One of the things we talk about quite a bit at Broadswords and Blasters is the concept of the mash-up. Taking two disparate genres and mixing them together until you get something that isn’t one hundred percent one or the other, but definitely its own unique beast. The Mummy (1999 version) is an excellent example of this.
It opens with a “how we got here” opening. Imhotep (the always great Arnold Vosloo) is in love with Anck-su-naman… only Anck-su-naman belongs to the Pharaoh. When their deceit is discovered, Anck-su-naman kills herself, and Imhotep flees. Later, he recovers her body and attempts to resurrect her. Only the attempt is prevented by the Pharaoh and his men, and Imhotep is cursed, his tongue removed, and he’s placed into a sarcophagus… no longer alive, but not fully dead either.
The time skips ahead 3000 years to Egypt in 1923. Rick O’Neill (Brendan Fraser) is a member of the French Foreign Legion… which is quickly overrun. Three years later, and he’s stuck in a prison, about to be executed. Luckily enough for him, he’s rescued by Evelyn Carnahan, an assistant the Cairo museum who is looking to make a name for herself as an archaeologist. And Rick just so happens to know where the discovery of a lifetime is waiting. It’s when Imhotep’s sarcophagus is discovered, and Evelyn reads from The Book of the Dead, that the movie flips from being an action-adventure flick to more of a horror movie… complete with an implacable monster killing off a rival team of archaeologists one by one.
One of the unique aspects of the film is the amount of time it spends on the characters. None of the film is spent on fleshing the characters out beyond broad strokes. We never find out why Rick was in the French Foreign Legion. We don’t know why Evelyn and her brother are in Egypt… though there is an oblique reference to their parents being explorers as well. And you know what? That works for this film. What’s more interesting than their background is the situations they find themselves in be it fighting off assassins on a river boat (which then catches fire), or exploring the tombs and dealing with traps. At the end of the day, its less about what the characters are and more about what they do, which is exactly the kind of stories we look for as editors.
While some of the special effects do appear dated, the spirit of adventure runs strong through the course of the movie, and still manages to have a sense of humor at the same time. The movie does realize how silly it is at times, even when it also has flesh devouring scarabs.