Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: The Mummy

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, May 5, 2001

I think perhaps we should let the diggers open it, hm?

Special features

Cast Information4
Commentary Track6
DVD-ROM Enhancements3
Deleted Scenes3
Documentary5
History Lesson6
Isolated Score2
Production Notes5
Special Effects Notes5
Trailer3
Trailers3

The Mummy” is a light-hearted, CG-heavy remake of the original from the thirties. But it is also heavy on historical realism, incorporates some very good acting, and is a lot of fun to boot.

RecommendationRent
DirectorStephen Sommers
WritersStephen Sommers, Nina Wilcox Putnam, Richard Schayer, John L. Balderston, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Movie Rating5
Transfer Quality7
Overall Rating6
Formats
  • Enhanced Widescreen
The Mummy (menu)

This is a review of the “Widescreen Collector’s Edition”. While Amazon lists it as shipping in 24 hours, Image lists it as discontinued. I rented it, so I don’t know for sure what the deal is. There is also a two-DVD “Ultimate Edition” which appears to have everything the Collector’s Edition does plus a few more items, at only a moderate price increase. The Ultimate Edition also includes a commentary by Brendan Fraser to complement the one by the director and editor, the pan & scan version, a stills montage, and a spotlight on “The Mummy Returns”. There is also a “Pan & Scan Collector’s Edition” which is a sister edition to the “Widescreen Collector’s Edition”. My guess is that Universal decided it was not worth the trouble to maintain two separate editions for widescreen and chopped versions, so they combined the two and at the same time added some new features. If you can get the Widescreen Collector’s Edition at a discounted price, it is probably worth it, but otherwise, I’d recommend looking for the Ultimate.

I’m more used to seeing Brendan Fraser in completely comic roles, but found him to be perfect as the slightly comic action hero of “The Mummy”. The real stars of this movie, though, were the sidekicks, John Hannah as Jonathan Carnahan, and Kevin J. O’Connor as Beni Gabor. Arnold Vosloo did a good job as Im-Ho-Tep, the mummy, but for most of the first part of the movie he was represented as computer graphics. Rachel Weisz did a great job as the incredibly cute half-English, half-Egyptian scholar Evelyn Carnahan. She was more recently in “Enemy at the Gates” as an incredibly cute Russian soldier. Finally, John Hannah did a wonderful turn as her brave but slightly fey brother Jonathan.

I had a blast about halfway through the movie when, at a bar, Bernard Fox shows up as Captain Winston Havlock, instantly recognizable as Dr. Bombay from “Bewitched”. Sommers and Ducsay comment on this in the commentary track. Apparently he’s seeing a revival recently, having also been in Titanic. Since I haven’t seen Titanic, this is the first I’ve seen Fox since the seventies when I watched Bewitched religiously!

Storywise, I did think that the beginning of the movie set up a complexity for the Mummy that got dropped later on in the film, and I was disappointed by that. As it stands, “The Mummy” is basically just a nicely-done adventure story with some good computer graphics and decent acting. Nothing wrong with that, but it looks like they realized they could have been better and then decided not to go for it. It’s especially interesting because the “secret society” that guards the tomb strikes me as awfully evil: they hold the key to destroying the mummy, but instead are willing to let it suffer for all eternity, even at the risk that someday someone might let it out and not have the information on how to kill it. As secret societies go, they’re also pretty ineffectual.

The Mummy (Cairo)

This is not in any way a horror film. It’s an adventure with comic undertones. It is very much a cross between “Indiana Jones” and “Romancing the Stone”. There’s even a tip of the hat to “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” where the Arab in their party says “I hate insects.”

Extras-wise, this DVD is relatively packed, relatively compared to other Universal disks. The commentary track is the highlight of the disk, and it is quite interesting. Unfortunately, you can’t switch between the audio tracks, so you can’t switch between the commentary and the movie, for example. Why do movie studios think that they need to disable useful features in DVD?

In the commentary, the director (Stephen Sommers) and the editor (Bob Ducsay) talk about how the movie was made. They comment quite a bit on the use of computer graphics to enhance, modify, and even create scenes. (CG has apparently not been kind to extras. At least twice Sommers and Ducsay talk about doing something bad to a disliked extra through the use of computer graphics. Once, one gets covered in flies, and another time they cut the extra’s eyes out. Ick!)

The special effects visualization section takes a few scenes and shows how they are developed from set to computer graphics. Only a few steps are shown for each, however, it is interesting. Even more interesting is the documentary about making the movie, which starts from the inspiration—the original “Mummy”—all the way up thru the various special effects techniques from ILM and ending with a bit of kissing up to director Sommers. It’s nearly an hour long and is very detailed. It is amazing watching Brendan Fraser fighting with a roomful of non-existent mummies.

There is a hidden track on the movie with just the score. You’ll have to go to the languages menu and then sit there. You can’t watch the movie while having just the score play, nor can you jump from track to track. I really, really hope that they did not disable switching between tracks just to allow them to hide this track and disable skipping through to favorite parts.

The Mummy (Dryden)

The “Egyptology 101” feature is pretty cool. It’s an overview of the relevant portions of Egyptian history, from who Im-Ho-Tep and Seti were to the making of the pyramids. It is all text.

Cast information is fairly standard. There are two trailers inside: in Brendan Fraser’s film list, you can watch the trailer for “Gods and Monsters”, and in Arnold Vosloo’s list you can watch the trailer for “Darkman II”. (I didn’t even know they made a Darkman II. Personally, I would have rather seen the trailer for Gor.) The list of cast members is spread over three screens, even though only seven people are listed. The menu takes up only about the bottom fourth of the screen; the rest is fluff. The production notes are a bit more interesting, a number of ‘pages’ of information about why the director and lead were interested in this movie.

The deleted scenes were mostly pretty obvious why they were deleted. What makes them most interesting is that some of them were deleted before the computer graphics phase, so you can for example see Cairo’s port before the pyramids were added. The deleted scenes, like the “Mummy” trailers, are shown back to back. There is no menu to select them. The trailers for “End of Days” and “For Love of the Game” are selectable, however.

The DVD-ROM portion of this (made ineptly as usual by PC-Friendly) holds a slightly expanded version of the production notes, and some links to the Universal web site for such things as sending postcards from “The City of the Dead”. It also holds cast and crew information for a lot more crew members and cast members.

While I liked this movie a lot, I don’t see it as heavily rewatchable; the commentary makes it more worthwhile, but the inability to switch between commentary and movie is a major flaw, in my opinion. The movie is definitely worth renting, however, if you haven’t already seen it and you like this sort of adventure. Even if you’ve already seen it in the movies, if you liked it the extras are worth seeing and hearing.

Recommendation: Rent

DirectorStephen Sommers
WritersStephen Sommers, Nina Wilcox Putnam, Richard Schayer, John L. Balderston, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
ActorsBrendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz
Spoken languagesEnglish, French
SubtitleEnglish
Special FeaturesCast Information, Commentary Track, DVD-ROM Enhancements, Deleted Scenes, Documentary, History Lesson, Isolated Score, Production Notes, Special Effects Notes, Trailer, Trailers
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