The basic idea of the mummy stories - 19th/20th century explorers inadvertently awake a dead Egyptian pharaoh or high priest from the dead and bring about a heap of trouble on themselves - has been popular ever since Bram Stoker wrote The Jewel of the Seven Stars at the end of the last century. After Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and even Charlton Heston had appeared in various reworkings of the idea, however, the story was laid to rest in the sarcophagus, so to speak, while the other old staples of the genre - vampires, werewolves and the like - enjoyed a revival. Now, at last, the mummy's hour has come!
The story is fairly simple: the Egyptian High Priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), caught having an affair with his master's mistress, murders the Pharaoh, for which heinous offence he, she and his priests suffer terrible penalties: mummification alive, among other things, and the placing of a hideous curse. Three thousand years later Foreign Legionnaire Rick O'Connell (Fraser), survivor of a massacre of the last expedition to find the Pharaohs' lost city of golden treasures, teams up with English librarian and her roguish but likeable brother (John Hannah, funny) after the two English free him from jail. (They also have to take the chief jailer on board, but of course as you can guess he doesn't last too long). They race another Anglo-American team to find the fabled city and ignore the warnings of the "magi" to excavate. Needless to say, the curse is invoked and the mummy returns to the land of the living, seeking not only the lives of those who woke him but also to inflict general death and destruction on mankind.
This film has been likened to Indiana Jones, but I find it actually superior to the latter. Brendan Fraser is a more likeable and sympathetic character than the whip-cracking Harrison Ford, and there is less of the subtle xenophobia that I felt ran as an undercurrent in the Indiana Jones movies. There are a few cultural and racial stereotypes in the film, but not malicious ones. Nevertheless it is firmly in the genre of Saturday afternoon adventure movies: plenty of bumps and jumps, but nothing too nasty to really affect youngsters. The special effects are excellent but not too graphic, and horrible deaths are obvious without being portrayed in the "in-your-face" manner of too many films these days (just as well, given that it's a 12 certificate). The cast are also uniformly good: not only the three heroes/heroine, but fine support from as the enigmatic leader of the Magi (whom my wife thought was the sexiest man in the film!) and as the old but dignified head of the museum. Kevin O'Connor shines as the servile but treacherous Benny (a man of indistinct nationality). Jonathon "Titanic" Hythe plays the English-speaking Egyptologist with the fez who falls prey to the mummy.
All in all, a fun film that you can take your kids, your girlfriend or your mates along to.
By the way, I consulted my zoology book and found nothing about flesh-eating scarab beetles.... .
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