Volume II, Number 6 June 1st, 2001
Egypt: On Screen
Reviews of Television and Movies about Egypt
Heres the question: What, besides commerce, since the days of Herodotus, has driven the reading, writing and viewing of an imagined or embellished ancient Egypt? The answer is simple: A burning desire to taste a fabled era, to walk in the sandals of the great, to vanquish our fears by spurning ancient terrors, to feel the arms of an irresistible lover, to discover a sought-after treasure, to know what cannot be known and to share that knowledge. Beyond all of the texts, lectures and studies, there is that part of us, that wants, not only to scan the pages of the past, but wants desperately to be in that moment in antiquity. Which moment in antiquity is a matter of personal taste.
An appetite for Egypts past can be satisfied in an almost endless variety of novels, films, videos and television shows, since the 1914 silent comedy, The Egyptian Mummy, to The Mummy in 1932, directed by Karl Freund , from a story by Nina Wilcox Putnam and starring Boris Karloff as Imhotep/Ardeth Bay. The Mummy in 1999 and this summers block-busting sequel, The Mummy Returns, huge audiences have been entertained by comedic fictions, gothic horror, and now this years amalgam of comedy, adventure, horror and action.
IN THE CINEMA:
The Mummy Returns, written and directed by Stephen Sommers, stars Brendan Fraser as Rick O'Connell, Rachel Weisz as Evelyn, Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep, Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay, Patricia Velasquez as Anck-Su-Namun, Dwayne The Rock Johnson as The Scorpion King, and Freddie Boath as Alex. Expanding upon the original The Mummy plot, Returns has adventurer Rick O'Connell (Fraser) has settled in London with Evelyn (Weisz), an Egyptologist. The pair have a young son (Boath) and have decided to allow Evelyn's ne'er-do-well brother, Jonathan (Hannah) to remain in the family. The mummy, Imhotep (Vosloo), is resurrected in the British Museum and Rick and Evelyn are drawn into a desperate struggle with this awesome force, when the life of their son is threatened. But, they soon come up against a force more powerful than the Imhotep, who with the O'Connell's will go back in time to the world of The Scorpion King (The Rock).
Exaggerated, farcical, fantastical? Absolutely, but thats what Saturday matinee, crowd-pleasers are made of. These are light entertainments, full of spills, chills and enough out right thrills to keep you in your seat. In The Mummy Returns things go bump in the night. Reanimated mummies pop up everywhere, villainous conspirators snake around corners, proffering all sorts of evil deeds. And, the good guys get shaken, not stirred, beaten but never die. The dialogue is tongue-in-cheek and wise-cracking. The plot clicks along, switches and doubles back on itself, but never derails.
The Mummy Returns has got elements of western childhood and adolescent favorites, grown up. Its The Neverending Story, Conan the Barbarian and the Wizard of Oz. In fact, its got its own Cowardly Lion, Jonathan (Hannah) who finds his courage on a word from his sister. The mummy (Vosloo) is an admirable Wicked Witch of the West, out to get his ruby slippers and determined to spoil everyones fun. The mummys evil henchmen, the treacherous Anck-Su-Namun (Velasquez), the curator, played by a smarmy Alan Armstrong (Proof of Life), Lock-Nah, played by a menacing Adelwale Akinnouye-Agabaje (HBO s OZ), would do any crime cartel proud. The Mummy Returns has even got its own Flying Monkeys, in the form of pygmy mummies. Returns has its heroes, the adventurer (Fraser), Evelyn the Egyptologist (Weisz), the vulnerable, yet precocious kid, their son, Alex (Boath). Returning to reprise his role as the intriguing Medjay, is Oded Fehr, and now to the franchise, Izzy, the fidgety, wildly funny balloonist, played by Shaun Parkes. Its even got a cast of thousands for its battle scenes (loincloth-clad extras, provided by the Moroccan Army).
