when Tony Curtis (Jamie Lee’s Dad) entered the arena with THE MUMMY LIVES in 1993. Oh, my god, what garbage, has everyone forgotten how to make a suitable Mummy motion picture, nothing since 72’s BFTMT has even been decent. Then in early 1998 a new Universal Mummy script appeared at Geek Headquarters. I eagerly flipped thru the pages. WOW!!!

FATHER GEEK liked what he read, no thats not right I loved what I read. I asked Harry, “is this actually being made or is it just sitting in development hell somewhere?” “It’s happening!” he advised me. My old heart jumped for joy, I couldn’t wait. Then last July Harry was flown to London to visited the set and gather info on it and that other flick opening this month. I sat jealously at home watching the clock waiting reports from my lucky son. They came, he’d seen the treasure chamber, best ever he assured me. He’d seen other interiors, magnificent period stuff he reported, flawless. He saw an eyeless, tongueless, fully desiccated human body, outstanding and totally real he informed me. The screen on the inside of my forehead began to show the film with lavish sets and great models and makeup. It was incredible, I was in monster movie heaven. Harry returned having seen makeup and costume test footage and hours of dailys. I replayed the script with this added intelligence in my mind’s eye. That piece of cinema easily leaped to 1st place at the head of my long mummy movie list. Over 1/2 year to go, I put it out of my mind until the end of March. I liked the trailers, Moriarty’s review came in, my hopes were high. Too high?

Well, FATHER GEEK experienced THE MUMMY tonight. Is it the best mummy film ever made? No, I don’t think so. I still prefer the 67 year old Freund masterpiece. That’s the difference. 32’s a masterpiece, this is a very good movie. Don’t get me wrong I love this new motion picture, repeated viewing will gage how much. It’s grand and big in scope. The sounds are fantastic. The opening battle scenes are action packed. The women are flawless beauties. The new digital makeup works great. Fraser executes his role very well. All that Harry had described to me that he saw in England was perfect and true to his words, but for me there was a little, I’ll repeat that, a little too much tongue in cheek. Mixing comedy and horror is a difficult job. It worked in AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and little else in my opinion. The swarm of scarab beetles doesn’t quite do it for me, but the fiery hail from the sky more than makes up for it. Once again I do love this film, I strongly recommend you see it on the big screen with big sound, it is worth your money. I just feel it could have been better. The problem with reading scripts and seeing storyboards, etc... is that no matter what, if you have any imagination at all you see a perfect movie in your head, and that’s your head, but you’re not making the movie. Someone else’s inner-vision is guiding the film and many times no matter how good it turns out it just isn’t that perfect motion picture that played at your mind’s theater. That’s what happened here for FATHER GEEK. By the way I do say with no reservations that this is at least the 2nd best Mummy movie ever made and, however unlikely, after repeated screenings I may bump it up to #1, but for now no way. As for Moriarty’s comparison to the Indy flicks, well I still prefer 1 and 3 to this. Where does it stand against other adventure fantasies? Well, I think it’s better than ARMY OF DARKNESS, but not as good as EVIL DEAD II. I like it better than SPAWN and all of the BATMAN movies but one. However, I like Harryhausen’s 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD, GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS better and I favor 1938’s ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and Korda’s THIEF OF BAGDAD, but Universal’s MUMMY is right up there close to all that I have mentioned and that’s extremely good company Geeks, extremely good company.

Readers Talkback
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  • May 5, 1999, 4:25 a.m. CST

    ramses the damned

    by Calix

    So whatever happened to that property? Hugh. Well, guess I don't wanna see another Anne Rice book to make it to the silver screen. I must say I like what I hear about the mummy. If it's anything like Army of Darkness and has great visual style, I'll be content. :) :) :)

  • May 5, 1999, 4:35 a.m. CST

    sounds good

    by Mathias

    Well I think if Father Geek liked it's safe. At least one film I can look forward to now, with Episode 1 still being so far from opening in Europe. And thanks for another lesson in movie history, Father Geek! I like that.

  • May 5, 1999, 5:55 a.m. CST

    The omens are good...

    by Oberon

    We'll be hitting this on opening nght without question, especially because my better half insists on it. Father Geek's review is encouraging, to say the least. I think this film will do quite well, thanks to a strong trailer, good promotion, no bad buzz, and its positioning as the last major release before EPISODE I, especially now that THE MATRIX's legs are fading. But we'll just have to see...

  • May 5, 1999, 6:29 a.m. CST

    Saw it last night, sucks ass.

    by Rolande

    Basically, the previews and everything I'd read led me to believe this would be Indy Jones-like and oh so scary. Wrong! I was squirming in my seat due to embarrassment at what was happening on screen. I don't want to spoil it, but suffice to say the main Mummy looks like something from Army of Darkness and the rest of the mummy henchmen look like Jason and the Argonaut castoffs. Now, if that's your bag, you'll love it. Also, several stupid scenes with villagers running around chanting "Im-Ho-Tep" while in a trance. Lame. Also, when you are sitting there think that if this mummy is "immune to all mortal threats" why the hell is he having so much trouble with Brendan Fraser and the two weenies along with him? This is harmless fodder for 13 yr olds, but grownups will feel cheated. Also, the humor was misplaced, people wouldn't be fucking with a badass mummy and cracking jokes. On the plus side, the flesh-eating scarabs were great. I think they should have flesh eating scarabs in every movie.

