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Monday 17 May 2021

Burl reviews Dawn of the Mummy! (1981)


Grooving to the the beat of the cloth-wrapped feet, it’s Burl, here to review a walking mummy movie! But it’s not a genteel Hammer walking mummy movie like The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb though, nor an old classic from the Universal cycle, though I should get to reviewing those soon! No, this variant is actually a genuinely Egyptian take on the subject, the only one I’m aware of; but if the viewer imagines some extra sheen of verisimilitude typically absent in the genre coming as a result of this, she or he will be disappointed! The picture I’m talking about is that old Thorn/EMI staple Dawn of the Mummy!

You would be forgiven for assuming the movie is not Egyptian at all, but Italian; for indeed several Italian names appear in the credits and the general atmosphere is very like any of the lower-rung zombie gutmunchers churned out by our friends in the boot-shaped pastaland! But it turns out that the director, Frank Agrama, which after all sounds like a pseudonym, is indeed Egyptian, and was merely heavily influenced by the Italian zombie pictures!

Here is the dramatic situation: A group of New York photomodels and their major league jerk of a photographer are on assignment in Egypt! Meanwhile a small gang of treasure seekers, made up of two dim-bulb locals and a gangly blond American called Rick, bust into the tomb of Sefiraman, whom we saw being buried with much pomp and circumstance, as well as with his treasures and his legion of servants, in a prefatory flashback! Rick is experienced enough to know the tomb is full of poison gas to eliminate would-be graverobbers and must be allowed to air out before ingress, but another small gang is not so clever and they end up with a bad case of lumpyface! The photomodels show up and bully their way into the tomb, commandeering it from the hapless Rick for use as a backdrop to their snapshots!

Speaking of Rick, he’s quite a character! He starts out a pretty keyed-up fellow, and seems to be driven freshly insane by every new thing that happens to him, though one must give him points for his undimmable optimism! If the treasure doesn’t turn up in the place he and his pals had hoped it would, nary a flicker of disappointment shows on Rick's face: he’s already roaring with gleeful laughter because he’s certain it’ll turn up in the very next place they look! He’s driven not by greed so much as by relentless hope!

Eventually Sefiraman and his entourage wake up, but it takes quite a while, ha ha! In the meantime, the photomodels keep discovering bodies, or parts of bodies, or else they get injured by oozing slime; indeed, even before the walking mummy becomes a problem at least a half dozen horrible things happen to this group, any one of which would in real life send any supermodels scampering back to New York! But these stalwarts stick around, and are murderized by a walking mummy and his zombie pals for their trouble!

The big finale is the walking mummy and his buddies running roughshod over a wedding party! It’s the old story: gut munching, eye poking and flesh chomping on a par with Corpse Eaters or Zombie Lake, or other similar pictures! It’s not a very elegant movie, but the walking mummy is at least a bit scarier than the one in Time Walker - the shot of the mummy sitting up for the first time is even a little startling! His killing methods are more varied, too: he strangles, yes, but at one point he busts into a pantry and gives the chop to a poor meatsman with his own cleaver! His servants, who are not walking mummies but only lowly zombies (which establishes a perhaps heretofore unacknowledged hierarchy in the monster world) eat people, as zombies will, but Sefiraman is only interested in plain old killing!

I guess my point is only that the movie is not a complete loss! It is indeed poorly made, and there’s no aspect you can really point to that’s well done, except maybe some of the makeup! It manages to completely ignore all the ways the actual Egyptian locations might have been used to create eeriness and atmosphere, or any feeling of genuineness! It takes a real lack of interest to mess that up, and it’s a hard mistake to forgive! But parts of it are effective, or at least amusing, and it’s sure worth seeing Rick’s crazy performance! I’m going to give Dawn of the Mummy one and a half hookah binges!

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