The Mummy (HD DVD) (1999)
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Stephen Sommers (Director) & Bob Ducsay (Editor)
Audio Commentary-Brendan Fraser (Actor)
Audio Commentary-O. Fehr (Act), K. O'Connor (Act) & A. Vosloo (Act)
Featurette-Making Of-Visual & Special Effects (4x5)
Featurette-Making Of-Building A Better Mummy (49:52)
|Year Of Production||1999|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Stephen Sommers|
Universal Pictures Home Video
Kevin J. O'Connor
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
German Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Set in Egypt, 1923, The Mummy introduces us to Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser), an ego-centric American commander and collector who has foolishly led his garrison across Egypt in search of Hamunaptra, said to be the resting place of the black book of the dead. Rick's luck turns bad when he is captured and sentenced to be hung before he can complete his quest. It seems his knowledge of the area will die with him, until he is saved at the last minute by Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), an English librarian at the museum of antiquities who seeks the same prize. Proficient in ancient languages and all things Egyptian, the pair set off in search of the book, but they are not alone in their quest. An American team is hot on their tail, not to mention a strange cult of men in black robes who travel on horseback. Not surprisingly, while disturbing ancient relics they unwittingly awaken Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) in the process, who in accordance with Egyptian legend unleashes the ten plagues of Egypt. These would include raining fire, plagues of scarabs, solar eclipses and the like. Can Rick and Evelyn save the world from Imhotep's destructive rage?
The Mummy is a fun family adventure with not a lot to challenge the old grey matter. The cast seen here is strong and was also assembled for the sequel of 2001. Oded Fehr is suitably enigmatic as Ardeth Bay and John Hannah occupies a considerably larger role in this film as Evelyn's Brother, Jonathan.
As I said in my review of The Mummy Returns, The Mummy series is campy (or should I say corny?) fun, but the CG special effects do come across a little clunky and cartoon-like, showing just how far CG effects have progressed in the last few years. As is evidenced in the Making-of featurettes, motion capture was in its infancy at this time, and it should be recognised that the effects utilised here were cutting edge in their day.
My review of the sequel, The Mummy Returns on HD DVD, can be found here.
The transfer is presented at 1080p resolution in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in a native 16x9 HD frame.
Being a relatively recent film, there aren't a great deal of issues to be concerned about. The level of fine detail is great, especially in fine textures such as wardrobe and distant detail such as trees and brickwork. The dark, shadowy tombs and dim, candle-lit passageways are nicely reproduced, while black levels are absolutely solid when need be.
Like the HD transfer for the follow-up, The Mummy Returns, I found that the overall palette is a little on the rosy side for my tastes. Skin tones also suffer from a rosy hue that may be the director's intention. There are no rendering issues or grading inconsistencies that I could make out.
The video stream has been compressed via the VC-1 codec, and as such there are no visible compression glitches to be seen. As far as film artefacts go, I noticed a few scratches here and there. Note the thin scratch that occupies the length of the frame at 11:50. Positive and negative artefacts are visible throughout to varying degrees, but the source is in an otherwise good condition.
An English subtitle stream is included for the hearing impaired. The text roughly follows the dialogue and is easy to read. Some subs are forced by default to translate what I presume is Ancient Egyptian, as well as provide location titles. The font is all capitals and very unsightly, but I presume this is trying to replicate the titles that were burned into theatrical prints.
This disc is dual layered (HD-30).
There are six soundtracks available, two of which are foreign language dubs. The default soundtrack is determined by the viewer's selection in an initial language setup menu. I listened to the film's original English audio (Dolby Digital Plus 5.1), as well as the three Audio Commentaries (Dolby Digital 2.0).
The English audio is noticeably quieter than the other soundtracks. Having said that, I found the English audio to be surprisingly bright, with a nice weight behind the effects and score. The English dialogue is distinct and not overpowered in the slightest. Both the ADR and audio sync are perfect.
Surround activity is applied to add weight to the film's score, as well as a broad range of directional effects. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel throughout the film.
The score is credited to Jerry Goldsmith and is of a similar vein to many other classic adventure themes. The music flows perfectly with the film's tension, action and emotion.
The LFE channel is put to good use, adding bottom end to effects such as explosions and gunfire, even the odd tense rumble in the appropriate places.
|Surround Channel Use|
These extras are the cream of the bonus material, taken from the old Ultimate Edition DVD. All are standard definition, with stereo audio unless noted otherwise. None are 16x9 enhanced.
A standard feature on Universal titles, the screen saver appears when the film is paused for a few minutes or the menu is left to rotate a number of times.
This commentary covers most aspects of the production, from special effects and ILM to specific challenges that were encountered during certain scenes. Sommers shares his thoughts on working with extras, and the benefits of working on location as opposed to a studio lot. This is easily the best of the three commentaries on this disc.
Fraser clearly enjoyed the experience and is a very enthusiastic speaker, but he often falls into the trap of describing what we are seeing on screen, which is pretty irritating. I also found that he repeated a lot of the information that was mentioned in the above commentary.
Vosloo seems to do most of the talking in this commentary, but the others to chime in now and then with anecdotes and humorous comments. The three men discuss experiences they had during filming and often ask questions of each other. I found this commentary far more enlightening than the Fraser effort.
This Making Of covers a lot of ground via revealing interviews with the director, cast and crew. Sommers speaks of his love for the Karloff original, while the producers seem to have a broader appreciation for the franchise, citing many other interpretations of the Mummy character, including those from Hammer Films. This featurette also features interviews with animators and conceptual artists, as well as modellers who are coming to terms with the technology that was available in these early days of motion capture.
Five of the major effects sequences are covered, each with a commentary by John Berton, as well as alternate featurettes separated to cover four stages of CG development (that's three brief featurettes for each sequence- the fourth is an excerpt from the film, showing the final outcome, presented in 1080p HD). Berton is the Visual Effects Supervisor for ILM.
There are three short deleted sequences that amount to nothing more than unnecessary padding. None are missed in my opinion and it is easy to see why these were trimmed.
Three short sequences from the film are shown in split screen, with the original storyboards above for comparison. It's interesting to see how these evolved into the final product.
A montage of photos that were taken during the film's production, set to audio from the film's score.
A very poor quality trailer that appears to have been sourced from analogue tape.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The 2-Disc Ultimate Edition of 2001 included these additional items:
As I said above, only the really worthwhile extras have been retained for this HD DVD version.
The North American version of this HD DVD title is identical, aside from some alternate dubbed languages. Like most other Universal HD titles ours is identical to the European release, even down to the Euro ratings logos printed on the label side of the disc.
The video transfer is good.
The audio transfer is quite active.
The extras give good insight into the production.
|DVD||Toshiba HD-D1, using HDMI output|
|Display||Sanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Denon AVR-3806 (7.1 Channels)|
|Speakers||Orpheus Aurora III floor-standing Mains and Surrounds. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Center. Mirage 10 inch powered sub.|