Curse of King Tut's Tomb (The) (2006)
R1 - America - Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (7th November 2006).
The Film

Australian born Russell Mulcahy is the name that many will probably remember, but at the same time he´s a director that never really broke onto the “A-list” in Hollywood. His films like “Razorback (1984)” and “Highlander (1986)” are minor cult classics now, but his films can be quite forgettable, really. Mulcahy´s “Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)” is coming though, but before that he made some TV-work, such as “The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (2006)”, a 2-part mini-series for the “Hallmark Channel”. This is not the fist time that Mulcahy and mummies have crossed paths, since he also directed the rather disappointing “Tale of the Mummy AKA Talos the Mummy (1998)”.

“The Curse of King Tut's Tomb” is clearly a hybrid of the mainstream-films such as Indiana Jones-trilogy and “The Mummy (1999)”, where the hero tries to find an ancient King Tut´s Emerald Tablet (or pieces of it more likely), and battles against the evil forces and villains, who also are trying to find it - all set in the year 1922 in Egypt (the real mummy of King Tut was found in the same year, but the film is all fiction). The tablet holds strange powers to control the world, and in the hands of the evil society (like the “Hellfire Council” as seen in the film) it could place the world in grave danger, unleashing the dark forces. Based on the introduction, King Tutankhamen has always been fighting against the evil, protecting the world from it. Now the tablet has broken into 4 pieces, and we´ll meet our hero, the archeologist Danny Freemont (Casper Van Dien - from e.g. “Starship Troopers (1997)”, and “Sleepy Hollow (1999)”) in the ice cave where he has located the third part. It won´t be long before his nemeses, the evil archeologist Morgan Sinclaire (Jonathan Hyde - from e.g. “Titanic (1997)”, and “The Mummy (1999)”) storms onto the scene, stealing the piece and taking it to his “Hellfire Council”, run by Cairns (Malcolm McDowell - from e.g. “A Clockwork Orange (1971)”, and “Caligula AKA Caligola (1979)”). Back in Cairo, Freemont tries to convince Dr. Azelia Barakat (Leonor Varela - from e.g. “Blade II (2002)”) to help find the last piece of the tablet, and eventually the doubting doctor agrees. With the help of a couple of Freemont´s friends and associates the group heads to the Valley of the Kings, where the last part should be located - at the tomb of King Tut. Sinclaire is on their heels every step of the way, and the game is getting more serious - involving murder and occultism, when Freemont and his group are nearing their objective. Which side will prevail; the light - or the dark?

When the film goes into the adventure-territory like this one (and not in the “walking mummy” type of horror-themes) and the hero looks like Indiana Jones himself, you at least hope that it´ll offer some decent action and effects, and charismatic lead actors. Well, it´s not really a surprise that “The Curse of King Tut's Tomb” falls short in most of those departments. The introduction is too over-the-top compared to the rest of the film, and with the over 170 minute running time, you have plenty of opportunities to yawn and move restlessly on the couch. Sure, there are some chase-scenes and fights, along with some darker forces operating in the background, but these scenes are often quite isolated events and don´t always connect that well to the rest of the story. You start to realise at some point, that a quite simple story has been done in a rather uninteresting way, partly because of the low budget-nature, and partly because of the faults of the screenplay. A few amusing scenes are included, and it seems that based on this film, 1922 newsreels were shot in widescreen (!). Also the scene where the map is carved into the chest of a man is quite hilarious, since our hero just calmly starts to copy it while the poor man is in agony. There´s also a lot of digging in the film, and to me it didn´t look very “professional” (since Freemont is an archeologist after all). It has to be said that the humour in a way belongs to a film like this one, but not sure was it all purely intentional (“Oh my God, it´s Tut!”).

