In the days of Ancient Egypt, events occured which would have bearing on the events of thousands of years in the future. The High Priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) had been illegally carrying out an affair with the Pharoah's wife to be and when this was discovered, the couple made a desperate bid for escape, murdering the Pharoah in the process. It was no use, and they were captured and put to death with Imhotep's priests by mummifying them alive, with their remains buried in the tomb of the city of Hamunaptra. Moving forward in time to the 1920s, and that lost site has been found - and trouble with it...
A surprise success in its year, The Mummy was one of writer and director Stephen Sommers' attempts to bring the creaky Universal horror movies of the thirties and forties kicking and screaming into modern times with some state of the art computer effects. Gone were the atmospheric black and white, the shuffling villain and, as in the original, the sickly romantic longing and in were huge setpieces, lots of shouting and a sense of humour that said, "Don't take all of this too seriously folks, we know it's ridiculous!" For a lot of people, this was exactly the type of blockbusting escapism they wanted.
Actually, the plot was less like the Boris Karloff original and more like its belated follow-up, The Mummy's Hand. Here any thoughts of love were restricted to the two leads and Imhotep's try at reanimating his lost partner is strictly the stuff of nightmares - not especially scary nightmares, but nevertheless. Those two leads were the game Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz as American adventurer Rick O'Connell and English librarian Evelyn Carnahan respectively, and it would be the short sighted viewer who did not see their eventual union heading this way.
Evelyn's buffoonish brother, Jonathan (John Hannah), the C3-PO of the film, gets his hands on a special key containing a parchment which outlines the way to reach Hamunaptra, and Evelyn, also an Egyptologist is very excited at the prospect of uncovering a site of ancient wonder, but then hears word of Rick, imprisoned these past three years, and how he can lead an expedition there. After saving him from a hanging, the party sets off, but they're not alone as a group of Americans with "potential victim" written all over them are also endeavouring to find the tomb and get rich on its spoils.
As with Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Mummy harkens back to the era of the serials with its derring do, and to its credit offers a very easy watch, with no dull stretches and few real jolts. Anyone looking for something deeper is clearly in the wrong place, but Sommers missed a trick in not giving his villain more of a personality, as Karloff had been awarded. Just because he does not speak English does not mean the director could have done more with the character, yet as it is he's just used as someone to hang all those special effects on. Those effects do render this more of a "game of the film" than a truly engrossing experience, but the film is like a puppy dog in its way, it simply wants to entertain in the least pretentious manner possible for a story about Ancient Egyptians resurrected to bring mayhem. Music by Jerry Goldsmith.
[Universal's Region 2 Special Edition DVD is the uncut one, although only the true fans will be able to notice the difference, and has many featurettes including a look at the third Mummy movie as extras.]