The Mummy (1999 film)

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The Mummy
The mummy.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Stephen Sommers
Produced by
Screenplay by Stephen Sommers
Story by
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Adrian Biddle
Edited by Bob Ducsay
Alphaville Films
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • May 7, 1999 (1999-05-07)
Running time
125 minutes
Country United States
Language English[1]
Budget $80 million
Box office $415.9 million

The Mummy is a 1999 American action adventure horror film[2][3] written and directed by Stephen Sommers and starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, and Kevin J. O'Connor, with Arnold Vosloo in the title role as the reanimated mummy.[4] It is a loose remake of the 1932 film The Mummy which starred Boris Karloff in the title role.

Filming began in Marrakech, Morocco, on May 4, 1998, and lasted seventeen weeks; the crew had to endure dehydration, sandstorms, and snakes while filming in the Sahara. The visual effects were provided by Industrial Light & Magic, who blended film and computer-generated imagery to create the titular Mummy. Jerry Goldsmith provided the orchestral score.

The Mummy opened on May 7, 1999, and grossed $43 million in 3,210 theaters during its opening weekend in the United States; a surprise hit,[5] the film went on to gross $416 million worldwide. The box-office success led to a 2001 sequel, The Mummy Returns, as well as The Mummy: The Animated Series, and the prequel/spin-off film The Scorpion King. Seven years later, the third installment, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, opened on August 1, 2008. Universal Pictures also opened a roller coaster, Revenge of the Mummy, in 2004. Novelizations of the film and its sequels were written by Max Allan Collins.


In Thebes, Egypt, 1290 BC, high priest Imhotep engages in an affair with Anck-su-Namun, the mistress (future wife) of Pharaoh Seti I. When the Pharaoh discovers their tryst, Imhotep and Anck-su-Namun assassinate him. As Seti's bodyguards arrive too late to save him, Imhotep flees while Anck-su-Namun kills herself, intending for Imhotep to resurrect her. Imhotep and his priests steal her corpse and travel to Hamunaptra, the city of the dead, but the resurrection ritual is stopped by Seti's bodyguards, the Medjai. Imhotep's priests are all mummified alive, while Imhotep himself is sentenced to immortal agony, buried alive with flesh eating scarab beetles. Imhotep is sealed away in a sarcophagus at the feet of a statue of the Egyptian god Anubis, and kept under strict surveillance by the Medjai, since if Imhotep were ever to return, the entire world would be doomed.

In 1925, Jonathan Carnahan presents his sister Evelyn, a Cairo librarian and aspiring Egyptologist, an intricate box and map. After the pair discover the map leads to Hamunaptra, Jonathan reveals he stole it from an American adventurer, Rick O'Connell, who encountered the city while in the French Foreign Legion. Rick makes a deal with Evelyn to lead them there after she releases him from prison.

Rick leads Evelyn and her party to the city, where the group encounters a band of American treasure hunters guided by Rick's cowardly colleague Beni Gabor. Shortly after reaching Hamunaptra, the expeditions are then attacked by the Medjai, led by the warrior Ardeth Bay. Despite Ardith's warning of the city's evil, the two expeditions continue to excavate. Evelyn searches for the famous Book of the Living, a book made of pure gold. Instead of finding the book, however, she, Rick, and Jonathan stumble upon the statue of Anubis and the remains of Imhotep buried underneath. The team of Americans, meanwhile, discover the black Book of the Dead, accompanied by canopic jars carrying Anck-su-Namun's preserved organs.

At night, Evelyn takes the Book of the Dead and reads a page aloud, accidentally awakening Imhotep. The expeditions return to Cairo, but Imhotep follows them with the help of Beni. Imhotep returns to full strength by killing the Americans one by one, and brings the 10 plagues back to Egypt. Seeking a way to stop Imhotep, Rick, Evelyn and Jonathan meet Ardeth at a museum. Ardeth hypothesizes that Imhotep wants to resurrect his lover again and will do so by sacrificing Evelyn. Evelyn muses that if the Book of the Dead brought Imhotep back to life, the Book of the Living can kill him again, and deduces the book's whereabouts. Imhotep corners the group with an army of slaves. Evelyn agrees to accompany Imhotep if he spares the lives of the rest of the group.

