I’ve never been big on action/adventure, but as a kid, there were a few films of the genre that I absolutely loved. One such film was The Mummy.
The Mummy was released in 1999 and is loosely based off of the 1932 Boris Karloff film of the same name. Originally intended as a low-budget horror, the film became part of a blockbuster adventure series. It was followed by The Mummy Returns (2001), The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008, which I haven’t seen) and a prequel, The Scorpion King (2002). It also inspired an animated television series.
I was seven years old, a few months away from turning eight, when the 1999 film was released. I was obsessed with ancient Egypt at the time and have always loved history, so even though the adventure genre wasn’t a favorite I fell in love with the film.
The Mummy opens in Egypt in 1290 BCE. Imhotep is having an affair with Anck-su-Namun, the mistress of the Pharaoh. When their relationship is discovered, Imhotep and Anck-su-Namun plot to murder the Pharaoh. When Anck-su-Namun is discovered with the dead Pharaoh by his guards, she kills herself, hoping that Imhotep will resurrect her.
The plan goes awry when Imhotep and his priests are caught by the Pharaoh’s guards in Hamunaptra before being able to complete the ceremony, and Imhotep is buried alive in a sarcophagus with flesh-eating beetles. Needless to say, if Imhotep’s eternal soul is ever released from that sarcophagus, he’s going to be ready to unleash a can of whoop-ass on the world.
Flash forward to 1926 in Cairo. Librarian and amateur Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) and her brother Johnathon (John Hannah) are hoping to find Hamunaptra, the city of the dead. With the help of American adventurer Rick O’Connell, who Evelyn saves from a death sentence, the siblings set off on their quest (along with some competing explorers).
It had been years since I’d seen this film, but my sister and I recently stumbled upon a used copy at my favorite record store and we couldn’t pass it up. We used to watch it all the time with our dad, especially on rainy days during camping trips.
Part of the reason I loved the film when I was younger was that I was jealous of the characters. I wanted a star-shaped key. I wanted to hang out with Oded Fehr. I wanted to live in the library where Rachel Weisz’s character worked. (I bet it would smell really good, with all of those old books! And yes, I’m one of those freaks who loves the smell of old books.)
I pretty much wanted to be Evelyn, because she had both of my dream jobs and is a smart, tough lady. Watching the film brings back childhood memories of wanting to become an archaeologist/Egyptologist.
I also loved the excitement of it all. The battle with the pirate invaders on the boat terrified me when I was younger, and it’s still one of the film’s most gripping and dramatic portions. The film is still full of adventure and thrills, even though I’ve seen it about a million times or so – the action doesn’t get dull upon re-watching. The flesh-eating scarabs are still the stuff of nightmares.
The film really fits into the traditional “adventure” style. Thrills, romance, superstition, expedition and a mildly skewed version of history all come together to make a very exciting story. This is probably why I still like the film after so many years. It delivers many surprises while staying true to the formula of the few adventure films that I count as favorites.
Despite The Mummy‘s historical inaccuracies and completely unbelievable fantasy elements, it’s still very easy to get wrapped up in the story. Fellow classic film fans may crucify me for liking this, but it’s definitely a childhood favorite that stands the test of time for me. It’s more than a little bit ridiculous, but always enjoyable to watch.