Tale of the Mummy

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Part of the downward trajectory of Russell Mulcahy’s career post-The Shadow, Tale of the Mummy is B-grade schlock matched with exquisite formalism. An ancient curse is enacted when a group of archaeologists unseal a tomb housing Greek heretic Talos, who mummified himself to escape Egyptian punishment. Appearing mainly as a mound of animated wrappings–whose tumbling evoke the predatory single-mindedness of a brown recluse spider–Talos escapes museum captivity and begins killing seemingly random targets for their organs, prompting an investigation from police (mainly Jason Scott Lee) and members of the archaeological team (Louise Lombard, Sean Pertwee) suspecting the curse is real. Photographed by Gabriel Beristain, Mulcahy’s scenery oozes. Shafts of light invade interior spaces: apartments, sewers, tunnels, tombs, even a red-hued restroom in a nightclub find light from external sources entering the frame. These encroachments match Talos’ unstoppable manner, where no space and no person is safe. This gives menacing texture to a script heavy on a sense of futility. Pertwee, shaven-headed and flailing, appears a madman in his quest to prove the supernatural, the cops suspecting him off the bat. Mulcahy flirts with the hero’s journey at times, but seeming protagonists get undercut at every turn. They don’t disrupt prophecy, they’re roadkill as Talos barrels towards a foregone conclusion like a Hammer villain. The film’s letdown is its primitive special effects for middle act kill sequences. One offender, in particular, involves a man sucked down a toilet, stretching in the rubber band fashion of a Looney Tunes cartoon. Gorgeous scenery and a sense of dread get backhanded by ridiculous, low-budget disaster.

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