The Mummy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although this 2008 release claimed to be “digitally restored for optimum picture quality”, the transfer showed the hallmarks of older mastering and suffered from a mix of concerns.
Edge enhancement created many of the problems. Haloes cropped up throughout the flick, though they were especially prominent during wider shots. While close-ups and two-shots tended to look fine, wide images were often soft and muddy due to the edge enhancement. This made the film less concise than I’d expect.
No issues with shimmering or jaggies occurred, at least, and print flaws appeared pretty much non-existent. I noted a speckle or two, but that was it. However, the mastering left us with some artifacts at times.
In regard to the film’s color scheme, golden tones dominated the proceedings, and the DVD reproduced these in an erratic manner. Some parts of the image displayed a minor orange tint and could be a bit heavy. The colors also worked fine at times, so they weren’t a serious problem. They just weren’t as vivid and effective as I’d like.
At least black levels seemed deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately heavy but never excessively thick, even during the dreaded “day for night” shots. Since so much of the movie took place in underground locations, the quality of the low-light shots became especially important, and they showed nice clarity. Unfortunately, the erratic colors and the softness from the edge enhancement turned this into a mediocre presentation.
At least the Dolby Digital 5.1 worked better. The film’s soundfield seemed nicely encompassing. The forward channels displayed solid breadth and created a convincing and believable spectrum. Sounds appeared properly located within the environment, and they panned neatly between the channels. Jerry Goldsmith’s score pumped brightly from all five speakers throughout the movie, and the surrounds also provided some good effects usage much of the time.
I felt that the latter aspects were a little inconsistent, as some scenes - mainly gun battles - appeared to be a little too heavily anchored in the front, and they failed to spread to the rears as well as I’d like. However, many other segments - particularly the creepy ones in the tombs - were very compellingly rendered, as they used the surrounds to terrific advantage. Ultimately, the soundfield usually seemed visceral and involving, despite a few mildly lackluster segments.
Audio quality appeared to be strong. Although much of the dialogue clearly needed to be looped, the speech always seemed warm and natural, and it integrated into the events well. I noticed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music came across as nicely dynamic and bright, as the score manifested itself with great force. Most of the track’s low end stemmed from the music, which seemed deep and rich. At times effects provided a nice burst of bass, but I thought they could have been more intense. Nonetheless, the effects were clean and realistic, and they fit the action well. In the end, The Mummy sounded quite good.
This was the third DVD release of The Mummy - how does its picture and audio compare to that of the 1999 and 2001 packages? In terms of picture, I think all of them are very similar, if not virtually identical. I see no evidence the DVD does offer a new transfer, since it sure looked a lot like the old one.
In terms of audio, the situation becomes murky because the 2001 “Ultimate Edition” included a DTS 5.1 track not found on the other two sets. I like that one a bit more than the DD 5.1, so the UE’s audio stands out as the best of the bunch.
For this 2008 “Deluxe Edition”, we got most of the extras from the 2001 and 1999 DVDs along with some new ones. I’ll mark the exclusives with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the component popped up in one – or both – of the prior sets.
On the first disc, we find a slew of extras, starting with three running audio commentaries. The first comes from director/writer Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, story issues and editing, the film’s tone, stunts and effects, and a few other shoot specifics.
The commentary proves quite entertaining and informative. Usually in a situation such as this, the director would dominate the track, but these two appear to be old friends so the commentary is better balanced than I would expect. Both men tend to focus on the technical aspects of making the movie, but they also toss in a good number of funny anecdotes from the set. It's a nicely casual track and the two participants are witty and engaging.
The second audio commentary comes solely from actor Brendan Fraser. I looked forward to the piece, but unfortunately, it was a crashing bore. While Fraser occasionally drops in an interesting little tidbit - such as an extra who constantly stared at the camera, or his own near-hanging on the set - for the most part the actor simply giggles as he watches the flick. He interjects vapid statements like “that’s gotta hurt” and “ooh!” from time to time, and he attempts to crack wise throughout the track. It’s all a disaster. I’ve checked out other reviews of this commentary and found those who seemed to find it enjoyable, but I can’t imagine how that could be. I thought Fraser’s track was one of the worst I’ve ever heard, and it was a total disappointment.
Better is the third and final audio commentary. This one involves actors Arnold Vosloo, Kevin J. O’Connor, and Oded Fehr. All three were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. Although they suffer from a little too much “happy talk” at times - during which they tell us how great everything was - the guys nonetheless impart a solid amount of information.
Unlike Fraser, they relate lots of good details about working on the film, and despite the generally positive tone, they’re not shy about complaining from time to time. For instance, Vosloo relates his dislike of some processes, and a few shots are criticized. Overall, the track seemed nicely breezy and engaging; it isn’t a great commentary but I thought it was largely fun and entertaining.
