Sunday, October 19, 2008

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: I Want My Mummy!

While going through the coupon section of the Sunday paper this morning Chris pulled out a photo of Mummydogs in a Pillsbury ad. I'm not sure how much they actually look like mummies (the little caps and smiley faces sorta throw me) but I have to admit they look fun and I'm sure we'll be making them before Halloween is past.

I wish I thought mummy movies were as much fun as these Mummydogs look. Of all the "classic" monsters, I'd probably rank the venerable, regal mummy at the bottom of the list. I've always enjoyed both the classic Universal and Hammer versions of Frankenstein, the vampire is almost always entertaining (hey, I did say almost), I definitely loves me some werewolf movies (lately I prefer the Naschy variants most), and I'm a total sucker for mutant monster fish.

Unfortunately, I don't have quite the same love for mummy flicks. I've always found the Universal versions so dreadfully dull and boring that I've never bothered with the either the Hammer or even Paul Naschy varieties (though I'm admittedly curious about his VENGEANCE OF THE MUMMY). And though I admittedly enjoyed the first Brandon Frasier MUMMY in a check-your-brain-at-the-door kinda way, I wasn't in a rush to go see the CGI-packed third installment that hit theaters this summer.

That doesn't mean I'm above giving mummy flicks a try every now and then. Just recently I checked out DAWN OF THE MUMMY, a much-discussed 80s mummy sweepstakes entry that has camps of both detractors and fans. Heck, some folks – me included – probably cross into both groups.

After the requisite ancient Egyptian pre-credit sequence a trio of treasure hunters/grave robbers led by Rick (Barry Sattels) have found the secret tomb and after avoiding the killer poison gas begin the job of desecrating the tomb in the name of gold, Gold, GOLD!

Cue the surreptitiously-shot 1981 NYC street footage (complete with a roller boogie aerobic workout getup) as we're introduced to a group of fashion models and their photographer looking for their big break. Unable to find suitable sets in the pop culture capital of the world they jet to the desert for a make-or-break magazine spread that'll make them all famous. And wouldn't you know it, they break down near Rick and Co., one of whom suspects the modeling troupe of being thieves out to steal the gold they're stealing. A stray bullet later and the models barge in on the tomb figuring it'll be perfect for their groundbreaking magazine spread.

While director Frank Agarma does a competent job of getting the first third rolling, it quickly becomes apparent why detractors have labeled the film YAWN OF THE MUMMY. The middle third takes what feels like forever to play out as assistants get their hands burned and the mummy that had been boiling and smoking in the center of the room suddenly disappears, a fact that nobody in the group seems to notice.

It's only when a model gets attacked by the slow-moving yet surprisingly spooky mummy and his army on zombified, flesh-chomping guardians that DAWN kicks back into gear. Once it turns into a mummy flick in name only and unleashes the zombie followers on the models, grave robbers, and an entire village celebrating a wedding, the blood starts flowing, things get a little wet and it becomes much more like the Italian gut-munchers that were all the rage at the time. And hold such a special place in my heart.

Too bad the most readily available DVD features such wretched presentation. The attack on the camp is almost indecipherable and I'd probably rate the flick higher if I could see what the hell was going on during some the juicy-sounding gut-munching.

Despite my love for his flicks like RATS: A NIGHT OF TERROR and the awesome NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES, Eurotrash great Bruno Mattei doesn't fare a whole lot better with the shamefully cheap-looking THE TOMB. Mining similar territory as DAWN, THE TOMB starts off with an ancient Egyptian human sacrifice plot gone horribly and fast forwards to the present where a professor and his archeology students fill in for DAWN'S photographer and his models.

After their initial guide freaks out in a bar (cue the FROM DUSK TILL DAWN-inspired monster-stripper action), runs in to a cemetery and gets accosted by skeleton footage blatantly lifted from Sam Raimi's ARMY OF DARKNESS, the professor and his crew are forced to use a creepy local healer to help them find the temple. It won't come as much of a surprise that they miraculously find the temple, the students begin getting picked off in a series of "accidents", or that their arrival coincides with the exact date the evil priestess from the opening is supposed to rise from the dead.

A little heavy on "aftermath" effects and short on real gore moments, THE TOMB does feature death by tunnel trap, the old spider-out-of-the-mouth gag, undead drummers, reanimated high priests, and enough footage lifted from other movies that it eventually stops being comical and starts approaching criminal. While I've certainly seen – and enjoyed – worse nonsense than this, it takes a good deal of effort to get to THE TOMB'S handful of enjoyable moments. Skip this one and watch the classic NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES again or maybe track down the crazy looking LAND OF DEATH.

1 comment:

Cav said...

Hey there - linked to your post on my blog, as I'm doing a mummy marathon. Loving the mummydogs.
- http://monstermayhem.wordpress.com/

You should check out the first Hammer mummy movie though; it's great - http://monstermayhem.wordpress.com/2008/10/18/its-hammer-time-the-mummy-1959/