I still have to admit that the film wasn´t nearly as bad as I expected, and had its virtues and entertainment value. Even when the film is a bit dull occasionally, it still keeps the certain interest going on - at least enough to watch it through without being totally disappointed in the end. This was most likely partly because of the fact that director Mulcahy has some experience of making films with “fantastic elements” and “action”, so he can dig up some good from the mediocre source material. The film is actually shot in India and the crew has done a pretty good job of making it look like Egypt. Some sets (like the ice cave at the beginning) doesn´t fare that well, but generally the production design wasn´t bad at all. CGI-effects - as expected - are not in the level of Hollywood blockbusters, but they blend in and didn´t really bother me. Similar things can be said about the actors, which are not great, but never that “bad” either. Casper Van Dien has his moments (and that boyish smirk), but he´s no Harrison Ford. His chemistry (and the obvious love interest) with the lead actress Leonor Varela is lacking, but they have some moments. Still, this was one of the “missed opportunities” in the film, since there´s no real romance. When we move to the villains, Jonathan Hyde pretty much steals the show for a solid performance, but Malcolm McDowell merely walks his part through (mainly because it´s not very well written in the first place). I have never been a huge fan of McDowell, and his look is suited better for some Sci-fi film. From the old school, Simon Callow (“Russell”) is also quite good, so actually you´ve some decent actors in this one. It´s always a bit lame to blame the budget (since it´s certainly not the only problem with the film), but if you compare “The Curse of King Tut's Tomb” to e.g. “The Mummy (1999)”, the latter creates some entertainment merely with interesting and “big” visual effects and scenes, even when the film itself is no masterpiece. Sadly, “The Curse of King Tut's Tomb” doesn´t always have that advantage, although the “hallucination-scenes” were quite effective, and the look of the film stays quite decent throughout the production. What you have is a partly entertaining TV-production, that includes some action and good actors, but nothing more than that. In the end this is more like positive news, since let´s face it; the film could´ve been much worse.

Video

The film is presented in Anamorphic 1.78:1, and generally looks pretty good. There are some minor compression and edge enhancement-issues (mixed up with some grain that can be a bit distracting), but the black levels and colours are quite solid and the transfer is sharp enough. This is not a transfer that makes you jump with joy, but it´s not that bad either. “Dual layer” disc is coded “R1”, and the film is divided into two parts; “Part 1” runs 84:57 minutes (NTSC), and “Part 2” runs 85:04 minutes (NTSC). There are 15 chapters on each part.

Audio

The disc includes three audio tracks; English DTS 5.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (menu says “Stereo”, but it sounded “Mono” to me), and there are no subtitles, nor Closed Captions (some English burned-in captions are included for the selected non-English dialogue). Both 5.1-tracks are a bit of a mixed bag, but eventually DTS has the edge. Throughout the “Part 1”, both 5.1-tracks are a bit sloppily mixed, since the dialogue is coming also from the rears and making the tracks sound partly artificial. To make things more complicated, DTS on “Part 2” is suddenly better and dialogue coming nicely from the front center channel. Dolby Digital 5.1 is the same on both parts, so it sounds like the Dolby Digital-track is merely duplicated to all channels, rather than properly mixed. Things fare better when the music and sound effects dominate and I have generally heard worse than what was on the disc, but I can´t say I was fully happy with the audio (I mean if the audio mix changes during the film like in the case of the DTS track, something must be wrong). It also sounded like there were (minor) lip synch issues at least on selected scenes, but perhaps they were related to post-dubbing or similar. At the beginning of the film the balance with narration and sound effects/music is not very ideal, and dialogue tends to get buried under the effects.

Extras

3 bonus trailers are included before the “Main menu” (they can be skipped); “Mysterious Island (2005/TV)” - another TV-production by Russell Mulcahy, “Supernova (2005/TV)”, and “Blackbeard (2006/TV)”.

-“The Dark Secrets of the Hellfire Council” -featurette runs 3:01 minutes, and includes interviews from the actors Simon Callow and Malcolm McDowell, with some film clips. In this short featurette the actors talk about the true influences behind the “Hellfire Council” in the movie, and similar “secret societies” that have always operated in different parts of the world. Of course, they were often a bit more “peaceful” than the one on the film.

-“Shooting "Egypt" in India" -featurette runs 6:36 minutes, and includes interviews from the director Russell Mulcahy, along with all the main actors; Malcolm McDowell, Brendan Patricks (“Eastcliff”), Leonor Varela, Simon Callow, Casper Van Dien, Jonathan Hyde, Parvin Dabas (“Heikal”), Patrick Toomey (“Jacques Belmond”), and Steven Waddington (“McGreevy”). They´re mainly praising India, but also talk about the more complicated conditions such as heat during the shooting. Mulcahy also mentions that he shot some music videos in India back in the days.

Overall

If you want spooky mummies in the heels of Hammer and Universal horror-films, you´ll probably be disappointed, but for the fans of adventure-action, “The Curse of King Tut's Tomb” might offer some decent fun. The DVD presentation doesn´t offer anything that special, and unfortunately the DTS-track is not in a very high level this time.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Echo Bridge Home Entertainment.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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