  • May 5, 1999, 10:53 a.m. CST

    THIS MUMMY IS CURSED

    by Hale1

    Suffice it to say, this new MUMMY film is rotten! Terrible acting, a cliched, overdrawn script, laughable dialogue, bad editing, and all-too obvious CGI effects. There isn't even a real mummy -- except for the end, which is ripped off from ARMY OF DARKNESS (and, or course, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS). This "mummy" is nothing more than an overblown, CGI coprse, like something out of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET or HELLRAISER flicks. In short, this movie is a completely unoriginal mess, derivative of about 6 or 7 better films. It's not worth the price of admission (including matinee or third-run $2 movie houses), nor is it worth the price of a video rental, or the time spent watching it on cable or commercial television.

  • May 5, 1999, 12:04 p.m. CST

    Rent Army of Darkness instead

    by wretch

    Subject about sums it up. Better humor, tighter story, good enough effects. I laughed in many parts, sure, and there were some imaginative effects, but the plot took FOREVER to get started and many effects fell flat in a technical way. The way the CGI parts of the bad guy's face lagged behind when he'd turn his head was just sad.

  • May 5, 1999, 12:30 p.m. CST

    THE MUMMY (1932)

    by W. Leach

    In my humble opinion, I think THE MUMMY (1932) is the best of the Universal "Golden Age of Horror" movies, slightly eking past FRANKENSTEIN (my old fave) to the Number One spot. Just that opening sequence alone is worth the price of a rental. Karloff in the casket. The young archeologist reading the forbidden words. The mummy's black-liquid eyes slowly opening for the first time in centuries. His hand landing on the paper the young man is reading. The mad laughter. The mummy slowly lumbering out of the room, a bandage trailing behind him. A brilliant, effective scene done in complete silence: no jarring music here. I grew up watching these classic films on Saturday afternoons when they were part of CREATURE FEATURES, or if we were lucky, CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURE, where two great horror films were shown. Most of the Universal classic aired, and one week, DRACULA (1931) and THE MUMMY were shown. It was interesting to see these movies back to back, because THE MUMMY seems almost like a remake of DRACULA: a long-dead creature stalks the modern world, falls in love with a beautiful young woman, puts her under his spell, is pursued by the Good Guys (David Manners and Edward Van Sloan in both films), and is ultimately destroyed. The two even share the same theme music over the opening credits: an excerpt from SWAN LAKE. But, as I mentioned earlier, Karl Freund's THE MUMMY will always be the best. For me, there are no substitutes. Now if only Universal would release these titles on DVD...

  • May 5, 1999, 9:24 p.m. CST

    Mummy Dearest

    by Grocer

    Saw the movie. Great effects. Great camerawork. Great score. Great first fifteen minutes. After that it becomes more and more evident this is the writer/director of "Deep Rising." Script doesn't even begin to live up to its comic book/old time serial goals. More and more action as the film trudges on, but it gets less and less interesting as there's no reason we should care about any of the characters, much less the excuse of a story they flounder around in. This is one of those could've been, should've been movies that just ain't. Script rips off everything from Raiders to Sam Raimi and does it so blatantly that it isn't fair to call it "homage." What a waste of brilliant effects work.

  • May 6, 1999, 5:19 a.m. CST

    Wrong Genre

    by 1776

    I first heard about a new Mummy movie a few years back and was very excited. My excitement has diminished however in the last few months. Why ? If I was asked to name some movies from the past that the makers of the new Mummy should look to for inspiration I'd have quite a list. Karloff's Mummy.Chritopher Lee's Mummy.I would think of various gothic horror films including various versions of Dracula, Frankenstien and The Wolfman.Never in a million years would I think RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK !!! Why you ask ? Because it is not a GOTHIC HORROR story! It's an ADVENTURE story! Two very different genres! Don't get me wrong here, I love Indiana Jones. But he is NOT a GOTHIC HORROR character. That said, I'll probably like the movie but I can't help feeling that now we'll have to wait several more years for a Mummy movie that can be called THE MUMMY that is actual the right genre.

  • May 7, 1999, 10:59 a.m. CST

    Rock on Mummy!

    by noellyg

    i thought the movie was very enjoyable. i thought all of the actors were well chosen and did a fine job. i thought the chick that played evelyln was cool-- pretty but not supermodel pretty y'know? anyway, i thought it was hilarious when evelyn's brother jonathan pretended to be one of the villagers chanting imhotep. i thought it was suspenseful cos i wasn't sure how he was gonna kill each of the americans. near the end when jonathan was piddling about trying to decipher the hieroglyphics from the golden book while evelyn and rick were being chased by the army of skeletons was a bit tired. i wanted to smack him and make him just read the damned thing. but for a 2-hour movie i was entertained. i did think the ending when the white chariot came to get the mummy and take his immortality and then rick simply stabbing him was too simplistic. i was like, "that's it? the end?" geez! but what happened after that helped make up for it. i was hoping for more gore, although the scarabs were cool and i liked seeing them mummify those people alive, but i would've liked seeing them actually rip some dude's brains outta his nose or having some good special effects showing the mummy sucking his victims dry. and i liked the part about the cat. i recommend seeing this movie big time but go to blockbuster afterwards and rent one of the older versions of the mummy.

  • July 23, 2006, 9:25 p.m. CST

    Get used to remakes, folks.

    by Wolfpack