Wednesday, May 12, 1999

The Mummy

Posted By on Wed, May 12, 1999 at 12:00 AM

Perhaps the best thing about The Mummy is that it was shot on location, in the hallucinatory deserts of Morocco which spell insanity and disenchantment in Bertolucci’s The Sheltering Sky. A meditation on love and nothingness inspired by a poem written by Bernardo’s father – "Sand is sand moved by the wind" – Sky was initially called Tea in the Desert, after a story Bertolucci had heard. Three women decide to have tea in the desert, on the highest dune. Later that day, the servants find the women dead and their cups filled with sand.

With the mood swings of a jealous lover, the desert breathes nostalgia, and that’s precisely the feel of The Mummy. Indebted to, but careful not to duplicate the look of the Hammer productions, director Stephen Sommers (The Jungle Book) and his crew decided to put up with temperatures of 130 degrees and with the local fauna – snakes, scorpions, spiders – for "the pure beauty of the locations."

"We have cliffs, we have mountains, we have long expanses of rock-hard desert for the camels and horses to race on, we have huge sand dunes. We never could have gotten that in California or Arizona," says producer James Jacks.

But The Mummy is not all about great locations and super-cool special effects, about Raiders of the Lost Ark surviving Night of the Living Dead. Its "dream at the end of the world" quality makes us care about its accidental hero, Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser), and his intelligent companion, Evelyn (Rachel Weisz of Chain Reaction), who’d sell her soul to the devil for a great archaeological site; and, yes, even about Imhotep, the Mummy, who – in the final instance – is nothing but a man in love.

Or maybe the extraordinary kindnesses exchanged by the characters have nothing to do with it, and we like The Mummy simply because it pays homage to so many great adventure films while making fun of its own stereotypical situations. "All you have to do," Rick tells his friend, "is rescue the damsel in distress, kill the bad guy and save the world. Are you ready?"

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