Tuesday, March 15, 2011

ZomBlog Review: "Dawn of the Mummy"

“Dawn of the Mummy”
Stars: Brenda King, Barry Sattels, George Peck
Writer: Daria Price, Ronald Dobrin, and Frank Agrama
Dir: Frank Agrama
97 minutes

I think I stumbled onto a new zombie influence not yet discussed on this blog: Mummies.
And damn my eyes for not stumbling onto it with the Boris Karloff/Universal Studios classic, “The Mummy,” rather than this sad sack of an attempt at filmmaking.
Full disclosure: I remember looking at the TV schedule as a young, impressionable boy and seeing the option of spending a Sunday afternoon filled with “Wide World of Sports” or going deep into the channels and watching an afternoon of horror films on the local graveyard of borderline public domain fodder, Channel 50 in Washington, D.C. DC-50 is now a radio station owned by the CW/Paramount network (if I am assuming correctly) and is actually broadcasting original programming.
But it wasn’t always so. And so (getting past my swim in “Lake Me” for a moment), my nimble fingers click-click-clicked the channel dial to see one of my first introductions into flesh-eating undead.
Well, special effects didn’t really need to be that impressive for a child in the early 1980s. Nor did plot, dialogue, character development, and editing.
Holy shit, what a difference 25 years make.
The fact that I could remember the name “Dawn of the Mummy” nearly 25 years later would make one think “Damn, this must have been good to have left such an impression.”
For all the wrong reasons, it did. I had remembered the final 10 minutes of the film in great detail, where a fairly nimble group of undead mummies raid a wedding party to start helping themselves to the main course: the wedding patrons. The black-faced/grue-dripping/gauze-wrapped fiends did an impressive job at ripping guts and gore from the guests and promptly consuming them (again, it was impressive then; it’s just OK now).
Yes, I remembered the “pay-off.” I think even at a horror/gore hungry 8-years-old, I must have found some other way to occupy my attention span, probably with He-Man or G.I. Joe toys, rather than to have sat with my undivided attention at the first 80-plus minutes of this terrible, boring, disjointed romp. And, instead of boring you with the usual, long-winded detail I tend to plop down on this blog, I will simply give a few bullet points.
• A photographer and a group of models are sent to Cairo to do a photo shoot for, what a terrible voiceover tells the audience, is a very important client for a magazine; So, one would think they would wind up shooting at the pyramids. Nope. This photographer decides to shoot in the middle of a desert that could have been in the Mojave, or a back-lot at a studio for all one could tell. And, yeah, the film was actually shot in Cairo and shows the cast driving around the majestic pyramids. Opportunity (or filming permit) missed.
• An American “grave robber” and his bumbling, stereotyped Arabic assistants have invaded the tomb of well-known savage mummy, but can’t find his treasure. They overact the shit out of every scene they are in, and, for absolutely no reason, agree to allow the photographer and his crew to take over the tomb they had invaded to finish their photoshoot. Still with me?
• The heat of the lamps used to light the terribly choreographed photoshoot take several days to (Melt? Burn? Annoy?) awaken the mummy. The mummy (a name I would write here, but it is said no less than 15 different ways throughout the film) gets up, gets pissed, somehow raises his henchmen (who were buried with him in the tomb) out of the middle of the fricken desert at the suggestion of a crazy woman. Confused yet? I just attempted to describe the first 20 minutes.
This movie is a mess all over. My counterpart really needs to review this one. Aside from (overt) racism and stock footage montages, this movie might heavily compete with “Hell of the Living Dead” as the worst attempt at zombie/undead filmmaking I have yet seen.
That said, the SFX people did not do too shabby a job with the gut-munching end. I’m only referring to the glimpses and long shots of the feasting. The entire climax is also a mess, and a hurried one at that.

Romero Rules Followed: I could almost see some Romero influence. The mummies do not run, they are clearly dead, they eat the living, and they can be beaten down with blows/shots to the head. But, ultimately, not zombies.
Gore factor: Not much at all until the last 10 minutes.
Zombies or Wannabees? I’ll have to say very, very close to zombies. But, ultimately, no.
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Waste of time, unless the MST3K guys have a commentary track and you have plenty of mind-altering substances on hand. Copious amounts of beer or Old Crow bourbon would be fitting.
Additional comments: I really think the director realized he had made a total piece of garbage once he hit the editing room. The excessive use of post-production voiceovers to attempt to fill in plotholes and dialogue miscues is a glaring problem that cannot be ignored. Who knows. The DVD copy I have does include a commentary. There might be a day where I attempt to sit through this again (if I want to really torture myself/punish myself for some transgression) and listen to the director either defend or destroy this film, Tommy Wiseau style. I can’t subject myself to it anytime soon, though. Remember, loyal readers, we do this so you don’t have to.


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