Imhotep, Evelyn and Beni return to Hamunaptra, pursued by Rick, Jonathan, and Ardeth. Imhotep prepares to sacrifice Evelyn, but she is rescued after an intense battle with Imhotep's mummified priests. When Evelyn reads from the Book of Amun-Ra, Imhotep becomes mortal again and Rick forces him into the River of Death. Rapidly decaying, Imhotep leaves the world of the living, vowing revenge. While looting treasure from the pyramid, Beni accidentally sets off an ancient booby trap and is trapped by a swarm of flesh-eating scarabs as Hamunaptra collapses into the sand. Ardeth rides away as Rick and Evelyn kiss and, with Jonathan, ride off into the sunset on a pair of camels laden with Beni's treasure.


  • Brendan Fraser as Richard "Rick" O'Connell
    An adventurer who served in the French Foreign Legion. Producer James Jacks offered the role of Rick O'Connell to Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck but the actors were not interested or could not fit the role into their respective schedules.[6] Jacks and director Stephen Sommers were impressed with the money that George of the Jungle was making at the box office and cast Brendan Fraser as a result;[6] Sommers also commented that he felt Fraser fit the Errol Flynn swashbuckling character he had envisioned perfectly.[7] The actor understood that his character "doesn't take himself too seriously, otherwise the audience can't go on that journey with him".[8]
  • Rachel Weisz as Evelyn "Evie" Carnahan
    A clumsy yet intelligent Egyptologist. Evelyn undertakes the expedition to Hamunaptra to discover an ancient book, proving herself to her peers. Rachel Weisz was not a big fan of horror films but did not see this film as such. As she said in an interview, "It's hokum, a comic book world."[9]
  • Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep
    Pharaoh's High Priest and one of Pharaoh Seti I's most trusted advisers, Imhotep betrays his sovereign out of love for Anck-su-namun. He is cursed and slowly killed for his treachery, but is resurrected 3,000 years later. South African stage actor Vosloo understood the approach that Sommers was going for in his screenplay, but only agreed to take on the role of Imhotep "if I could do it absolutely straight. From Imhotep's point of view, this is a skewed version of 'Romeo and Juliet'."[6][10]
  • John Hannah as Jonathan Carnahan
    Evelyn's bumbling older brother, whose primary goal is to get rich; he signs on for the trip to Hamunaptra after learning from Evelyn that the city is supposed to be where the ancient pharaohs hid "the wealth of Egypt." Jonathan is also a thief; he steals the key needed to open the Book of Amun-Ra from Rick in prison, and manages to pickpocket the same key from Imhotep during the film's climactic battle.
  • Kevin J. O'Connor as Beni Gabor
    A former soldier in the French Foreign Legion, like Rick. Beni is obsessed with wealth, but also extremely cowardly; he betrays his employers when faced with Imhotep's wrath, who takes him as his servant when Beni prays in what Imhotep recognizes as the "language of the slaves".
  • Jonathan Hyde as Dr. Allen Chamberlain
    An eminent British Egyptologist guiding the American expedition.
  • Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay
    A Medjai and protector of the city.
  • Erick Avari as Dr. Terrence Bey
    The curator of the museum as well as a Medjai.
  • Patricia Velásquez as Anck-Su-Namun
    A secret lover of Imhotep and the mistress of Pharaoh Seti I. No other man was ever allowed to touch her.
  • Bernard Fox as Captain Winston Havlock
    An ally of Rick as well as the professional pilot and within his service in the Royal Air Force during the first World War.
  • Omid Djalili as Warden Gad Hassan
    A Prison Warden in Cairo Prison who releases Rick from prison after being offered a cut of any treasure Evelyn and Jonathan find at the city of the dead, and accompanies them on the expedition to protect his investment.
  • Stephen Dunham, Corey Johnson, and Tuc Watkins as Christopher Henderson, David Daniels and Bernard Burns, the three American treasure hunters respectively.



In 1992, producers James Jacks and Sean Daniel decided to update the original Mummy film for the 1990s.[11] Universal Studios gave them the go-ahead, but only if they kept the budget around $10 million.[6] Jacks remembers that the studio "essentially wanted a low-budget horror franchise";[6] in response, Jacks and Daniel recruited horror filmmaker/writer Clive Barker on board to direct. Barker's vision for the film was violent, with the story revolving around the head of a contemporary art museum who turns out to be a cultist trying to reanimate mummies.[11][12] Jacks recalls that Barker's take was "dark, sexual and filled with mysticism",[6] and that, "it would have been a great low-budget movie".[12] After several meetings, Barker and Universal lost interest and parted company.

