Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dawn of the Mummy (USA/Egypt, 1981)

(Trailer) Made three years after George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1979), Farouk Agrama's third — and last — directorial effort obviously tried to ride on the shirttails of Romero’s indefinitely better zombie film by giving his own imitation Italo-zombie/mummy flick the derivative title Dawn of the Mummy. Under any title — including Yawn of the Mummy, as one website refers to it the film is a good example of how not to make a movie, and it is easy to understand why Agrama gave up directing after this horribly boring Egyptian/USA production (he moved into production — he was even executive producer of the highly entertaining Tarrentino-inspired crime satire American Strays in 1996).
Filmed in New York and Cairo, Dawn of the Mummy has an oddly Euro-trash feel to it due to the lousy dubbing – but not only is the cast and crew is mostly Egyptian or US American, but the flick definitely ignores any and all chances of bare skin that all respectable Euro-trash of that time always included (the one midnight swim at the oasis by two women is done in bathing suits!). What one does see of the gore, however, as well as the make-up of the walking dead, is truly Italo-reminiscent, but then the lead "make-up artist" (Maurizo Trani) was not only one of a variety of true Italians on the set, he also had the same job on such Euro-trash classics as Fulci's Zombi 2 (1979), Marino Girolami's Zombie Holocaust/Dr. Butcher M.D. (1980), Fulci's House by the Cemetery (1981) and Sergio Martino’s 2019 – After the Fall of New York (1983). In any event, despite the flick’s lightly Euro-trash vibe, the film offers little Euro-sleaze quality – even the gore is filmed in a dark and murky manner seldom found in traditional Italo-zombie flicks and which, in turn, ruins the film’s only (mildly) redeeming aspect.
In itself, the basic plot of Dawn of the Mummy sounds promising: A group of vapid US models in Egypt on a fashion shoot suffer the wrath of an ancient curse when they ignorantly defile an Egyptian tomb and cross paths with the 7-foot mummy Safiraman and his band of flesh-eating zombies. Regrettably, whatever promise the premise might hold, the film itself is truly a testament to filmic ineptitude; even worse than that, however, is the fact that the ineptitude seldom achieves any consistent level of laughability and, in turn, enjoyablity. True, more than one scene does generate hearty unintentional laughs — among others, the cleaver in the papier-mâché head, another papier-mâché head that falls into the photographer's hands, the pulling back of a curtain to reveal zombies munching on the bride-to-be, a variety audaciously irrational actions and reactions of various characters and George Peck's insane overacting (as "Bill the Grave Robber") — but the "enjoyably bad" is so overwhelmed by the "truly bad" that the flick cannot even be enjoyed on a psychotronic level. It also doesn't help any that the film's 93 minute running time comes across as if it were actually more like 186 minutes...
Dawn of the Mummy opens with a relatively inexplicable scene in ancient Egypt of men on horses whipping the plebeians before riding off with a variety a pre-teen youths (that night's bed-warmers one might assume) before moving on to a nice bloody but oddly clumsy mummification ritual in which the High Priestess continually repeats the horrors that will happen if the tomb is desecrated. Then, after the credits roll over a montage of the various models and photo-shoot participants as they run around New York City, the film moves on to contemporary Egypt where three grave robbers dynamite open Safiraman's tomb (to the ire of an ugly old hag he foretells death to all those that enter the tomb – not that this knowledge stops her from entering the tomb (and dying) later in the film). A few other grave robbers die for no apparent reason and then way too much time is spent on the photo team’s arrival and the plot set-up leading to their use of the tomb as a backdrop. Even more time is wasted in which nothing really happens and the various badly acted and before the mummy finally awakens and a few dead rise from the desert and the film continues to drag while the one-dimensional characters get on the viewers' nerves by doing all sorts of illogical and unbelievable stuff (i.e., a woman disappears overnight and no one is even worried, heads without bodies and mangled corpses are found and no one bothers to notice the authorities, etc.) until the final big, badly filmed and murky bloodbath happens.
Is the blood and guts it worth sitting through the preceding film? No. Dawn of the Mummy is a boring, lousy film of truly no redeeming qualities, a film so lame that it makes the concept of watching The 900 Club sound fun – hell, if nothing else, The 900 Club is at least scary.

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