Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Section 3: Dawn of the Mummy

Welcome to Section 3, home to the near nasties and major concern for all those of a superior moral standing. This episode we head to Egypt for a tale of an ancient curse, lost treasure, grave robbers and a gaggle of beautiful people as a classic movie monster returns to the screen looking surprisingly like a very different kind of movie monster. Lets dive into the Frank Agrama's....Dawn of the Mummy.

Ancient Egypt and Sephriman, an Egyptian Pharaoh, wages a cruel campaign against the population until he dies and is buried with full honours and a curse that means if any one tries to help themselves to his treasure then he will rise and kill and his henchmen will also revive to all go on a jolly little escapade of rising and killing. Thousands of years later and grave robbers discover the untouched tomb but as they try to find the hidden treasure inside they attract the attention of a group of models on a photo shoot nearby. When the models let themselves into the opened tomb and decide to set up and shoot in there, unwittingly they manage to revive the dormant Sephriman who proceeds to go on the rampage against all of Egypt, rising and killing.....well you can't say they weren't warned.......

Dawn of the Mummy certainly is a rather odd little film, probably not watched by many and saddled with the look of the cheapest horror films like the forcibly crapped out Oasis of the Zombies it seems to swing wildly from the kind of film that Jess Franco would later disown for being crap to something rather attention grabbing. The story is set up with the revelation that an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh was so protective of his gold that when he died he had a curse placed upon himself and the treasure to ensure that any thieves would be brutally dealt with should they be so brazen as to insult him so. Being an absolutely arrogant thug in life this is of course not surprising. A couple of millennia later of course and enter the impressively Arian Rick who has found the tomb and wants to make the gold his own despite the curse. Of course him being an absolutely arrogant arsehole with a gold fixation that would make Yosemite Sam suggest an intervention, Rick picks a rather oddball collection of buddies made up of some guys who die in an attempt to rip him off, all a misunderstanding of course, and two closer colleagues who have something of the hysterical about them. One of the later manages to get the models attention by shooting at them to which they respond by going to pay the shooter a visit......... now not only do they not get the hint about not being entirely welcome here they decide that they're going to go crashing into the tomb citing an all access pass from an antiquities minister of some kind which apparently means they can storm into sites of historical significance set up blazing lights and touch whatever the hell they please in whatever manner they wish..........say hello to the good guys folks, my god this is going to be a bumpy ride. And the grave robbers don't just bump them off and have done with it, they stand back and let them get on with it.... And this is the best bit... After Rick and his buddies have set off numerous high explosives and rattled around the tomb in the most unsubtle piece of archaeology since the opening scene of Indiana Jones it takes a bunch of models and an arsehole of a photographer to revive the big bad by heating him up with their lighting. Oh yes, this is all the American model tourist brigades fault. Of course carnage eventually ensues but not before we get to hate the photographer guy enough to want to see him have his giblets slowly removed via his anus by a long dead Egyptian despot.
Dawn of the Mummy is not a good film in almost all respects. The characters and characterisation are abysmal to say the least. The good guys are not only the cause of the carnage they are so amazingly arrogant and frivolous that one wanders if this isn't a sly and bitchy comment by Agrama on Americans in general. The bad guys are so outrageously over the top that they are nothing more than parody. They are at least a lot more likeable than the group of models though and do provide many laughs along the way, possibly unintentionally. One example is the exploitation staple of subbing out the rat......this time with a beautiful fluffy cute white mouse...... seriously.... the beast in heats set guys at least took the time to paint their guinea pig rats the right bloody colour. These are our bad guy folks, a group of guys lead by a man who makes Giovanni Lombado Radice's coke fuelled Mike Logan seem like a steady guy and some side kicks that give us the worst kind of ham since porky the pig was found dead in his apartment after a month of laying there.
The thing is with Dawn of the Mummy that it takes a rather two tone approach to telling the story and these tones are rather polar. The hammy tone I've already talked about but at about the 30 minute to go mark things really get ramped up in the gore stakes. Now the movie has touched on this kind of stuff throughout but the climax to the movie gets full on with the stage blood....and it's surprisingly effective. These mummies could almost give Fulci's zombies a run for their money and it's here that the films Italian influences come in full force as up until this point it's ran like one of Jess Franco's more animated efforts. It's clear that the director was relishing making these scenes and although its not necessarily the most competently put together sequence it certainly has a lot of energy.

The whole film carries off the very strong euro exploitation vibe incredibly well, particularly in regards to the acting, the very stock the film is captured on the piled on gore and ham acting it all works towards that aesthetic really well and it's surprising that in fact this is an Egyptian/ US production rather than a Eurocine release. The first half of the film is rather ramshackle though, the credit sequence for instance seems to want to establish the main characters in a photo shoot in New York, fine but it goes nowhere, all we get is the cast posing in New Yorks parks and the likes, padding, it's all just padding. When we do get to hear them speak for the first time then we immediately get to know the photographers an asre and the girls are largely vacuous, colour me amazed.
Obviously being shot in Egypt there are some terrific locales that Agrama got to film in and there are plenty of times when they really take advantage of this, unfortunately the crypt does look exactly like what it is....a cheap set. It's a low budget film though and much of this can be forgiven really. Where it can be a drag to watch on some short occasions it usually breaks the boredom on regular enough intervals to keep you awake and damn it it's pretty amusing. It's Italian exploitation feel, as fake as that may be, makes it a fun watch for fans of that particular chapter of cinema history, but I for one would have guessed at it being one of the better Jess Franco knock off films because as bad as it is, it just seems frivolous and fun.

Dawn of the mummy really should have been an utter disaster, the bad bad acting, the hokey story, the low budget, the should have been abysmal. However it somehow manages to drag itself through all this crapness and become a rather enjoyable film, at least in part. For one thing it is incredibly funny, laugh out loud at some points, some of it it seems to be intentional too. True you can't really give a crap about any of the good guys and the bad guys give some pretty out there performances but it does make their inevitable demise a guilt free pleasure. It's just the utter abandon with which the film is made seems to result in it being a completely fun 90 minutes of film. It chugs through the exposition fast enough to get it over with and then treats us to a suitably bloody climax. It's not the most exciting film out there of course but for what it is and what it could have been it's certainly worth the time out to see it. I can't help but think that this is the very least that Jess Franco should have been kicking out, Dawn of the Mummy at least shows that an entertaining film can be churned out for a minuscule budget.

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