Archaeologist Sir Richard Turkel (Christopher Lee) unearths the ancient Egyptian tomb of evil sorcerer Talos. He immediately realizes he has made a terrible mistake but despite his warnings his arrogant financiers push on with the excavation. All hell breaks loose as the interlopers are slain by supernatural forces until Turkel seals the tomb at the cost of his own life. Fifty years later Turkel's granddaughter, Samantha (Louise Lombard), heads another scientific expedition into Talos' tomb that claims the life of her fiancé, Burke (a pre-stardom Gerard Butler), drives colleague Bradley Cortese (Sean Pertwee) insane and unleashes Talos upon an unsuspecting modern world. A few more years pass before the mysterious death of an American embassy official draws dogged cop Riley (Jason Scott Lee) to London. He unearths a string of bizarre, seemingly unconnected murders that appear to be committed by escaped mental patient Cortese. But when Riley reaches out to Samantha and her fellow scientists, Dr. Claire Mulrooney (Lysette Anthony) and Professor Marcus (Michael Lerner), his skepticism gives way to horror. It appears a disembodied Talos is enacting a blood ritual so when the stars align he will rise again and rule the world.
Mummy movies made a most unexpected comeback throughout the Nineties albeit of a largely underwhelming sort including the Harry Allan Towers backed Tony Curtis vehicle The Mummy Lives (1993) and Bram Stoker update Legend of the Mummy (1997). A pet project for music video maven and genre fan Russell Mulcahy, Talos the Mummy was intended to put such shambolic efforts in the shade as a state-of-the-art spectacle but plagued by production and distribution difficulties lost the race to Stephen Sommers' even more amped-up, crowd-pleasing The Mummy (1999). Shorn of thirty-two minutes, a seemingly mutilated cut went straight to video somewhat ironically re-titled Russell Mulcahy's Tale of the Mummy. Unlike Sommers' rollercoaster ride Mulcahy went for a more ominous, albeit knowing, Hammer horror vibe evident from the iconic presence of Christopher Lee in a nicely atmospheric prologue and a scene recreating the famous shotgun blast to the mummy's chest from Terence Fisher's 1959 version of The Mummy.
Coupled with the action unfolding in a grimy, rainsoaked B-movie vision London rather than the sunny sandscapes of Egypt, such knowing winks might initially endear Talos the Mummy to vintage monster movie fans but alas, the film suffers from Mulcahy's usual sloppy storytelling. Co-written by Mulcahy along with Keith Williams and John Esposito, the cheesy script features some atrocious dialogue and treads a fine line between loving tribute and simply embodying the worst clichés of B-movie horror. To Mulcahy's credit this mummy movie strives for something besides the usual antics of a shambling corpse in bandages incorporating black magic rituals, astrological phenomena, reincarnation, psychics and pitting twentieth century technology against ancient Egyptian sorcery. The high concept extends to the special effects by the KNB group that involve animated bandages engulfing screaming victims before Talos eventually morphs into an underwhelming and laughably chatty bald, naked deity. Unfortunately Mulcahy overreaches with his attempt at Lovecraftian scope and dawdles excessively through not one, but two prologues before establishing his plot. The story ends up violating its own loopy logic for the sake of cheap scares and one deeply dopey twist ending.
An eclectic cast pair veterans like Lee and Honor Blackman with then stars-on-the-rise like Jack Davenport and a young Gerard Butler but the quirky, sarcastic characters fail to engage. Jason Scott Lee plays an oddly uptight hero and while Louise Lombard is initially set up as a feisty, resourceful heroine she ends up at best a bog standard damsel in distress or at worst a red herring. Meanwhile Sean Pertwee runs through another of his patented “blimey, I'm off me trolley!” routines he continued in films like this and Dog Soldiers (2002) following the ghastly Event Horizon (1997). Late in the game the film wheels on Shelley Duvall as a bizarre psychic medium (“I sense a great deal of negative energy”) whose shrill, pointless presence proves a complete waste of screen time. Interestingly, horror fans may not several motifs familiar from the gothic zombie films of Lucio Fulci, e.g. City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981) and The House by the Cemetery (1981): a blind man with a guide dog who come to a sorry end, a psychic medium paired with a skeptic and a crazed visionary, a monster that survives harvesting the organs of others, a band of less than formidable heroes that gradually realize they alone can save the world. Talos the Mummy shares the same disjointed narrative of Fulci's movies but is not as lively.
Australian director with a flashy visual style. A former music video director - most notably for Duran Duran - Mulcahy made an impact in 1984 with his first real film, the Outback creature feature Razorback. 1986's fantasy thriller Highlander was a big cult hit, and its success led to a foray in Hollywood in the 1990s, which included thrillers Ricochet and The Real McCoy, the superhero yarn The Shadow and the sequel Highlander II: The Quickening. Subsequent work has largely been in TV.