As we continue recommending favorite horror movies this October, we can’t help but recall a few monsters. And while some are a little more popular than others (looking at you with your 50+ remakes, Dracula), there’s one film that managed to reimagine itself beyond the cliché and break apart from the creature crowd as an iconic supernatural action-adventure: The Mummy.
Just to clarify, this isn’t your grandmother’s 1930’s Mummy, nor is it Tom Cruise’s dreaded 2017 reimagining. No, this is Universal’s 1999 The Mummy with American adventurer Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser), half-Egyptian badass librarian and hopeful Egyptologist Evelyn “Evy” Carnahan (Rachel Weisz), and her bumbling-but-adored older brother Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah).
Just to give you a sense of the film and what Universal’s branding was going for at the time, I’ve included a favorite childhood commercial that would play before every Universal movie on DVD (to the great annoyance of my mother). Normally I’d just show you the original trailer for the film, but I personally hated it.
Pretty cool, right? Which is exactly what Universal was attempting to seal as its reputation. Spoiler: they knocked it out of the ancient ballpark with this one. Let’s take a look under those bandages and see what made The Mummy so successful.
The Setting: Sand and Blood
In case you hadn’t guessed, the story mostly takes place inside of an ancient Egyptian ruin. Oh, make that a secret ancient Egyptian ruin, one that the film immediately spotlights as a place you’re either visiting to kill, bury or be killed — or to resurrect said killed person. It’s called Hamunaptra, and it’s a legend. Literally.
Follow that up with all the comments about gold and Egypt’s wealthiest Pharoah — plus O’Connell’s initial comment about the whole place just being a pit of “sand and blood” — and your happy little Halloween heart will never want to leave.
The Heroes: Treasure Hunter, Librarian, and Thief
For the sake of time, we can’t expect you to read the hundreds of pages we have on the guns-blazing, sarcastic and tired, didn’t-get-kissed, not-even-mad Rick O’Connell and why he’s the best thing to ever join Universal’s roster of characters.
Instead, we’ve summed it all up with his three best quotes:
- About to be hanged, asked if he has any last requests, O’Connell says, “Yeah, loosen the knot and let me go.”
- When he needs to explain the situation and recruit a drunk British pilot to save his librarian: “Rescue the damsel in distress, kill the bad guy, and save the world.”
- When he meets Mummy for the first time, it screams at him. In response, O’Connell screams back.
Evelyn Carnahan is a little more complicated.
Evy’s a woman who is trying to do her heritage (and famous explorer parents) proud by making a name for herself as an Egyptologist. Except, she’s a little bookish. She also doesn’t have much (any) experience in the field. Not to mention, she’s a woman going after a man’s profession. Back in 1999, this girl was our Hermione when Hermione had just been published. A live-action Belle, perhaps — though much more realized than Disney’s 2017 regurgitation.
And then there’s Jonathan (to be yelled Jon-a-thun), Evy’s older brother who has not once acted like an older anything in his entire life.
He’s just as quick to laugh as he is to steal, and he’s not even slightly sorry for either. To be honest, we love him, and he should be protected at all costs — which O’Connell usually does, since Evy can mostly take care of herself.
If Nice Guy™ O’Connell and feminist Evy weren’t ahead of their time, then the brokenhearted Mummy definitely was. This isn’t some one-dimensional creature who came back to rule the world; this is a guy who was buried alive for loving the wrong person.
Oh, and the digital prosthetics were pretty amazing, too.