Filmmaker George A. Romero was brought in with a vision of a zombie-style horror movie similar to Night of the Living Dead, but which also relied heavily upon elements of tragic romance and ambivalence of identity. Romero completed a draft in October 1994, cowritten with Alan Ormsby and John Sayles, that revolved around female archaeologist Helen Grover and her discovery in Abydos of the tomb of Imhotep, an Egyptian general who lived in the time of Ramesses II.[6] Unfolding in a nameless American city in modern times, events are set into motion when Imhotep inadvertently awakens as a result of his preserved cadaver having been exposed to rays from an MRI scan in a high-tech forensic archaeology lab. The script then progresses to a fish-out-of-water story when Imhotep, having regained his youthful appearance, recognizes the need to adapt to a contemporary society that is three thousand years removed from the one he came from. Assuming at first that he is a representative from the Bureau of Antiquities, Helen finds herself drawn into a tentative relationship with Imhotep while also experiencing clairvoyant flashbacks to a previous life in Nineteenth Dynasty Egypt as a priestess of Isis. Summoning mystical powers through incantation, Imhotep later resurrects the mummy of Karis, a loyal slave whose body had been resting alongside his master's in the same tomb but is now held in the local museum. After escaping into the city sewer system, Karis embarks on a vengeful rampage against the various criminal fences and high society antiquarians who had acquired stolen relics from his tomb. Romero's script was considered too dark and violent by Jacks and the studio, who wanted a more accessible picture. Compounding the issue was the fact that Romero was unable to extricate from a contract for a different film project he had in negotiation at the time with MGM, and so his involvement with the film was severed and the development of an entirely new script was commissioned to other writers.[6]

Joe Dante was the next choice, increasing the budget for his idea of Daniel Day-Lewis as a brooding Mummy.[6] This version (co-written by John Sayles) was set in contemporary times and focused on reincarnation with elements of a love story.[12] It came close to being made with some elements, like the flesh-eating scarabs, making it to the final product.[11] However, at that point, the studio wanted a film with a budget of $15 million and rejected Dante's version. Soon after, Mick Garris was attached to direct but eventually left the project,[13] and Wes Craven was offered the film but turned it down.[12] Then, Stephen Sommers called Jacks and Daniel in 1997 with his vision of The Mummy "as a kind of Indiana Jones or Jason and the Argonauts with the mummy as the creature giving the hero a hard time".[6] Sommers had seen the original film when he was eight, and wanted to recreate the things he liked about it on a bigger scale.[14] He had wanted to make a Mummy film since 1993, but other writers or directors were always attached. Finally, Sommers received his window of opportunity and pitched his idea to Universal with an 18-page treatment.[11] At the time, Universal's management had changed in response to the box office failure of Babe: Pig in the City, and the loss led the studio to want to revisit its successful franchises from the 1930s.[15] Universal liked this idea so much that they approved the concept and increased the budget from $15 million to $80 million.[16]

Principal photography[edit]

Filming began in Marrakech, Morocco on May 4, 1998 and lasted 17 weeks. Photography then moved to the Sahara desert outside the small town of Erfoud, and then to the United Kingdom before completion of shooting on August 29, 1998.[17] The crew could not shoot in Egypt because of the unstable political conditions.[18] To avoid dehydration in the scorching heat of the Sahara, the production's medical team created a drink that the cast and crew had to consume every two hours.[8] Sandstorms were daily inconveniences. Snakes, spiders and scorpions were a major problem, with many crew members having to be airlifted out after being bitten.[18]

Brendan Fraser nearly died during a scene where his character is hanged. Weisz remembered, "He [Fraser] stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated."[9] The production had the official support of the Moroccan army, and the cast members had kidnapping insurance taken out on them,[12] a fact Sommers disclosed to the cast only after shooting had finished.[7]

Production Designer Allan Cameron found a dormant volcano near Erfoud where the entire set for Hamunaptra could be constructed. Sommers liked the location because, "A city hidden in the crater of an extinct volcano made perfect sense. Out in the middle of the desert you would never see it. You would never think of entering the crater unless you knew what was inside that volcano."[17] A survey of the volcano was conducted so that an accurate model and scale models of the columns and statues could be replicated back at Shepperton Studios, where all of the scenes involving the underground passageways of the City of the Dead were shot. These sets took 16 weeks to build, and included fiberglass columns rigged with special effects for the movie's final scenes.[17] Another large set was constructed in the United Kingdom on the dockyard at Chatham which doubled for the Giza Port on the River Nile.[19] This set was 600 feet (183 m) in length and featured "a steam train, an Ajax traction engine, three cranes, an open two-horse carriage, four horse-drawn carts, five dressing horses and grooms, nine pack donkeys and mules, as well as market stalls, Arab-clad vendors and room for 300 costumed extras".[17]

