Notes: Universal Pictures. 124 minutes.
Rick O'Connell: Brendan Fraser
Evelyn: Rachel Weisz
Jonathan: John Hannah
Imhotep: Arnold Vosloo
With Kevin J. O'Connor, Oded Fehr, Erick Avari, Stephen Dunham, Omid Djalili

Executive Producer: Kevin Jarre
Produced: James Jacks, Sean Daniel
Directed: Stephen Sommers
Screenplay: Stephen Sommers
Story: Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music: Jerry Goldsmith

Summary: In Thebes, 1290 BC, Imhotep is carrying on an affair with Pharaoh Seti I's mistress, Anck-su-namen. When the Pharaoh suspects her, due to smudged arm paint, she and Imhotep murder him. As the Pharaoh's bodyguards burst in, she tells Imhotep to escape: "Only you can resurrect me." She stabs herself.

Imhotep "dared the gods' anger" by attempting a resurrection ceremony, but is interrupted by the bodyguards. His priests are mummified alive. Imhotep's tongue is cut out and he is entombed with hundreds of scarabs. The tomb is locked lest he emerge as "a walking disease."

The passage of time is marked by wars. Rick O'Connell is saved from bullets in the nick of time by supernatural events at the site overseen by the Medai, descendants of the bodyguards, keeping watch. He wanders into the desert.

In Cairo, librarian Evelyn, an expert in ancient Egyptian, accidentally destroys the library and is startled by feckless brother Jonathan who flings a mummy about callously. He has obtained an octagonal box from the time of Seti I which contains a map to the city of the dead. The map goes up in flames when shown to the Minister of Antiquities, so Evie and Jonathan visit his source, O'Connell in prison. Although O'Connell is hanged, Evie bargains with the fat Egyptian authority for a stake in their dig, and O'Connell is cut down. Aboard ship, a band of Americans are also seeking the city of the dead, helped by Beni, a weaselly acquaintance of O'Connell. The Medai attack and lots of gunfire and real fire send everyone into the water.

All end up at the lost city, the Americans looking for treasure and Evelyn and company in search of The Book of Amun-Ra. They see a "preparation room" (for mummification). The Egyptian picks scarab gems off a wall, but one has a living bug in it which digs into his shoe and flesh and crawls up to his face, sending him into a suicidal frenzy. Meanwhile, the Americans' servants break into a tomb and are melted with pressurized salt acid from a booby trap. Jonathan accidentally discovers the sarcophagus of "He that shall not be named." That night, the Medai attack and warn all to leave. Evelyn gets drunk and explains that "Egypt is in my blood." Her father loved Egypt so much he married her mother, an Egyptian woman. She triumphantly announces, "I am a librarian," and passes out before kissing Rick.

The Americans find a potential treasure: "Death will come with swift wings to whoever opens this chest." Despite warnings of plagues and "one -- the undead" who "will kill all who open this chest," they find a book and jars of entrails. The others find a mummy who, says Evelyn, is "still ... still..." "Juicy," say Rick and Jonathan. He is still decomposing, and had scraped the inside of his tomb with his fingernails, also drawing on his hidden talons to write, "Death is only the beginning."

He has obtained an octaEvelyn steals and reads from The Book of the Dead. The mummy is animated and roars. Locusts overrun the camp and one of the expedition cries, "What have we done?" One American named Burns loses his glasses and is attacked by the mummy, who takes his eyes and tongue. Rick thinks his shooting the monster has finished him off, but the chief Medai says, "This creature is the bringer of death. He will never eat; he will never sleep; he will never stop." Beni encounters the mummy and tries praying on his crucifix, then the symbols of other religions. The mummy recognizes the Star of David as "the language of the slaves," and decides to use Beni in this capacity to track down the jars with the appropriate fluids for his rejuvenation.

Beni introduces Prince Imhotep in disguise to the mutilated Mr. Burns. The mummy finishes him off now, sucking him dry. A plague of blood and of flaming hail signals to the others, "He's here." He has some flesh now, seems to be attracted to Evie, and disappears in a sandstorm when a cat appears.

During a plague of darkness, Rick and Jonathan try to rescue the Egyptian from the dig, but the mummy has already sucked him dry and unleashes a plague of flies from his mouth. He then kills one of the Americans at the hotel and retrieves another jar. He enters Evie's room as sand through a keyhole and kisses her with his still somewhat rotten face. Rick bursts in with a cat and the mummy disappears in a sandstorm again. We decide that the black book brought him to life, perhaps a gold book can kill.

The masses, afflicted with boils and sores and having become zombies, chant "Imhotep" mindlessly. The last American is killed, and Imhotep is fully regenerated. He tells Evelyn, "Take my hand and I will spare your friends," but when she goes he tells the zombies, "Kill them all." They get the last Egyptian, but the others escape down the sewer.

They enlist the help of former R.A.F. pilot Winston Havelock to fly them to the city of the dead to rescue Evie. A giant sand mouth of the mummy swallows the plane, which crashes, killing Winston and sinking into quicksand. Jonathan has a scarab encounter but is saved by Rick. Imhotep's servants are animated from stone carvings and his priests explode out of the ground. Evie is tied down and realizes another corpse is lying beside her: the mummy of Anck-su-namen. While the good guys blow up mummy warriors, the chief Medai sacrifices himself to save the others, and Beni loads a camel with stolen treasures, Imhotep begins the ritual of reanimation again. A doppelganger screaming shows Anck-su-namen beginning to come to life.

Rick battles more mummies and Evie tries to avoid getting butchered while Jonathan attempts to read the inscription on the gold book. Imhotep begins to strangle Rick, but when Evie reads the magic words, ghostly horsemen race down the staircase and carry off the supernatural image of Imhotep. He is still there in bodily form, and comes after Rick, but has lost his immortality. Stabbing works, and Imhotep sinks, rotting, into a pool of corpses. "Death is only the beginning."

Beni triggers a booby trap which sends the ceilings slowly downwards. The others escape, but he is trapped inside the treasure room. Thousands of scarabs attack him. Outside, the entire city explodes too.

The chief Medai is alive still after all. Rick and Evelyn kiss, and Jonathan rolls his eyes. They take off on camels, thinking they are empty-handed and not realizing that Beni had loaded one of the camels with treasures.

Commentary: I'm willing to acknowledge that this is the best mummy movie to date. It selects the best bits from all previous movies (such as the victimization of a guy lost without his glasses, as in the Hammer film The Mummy's Shroud; the corpses emerging from the ground and the not entirely regenerated female mummy as in Universal's own The Mummy's Curse; even the use of the traditional key names such as Imhotep, since Universal always owned the rights). The grandiosity -- sets, noise, special effects, frantic pacing -- also work in its favor. Characterization is also charming here. Most of these components are even well integrated too.

But the film does not tap into any mythological level. The reconstitution of Imhotep is the reverse of the horror of degeneration. And the mummy once again must become vampiric to be monstrous, vs. operating somehow as a monster in its own right. On a minor note, the mummification (or wrapping) of Imhotep takes place with his head pointing to the right of the screen, and this does seem wrong both in terms of the 1932 film and the mise en scene.

It sometimes sounds as if they are pronouncing "Anck-su-namen" with an extra syllable: An-anck-su-namen -- if so, a nice blend of the earlier female names in the Universal mummy movies, Anck-es-en-amen and Ananka. Her scream at the early stage of each attempted reanimation is successfully creepy.

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