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Case Number 00095

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Russell Mulcahy's Tale Of The Mummy

Dimension Films // 1998 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Nicholas Sylvain (Retired) // August 15th, 1999

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All Rise...

The Charge

The curse is legend. The adventure is real.

Opening Statement

An interesting premise for a movie goes horribly wrong, and to make matters worse we get a disc that seems to be cursed of its own accord.

The Evidence

Okay, let me run through the usual story synopsis and some comments on the disc itself so that I can get this bad taste out of my mouth. Yeeccchh!

We open with a dig in the wilds of Egypt, circa 1949, where Sir Richard Turkel (Richard Lee) is searching for a series of tombs. After nearly three hundred days of digging, they stumble across the tomb for a strange person named Talos, who apparently was a sadistic and evil little mummy, in his less mummified days. Sadly, Sir Richard and his colleagues are not long for this world, dying in unexplained but horrible fashion from some sort of black cloud that billows forth from the burial chamber. Later in the movie, you may have been jealous, knowing that they took the quick way out.

Jumping ahead, we find his granddaughter, Samantha Turkel (Louise Lombard), as part of a British scientific expedition to the same site, along with a number of colleagues, including Bradley Cortese (Sean Pertwee). Having learned at least a little from her grandfather's fate, the team this time uses biohazard suits to investigate the literal tomb of horrors, only to still lose a breathtakingly stupid team member (no doubt to spare the mummy needless work later). Apparently the rest of the expedition was less stupid, as we then skip forward seven months to London, where the British Museum is having a Talos Exhibition.

When the lights go out, the glass breaks, a guard is injured, and a mound of moldy mummy wrappings is suddenly missing, you've got your first clue that something is wrong. Your second clue is when a heretofore-unseen corpse shows up, allegedly a U.S. Senator on holiday, who was killed in gruesome fashion at some point. We should call him Senator Plot Device, because he exists solely to introduce an American detective, Riley (Jason Scott Lee), from "the Embassy" who suddenly takes the lead in the investigation Meanwhile, another poor lady gets all wrapped up by the mummy (ha ha) and we find that poor Bradley Cortese has become the stereotypical person-driven-insane-but-who-holds-the-key-to-saving-the-world. Not having had any fun for a couple of thousand years, the mummy now pays a visit to a London gay club and wraps up (ha, I say, ha!) a suitable victim.

Riley and Samantha are clearly meant to be a cute couple, as they spend several scenes discussing what is going on and trying to figure out what to do, interspersed with scenes where another poor schmuck is all tied up (hee hee) and where poor Bradley tries and fails to save the next victim. Distraught by his failure, Bradley goes to Samantha's apartment, believing that she will be the next victim and that he must kill her to prevent Talos from reincarnating and somehow placing the whole world at risk.

Riley saves the day (as cop boyfriends are supposed to do), and everyone is convinced that Bradley is to blame for all the murders, at least until our mummy Talos shows up in the police station and puts a wrap (oh, the comedy!) on the poor Bradley and a British detective. Riley and Samantha have another gooey moment before Riley leaves just so Talos can show up to kidwrap (oh, I can't bear the pain) Samantha for the climactic final battle. There's about fifteen more minutes of psychic detective work, crawling around in the dark, people dying, and the mummy being evil before we reach the blessed end.

The video is actually quite good, though of course (from Buena Vista) being non-anamorphic. Colors are well saturated and vibrant, the blacks are solid, and the picture nicely sharp (with only an occasional lapse). Contrast is excellent, a necessity with the large number of dimly or partially lit scenes. I did not notice any shimmering or ringing from digital enhancement, and only very slight video noise in one or two scenes.

Audio is good but not outstanding. Dialogue is clear and understandable, but it seemed to lack channel separation as I noticed few effects that did not seem to be centrally located. The subwoofer did get used fairly frequently and to much better effect than in many 5.1 mixes that I have heard of late. The music was rather disappointing, as it failed to build the spooky tension that is a vital component of a good horror flick.

Zero extras, only those stupid Film Recommendations, and the preferred Amaray keep case are all is left to mention.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Oh. My. GOD! Was that a bad movie, or what? Excuse me, I have to go find the Pepto Bismol bottle. Whew. Boy, that was bad. Did I say it was bad? Wow. It is so bad that "Mystery Science Theater 3000" out to be brought back for an encore just to rip apart this little stinker. On the other hand, maybe someone ought to drop a note to Joe Bob Briggs over at TNT's MonsterVision website and ask him to add this one to his rotation. Keep in mind that I watched this movie with my wife, who as an avid Duran Duran fan was already inclined to want to like the movie based on Russell Mulcahy's work on their music videos—and she was horribly disappointed as well.

The effects are just lame. Some are merely bad, while others border on the ludicrous. When the pile of mummy cloths is flipping around a room or flying through the air, it looks like a cursed car wash mop. The ending effects of the reincarnating Talos are horribly funny, as it looks like bad animatronics done on a budget.

Vast portions of the story are just too contrived, puzzling, or simply stupid, whether the whole "dead Senator" plot device, or innumerable cultural anachronisms (for a country with strict gun laws, a whole lot of average citizens seem to pack heat), or the whole Riley-Samantha love interest angle, or take your pick of most scenes. It got so bad that I was practically begging the mummy to hurry up and kill the lot of them and put me out of my misery.

Note to Jason Scott Lee—please, for the love of God, get some acting lessons! Quickly! Riley is such a wooden character, I wanted to chop him up for firewood. Most of the other actors and actresses are either shallow and uninteresting, or simply not given much to work with, or (as with Christopher Lee) killed off in minutes as if quality acting were a communicable disease. One bright spot was Sean Pertwee, who might be better known to PBS watchers as Hugh Beringar in several of the adaptations of Ellis Peters' Cadfael mysteries. He does a good job at swerving between reality and insanity, forcefully conveying the depth of his bizarre convictions. Other talented actors are criminally under-used, such as Jon Polito (formerly of the NBC's acclaimed Homicide series), who is barely seen, or the beautifully aging Honor Blackman (better known as Pussy Galore in the classic James Bond flick Goldfinger), who seems to have been thrown in as Chief Inspector Shea for no particular reason.

Closing Statement

I'd like to meet the suit over at Buena Vista who thinks that a featureless stinker like Russell Mulcahy's Tale of the Mummy is worth $30. This is a horrible movie, and only the lack of ANY extra feature is scary. Avoid this movie at all costs, unless you have a group of friends and a keg of beer over and you want an MST3K party. In that case, rent it and have a few good laughs.

The Verdict

Movie and disc are guilty beyond any shadow of a doubt, and the combination of the two is worthy of the harshest punishments that the mind can devise.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 92
Audio: 85
Extras: 0
Acting: 30
Story: 20
Judgment: 1

Perp Profile

Studio: Dimension Films
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Bad
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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