Special effects[edit]

The filmmakers reportedly spent $15 million of the $80 million budget on special effects, provided by Industrial Light & Magic;[20][21] the producers wanted a new look for the Mummy so that they would avoid comparisons to past movies.[20] John Andrew Berton, Jr., Industrial Light & Magic's Visual Effects Supervisor on The Mummy, started developing the look three months before filming started. He said that he wanted the Mummy "to be mean, tough, nasty, something that had never been seen by audiences before". Berton used motion capture in order to achieve "a menacing and very realistic Mummy".[17] Specific photography was conducted on actor Arnold Vosloo so that the special effects crew could see exactly how he moved and replicate it.[20]

To create the Mummy, Berton used a combination of live action and computer graphics. Then, he matched the digital prosthetic make-up pieces on Vosloo's face during filming. Berton said, "When you see his film image, that's him. When he turns his head and half of his face is missing and you can see right through on to his teeth, that's really his face. And that's why it was so hard to do."[17] Vosloo described the filming as a "whole new thing" for him; "They had to put these little red tracking lights all over my face so they could map in the special effects. A lot of the time I was walking around the set looking like a Christmas tree."[7] Make-Up Effects Supervisor Nick Dudman produced the physical creature effects in the film, including three-dimensional make-up and prosthetics. He also designed all of the animatronic effects. While the film made extensive use of computer generated imagery, many scenes, including ones where Rachel Weisz's character is covered with rats and locusts, were real, using live animals.[18]


The Mummy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Jerry Goldsmith
Released May 4, 1999
Length 57:46
Label PolyGram
Jerry Goldsmith chronology
Star Trek: Insurrection The Mummy The 13th Warrior
The Mummy soundtrack chronology
The Mummy The Mummy Returns
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars
Filmtracks 3/5 stars
Tracksounds 6/10 stars

The Mummy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith, with orchestrations provided by Alexander Courage.[22] The soundtrack was released by Decca Records on May 4, 1999. Like many Goldsmith scores, the main theme uses extensive brass and percussion elements;[23] Goldsmith also used sparing amounts of vocals, highly unusual for most of his work.[23]

Overall, Goldsmith's score was well received. AllMusic described it as a "grand, melodramatic score" which delivered the expected highlights.[22] Other reviews positively noted the dark, percussive sound meshed well with the plot, as well as the raw power of the music. The limited but masterful use of the chorus was also lauded, and most critics found the final track on the CD to be the best overall.[23][24] On the other hand, some critics found the score lacked cohesion,[25] and that the constant heavy action lent itself to annoying repetition.[23] Roderick Scott off summed up the score as "representative of both Goldsmith's absolute best and his most mediocre. Thankfully [...] his favourable work on this release wins out."[24]

No. Title Length
1. "Imhotep"   4:20
2. "The Sarcophagus"   2:17
3. "Taureg Attack"   2:23
4. "Giza Port"   2:01
5. "Night Boarders"   4:08
6. "The Caravan"   2:52
7. "Camel Race"   3:26
8. "The Crypt"   2:26
9. "Mumia Attack"   2:19
10. "Discoveries"   3:41
11. "My Favorite Plague"   3:59
12. "Crowd Control"   3:12
13. "Rebirth"   8:33
14. "The Mummy"   6:19
15. "The Sand Volcano"   5:41


Box office[edit]

The Mummy opened on May 7, 1999, and grossed $43 million in 3,210 theaters in the United States on its opening weekend. The film went on to gross $415 million worldwide (Domestic: $155 million; Foreign: $260 million).[26]

Critical reaction[edit]

The Mummy received mixed reviews from critics.[27] On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds a 55% rating, based on 83 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "It's difficult to make a persuasive argument for The Mummy as any kind of meaningful cinematic achievement, but it's undeniably fun to watch."[28] On Metacritic the film has a score of 48 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[29]

Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, writing "There is hardly a thing I can say in its favor, except that I was cheered by nearly every minute of it. I cannot argue for the script, the direction, the acting or even the mummy, but I can say that I was not bored and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased."[30] Likewise, Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B-" grade and said, "The Mummy would like to make you shudder, but it tries to do so without ever letting go of its jocular inconsequentiality."[31] Bob Graham of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film high marks for the acting as well as the special effects.[32]

Stephen Holden from The New York Times wrote, "This version of The Mummy has no pretenses to be anything other than a gaudy comic video game splashed onto the screen. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark with cartoon characters, no coherent story line and lavish but cheesy special effects. Think Night of the Living Dead stripped of genuine horror and restaged as an Egyptian-theme Halloween pageant. Think Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy grafted onto a Bing Crosby-Bob Hope road picture (The Road to Hamunaptra?) and pumped up into an epic-size genre spoof."[33] Publications like The Austin Chronicle and Dallas Observer came to the conclusion that despite good acting and special effects, the movie lacked cohesion;[34][35] talking about the special effects, the Observer lamented "If only generating a soul for the film itself were so easy."[34] Other publications such as Jump Cut felt that Industrial Light and Magic's lock on special effects proved detrimental to The Mummy; "The mummy", Ernest Larson wrote for the Jump Cut, "is standard-issue I.L.&M.".[36] Kim Newman of the British Film Institute judged the picture inferior to the original, as all the time was spent on special effects, instead of creating the atmosphere which made the original film such a classic.[37] USA Today gave the film two out of four stars and felt that it was "not free of stereotypes",[38] a sentiment with which the BFI concurred.[37] "If someone complains of a foul odor, you can be sure an Arab stooge is about to enter a scene. Fraser, equally quick with weapon, fist or quip, may save the day, but even he can't save the picture", USA Today wrote.[38]


Award Subject Nominee Result
Academy Awards Best Sound Mixing Leslie Shatz, Chris Carpenter, Rick Kline and Chris Munro Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Action Sequence Nominated
BMI Film Awards Best Music Jerry Goldsmith Won
Saturn Awards Nominated
Best Fantasy Film Nominated
Best Director Stephen Sommers Nominated
Best Writer Nominated
Best Actor Brendan Fraser Nominated
Best Actress Rachel Weisz Nominated
Best Costumes John Bloomfield Nominated
Best Makeup Nick Dudman and Aileen Seaton Won
Best Special Effects John Andrew Berton, Jr., Daniel Jeannette, Ben Snow and Chris Corbould Nominated
BAFTA Awards Best Visual Effects Nominated
Satellite Awards Nominated
Sierra Awards Nominated
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actor - Action Brendan Fraser Nominated
Favorite Actress - Action Rachel Weisz Nominated
Favorite Supporting Actor - Action John Hannah Nominated
Favorite Villain Arnold Vosloo Nominated
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing - Effects & Foley Leslie Shatz, Jonathan Klein, Richard Burton, Thom Brennan and Mark Pappas Nominated


The entrance to Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Hollywood.

The Mummy's box office performance led to numerous sequels and spinoffs. In 2001, the sequel The Mummy Returns was released; the film features most of the surviving principal characters, as a married Rick and Evelyn confront Imhotep and the Scorpion King.[39] The film also introduced the heroes' son, Alex.[39] The two films inspired both an animated series which lasted two seasons, and a spin-off prequel, The Scorpion King (2002), telling the story of the Akkadian warrior as he was crowned king.

A second sequel, called The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, was released on August 1, 2008. The story takes place in China with the Terracotta Emperor inspiring the villain, while Rachel Weisz was replaced with Maria Bello.[40][41] A prequel to The Scorpion King, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, was released direct-to-DVD. Both films were poorly received by critics.

Two video game adaptations of The Mummy were published by Konami and Universal Interactive in 2000: an Action Adventure for the PlayStation and PC developed by Rebellion Developments,[42] as well as a Game Boy Color puzzle game developed by Konami Nagoya.[43] The film also inspired a roller coaster, Revenge of the Mummy in three Universal Studios Theme Parks: Hollywood, California; Orlando, Florida; and Sentosa, Singapore. On April 4, 2012, Universal announced their plans to reboot the franchise.[44]


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  44. ^ Kroll, Justin, Snieder, Jeff, "U sets 'Mummy' reboot with Spaihts",, Published 2012-04-04, Retrieved 2012-05-04.

External links[edit]