DVD One ends with three Deleted Scenes that last a total of two minutes and 22 seconds. The first two are essentially character exposition, while the last one was a fight scene from the climactic section of the film. None are missed in the final product. During their feature commentary, Sommers and Ducsay discuss why they cut these scenes. From what they say, it sounds like a number of other pieces were cut from the film, so it's a disappointment that we receive so little excised material.
Over on DVD Two, we open with a *Sneak Peek for 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In this three-minute clip, we get a few remarks from Ducsay, Sommers, Fraser, director Rob Cohen, and actors Luke Ford, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh and Maria Bello. The piece exists to promote the new movie, so nothing substantial appears here.
Next comes the four-minute and two-second *An Army to Rule the World – Part 1. It features Ducsay and Sommers as they discuss the film’s depiction of the Priest Mummies. You’ll find a few interesting comments, but the featurette’s brevity means it lacks substance. Oh, and if you want to see Part 2, you’ll have to get the Deluxe Edition of The Mummy Returns.
*Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy lasts eight minutes, seven seconds and features Sommers, Fraser, visual effects supervisor John Berton, producers James Jacks and Sean Daniel, film historians Steve Haberman and Sir Christopher Frayling, makeup artist Nick Dudman, actors Rachel Weisz and John Hannah, and author Stephen Jones. The show nods in the direction of the 1930s Mummy but really exists to promote the 1999 Mummy and 2001’s Mummy Returns. It’s a superficial puff piece that wastes the viewer’s time.
Pretty interesting - though awkwardly executed - is the section called Visual and Special Effects Formation. Essentially, this piece features five different effects scenes from the movie and shows how they were created; each segment progresses a little bit at a time. The effects themselves are presented visually while effects supervisor John Berton discusses them. I liked this section and thought it offered some good information. One nice change: the addition of a “Play All” option absent from the prior disc. That makes the feature much more user-friendly.
Next up on Disc One is a 49-minute and 52-second documentary called Building a Better Mummy. Here we hear from Sommers, Berton, Dudman, Daniel, Fraser, Jacks, Vosloo, Weisz, Hannah, visual effects art director Alex Laurant, ILM visual effects supervisor Daniel Jeanette, CG animation supervisor Dennis Turner, computer graphics supervisors Michael Bauer and Ben Snow, lead Viewpaint artist Catherine Craig, CG sequence supervisors David Horsley and Ed Kramer, and stunt coordinator Simon Crane. Though it branches into broader topics, the show spends most of its time detailing the technical side of the filmmaking process. At the start of the program, Sommers briefly discusses his inspirations for the film, but after that, it's almost entirely a review of the special effects machinery. That's okay, though I would have preferred a program that also got into the "whats" and "whys" as opposed to just the "hows".
All in all, this documentary and the commentary do a great job of detailing that latter issue, but the other two aspects get left out to a large degree. Nonetheless, while the documentary is a little dry, it's still pretty good and worth a look.
We get a Storyboard to Final Film Comparison for seven scenes. Each of these shows the boards at the top of the screen and the finished movie in the bottom half. They run a total of 10 minutes and six seconds. They’re a decent addition if you like this sort of material.
The Photograph Montage follows the same format found on Universal’s Classic Monster DVDs. It offers a slew of production and promotional shots, all of which have been filmed and backed by the movie’s score. This piece runs for four minutes and 18 seconds and makes for a modest but somewhat interesting program.
I like the Egyptology 101 section. This part provides a bunch of text pieces - 43 in all - that discuss various aspects of Egyptian history that relate to the film. The topics fall under these headings: "Artifacts", "Map", "Immortals", "Gods", and "Plagues". Each individual text article runs from 1/4th to 1 1/2 screens long, and they all help provide a nice historical background for the viewer. I found this section to be very informative and interesting.
A similar piece called Pharaoh Lineage tracks three Egyptian eras: “Old Kingdom (2700-2200 BC), “Middle Kingdom (C. 2000-1800 BC) and “New Kingdom (1576-1069 BC). This offers a brief but useful overview. Finally, the movie’s theatrical trailer completes the set.
What extras do we lose from the prior releases? The new set drops some decent cast and crew biographies, text production notes, and a few trailers for other films. It also omits a featurette intended to promote The Mummy Returns. None of these act as huge losses.
14 years down the road, I continue to enjoy 1999’s The Mummy. While it reinvents no wheels, it delivers a fun, action-packed adventure. The DVD presents excellent audio and a solid selection of bonus materials but visuals seem mediocre. This turns into a lackluster DVD due to the iffy picture quality.
To rate this film visit the Blu-ray review of THE MUMMY