What this film hasnt got is, enough Dwayne The Rock Johnson. The WWF wrestling star turned actor is relegated to miming his character, during a brief voice-over. And appears only once more as a somewhat hokey-looking, over-sized arachnid. Apparently, the producers, who are in production on a third film, The Scorpion King, which will star Johnson, Grant Heslov and Michael Clarke Duncan, wanted to whet our appetites for their interpretation of the legendary king.
But, heres the real rub: in this edition of this science-fiction, adventure entertainment, Egypt is only a tracing along the edges, a fashion statement, a jumping off point, but little more than a motif for the big budget film. Its highly unlikely that the films producers let Egyptology consultant, Dr. Stuart Smith offer any advice that would stand in the way the summer block-buster action sequences. But, it would have been nice. Just a tad more of the actual beauty (the films Egyptian sequences of Giza, Karnak and Philae, were filmed on locations in the Moroccan desert.) and ancient culture of Egypt . Oh, well, come ready for action-adventure, science-fantasy special effects and youll go home happy. The Mummy Returns is almost as good as the first incarnation of this series, The 1999 The Mummy. You want Egypt? Book a flight.
ON TV: EGYPT: BEYOND THE PYRAMIDS
The History Channel presents an ambitious, 4-hour documentary miniseries, that chronicles some of the persistent mysteries about the ancient land. Mysteries such as what was life for the average ancient Egyptian? How were they alike or different from modern civilizations? Host Peter Woodward, joined by various Egyptologists, escorts us into KV5, through the Temple of Karnak, sites at Giza, Saqqara, Abydos and others in search for the answers to these and other questions.
The documentary also covers the rituals surrounding death, the process of mummification and the glorious discoveries at the Bahariyah Oasis, the so-called Valley of the Golden Mummies.
Cleopatra's World: Alexandria Revealed Cleopatra has long been one of historys most fascinating and controversial figures. Scandalous temptress, power-loving egomaniac, or a desperate monarch, struggling to ward off the Roman Empire? The truth about Cleopatra, may be buried in the ruins of the city that immortalized her power and characterAlexandria. This documentary goes under the waters of the port, beneath the layers of stone, under the streets and through the some of the countless volumes of written evidence of Cleopatras city, in search for the truth, on The History Channel
The Egyptian The American Movie Channel (AMC) brings us The Egyptian, released in 1954, this Technicolor melodrama, directed by Michael Curtiz , stars Edward Purdom and Victor Mature. Loosely based on a novel by Mika Waltari, this quirky, uneven film follows the trials of 18th dynasty orphan, Imhotep, who becomes a brilliant physician, while his friend, Horemheb, is appointed to the service of the new Pharaoh Akhenaten, played by Michael Wilding.
Abbot and Costello Meet the Mummy Also cablecast by AMC, Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy hit the theaters in 1955 and stars, comediennes Bud Abbot and Lou Costello , who played Egypt strictly for laughs. The tagline for this movie: It has been said that a man's best friend is his mummy... Enough said.
See your local theater, television, cable or satellite directories for screening dates and times.
Mr. Mohamed Arabi: The "Bird Man" of Aswan By Dr. Susan L. Wilson
A Brief Look at the Sinai By Jimmy Dunn
Mummies of Ancient Egypt: The Process and Beyond By Catherine C. Harris
The Lost Feeling, Or Was It a Mummy? By Arnvid Aakre
Breaking the Color Code By Anita Stratos
Alabaster: Egypt's Rock of the Ages By Sonny Stengle
Wreck Diving in the Egyptian Red Sea By Ned Middleton
Editor's Commentary By Jimmy Dunn
Ancient Beauty Secrets By Judith Illes
Book Reviews Various Editors
Hotel Reviews By Jimmy Dunn & Juergen Stryjak
Kid's Corner By Margo Wayman
Cooking with Tour Egypt By Mary K Radnich
The Month in Review By John Applegate
Egyptian Exhibitions By Staff
Egyptian View-Point By Adel Murad
Nightlife Various Editors
Egypt On Screen By Carolyn Patricia Scott
Restaurant Reviews Various Editors
Shopping Around Various Editors
Web Reviews By Siri Bezdicek
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