The Mummy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a terrific presentation.
Sharpness looked solid. Soft shots remained minimal, as the majority of the flick offered distinctive, tight visuals. I noticed no issues with moiré effects or jagged edges, and I also failed to detect any edge haloes. If the image went through a bit of digital noise reduction, it seemed to be modest, as the flick still sported a good layer of grain.
Blacks looked deep and dense, and shadows showed nice delineation. Contrast was strong and gave the movie a fine silver sheen. As for print flaws, I noticed a few streaks and lines, but these were minor. The transfer made this 84-year-old movie look dynamic.
As for the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack, it was competent for its age. As one would expect, it's a modest affair, with the emphasis on dialogue. Unlike predecessors Dracula and Frankenstein, The Mummy featured a minor score; the two earlier flicks only used music for credits, but Mummy came with occasional snatches of score. Nonetheless, speech dominated the soundtrack.
Dialogue was adequate for its age. The lines could be a bit dull and flat, but they were acceptably clear and remained intelligible. Effects sounded thin but decent, and the very occasional music also appeared adequate for its age.
Very little noise came with the soundtrack – indeed, I thought the mix could be unnaturally quiet at times. I suspect the use of noise reduction techniques was a little heavy-handed here. There’s something weird about an 84-year-old movie that gave us total silence at times, and it seemed oddly jarring. Nonetheless, the audio was fine given its vintage.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2008 "Ultimate Legacy Series" DVD? Audio was a bit improved; even though I thought the BD track seemed too quiet, it still was a better listen than its predecessor. Visuals showed the more obvious benefits from the new transfer, as the image was cleaner and more concise with deeper blacks.
The Blu-ray replicates most of the 2008 DVD’s extras, and we open with two separate audio commentaries. First we hear from film historian Paul M. Jensen, as he provides a running, screen-specific piece. Jensen tells us about the story’s historical background, the script and the flick’s development, cast and crew, cut scenes and changes from the original script, and a few general production topics.
Though Jensen throws out a smattering of good notes, a lot of the track proceeds at a plodding pace. Too much of the time, Jensen simply narrates the movie; I occasionally wondered if I’d accidentally activated the “Descriptive Video” option. Things pick up a bit as the flick progresses, but this remains a generally dull commentary.
Next comes a commentary with film historian/Dracula: Dead and Loving It screenwriter Steve Haberman, makeup artist Rick Baker, film historian Scott Essman, movie memorabilia collector Bob Burns and sculptor Brent Armstrong. Except for Baker, all of them sit together for a running, screen-specific chat; the piece edits in Baker’s remarks on occasion. The track looks at makeup and effects, cast and crew, the story’s path to the screen, and a few production notes.
For the most part, the commentary acts as an appreciation for the film. The participants tell us what they like about the flick and throw in some filmmaking insights along the way. That side of things keeps this from being simple happy talk, though we don’t get a ton of good notes.
Baker’s occasional remarks provide interesting thoughts about Karloff’s makeup, and we do learn a reasonable amount of other details along the way. The track tends to be enjoyable but not particularly substantial.
Film historian Rudy Behlmer hosts a documentary called Mummy Dearest: A Film Tradition Unearthed. This 30-minute, 11-second program follows the same tradition of the programs found on the other "Universal Monsters" releases.
In addition to a bevy of production photos and movie clips, we find interview snippets. These come from Baker, Jensen, Boris Karloff’s daughter Sara, screenwriter’s son John Balderston, and film historians Gregory W. Mank and David Del Valle.
This feature does a fair job of discussing the history of the project, those involved, its inspirations and imitators, but it seems a bit drier than many of the other shows in the series. Oddly, it doesn't mention the 1999 movie. Since the original 1932 Mummy DVD hit the streets the same day as the modern Mummy disc, one would expect they had time to discuss the story's more recent generation.
The Mummy Archives section offers the usual conglomeration of film posters, lobby cards, and production photos but it does so in an unusual manner. Normally these would appear as still frames, but in this case, the entire program runs as a video, with pans in and out from different images, and all accompanied by music from the film.
I like this presentation; it may ultimately be a little more awkward than the usual frame-by-frame access, but it shouldn't be a problem since one can easily fast-forward through the show, and I think the addition of the audio makes it a more dynamic and involving process. The total running time goes for nine minutes, 46 seconds.
Five ads appear in the Trailer Gallery. We locate a promo for a re-release of The Mummy as well as ads for The Mummy’s Hand, The Mummy’s Tomb, The Mummy’s Ghost and The Mummy’s Curse.
He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art of Jack Pierce runs 24 minutes, 56 seconds and provides notes from Baker, Essman, Haberman, Burns, special effects makeup artists Nick Dudman, Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero, Tom Savini, Thomas Burman, Bill Corso, Michele Burke and Kevin Haney, and authors Sir Christopher Frayling, Kim Newman and Stephen Jones. “Art” gives us a quick look at movie makeup in the 1920s and then delves into Pierce’s work at Universal. We learn about the man and the techniques he used to bring those classic monsters to life.
Pierce is one of those seminal artists whose name isn’t known outside of a certain circle. That’s a shame, and hopefully programs like “Art” will help alter that. The program offers a nice mix of appreciation for his work with info about how he did his job.
Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy lasts eight minutes, seven seconds and features Haberman, Frayling, Dudman, Jones, producers James Jacks and Sean Daniel, director Stephen Sommers, visual effects supervisor John Berton, and actors Brendan Fraser, John Hannah and Rachel Weisz. The show nods in the direction of the 1930s Mummy but really exists to promote the 1999 Mummy and 2001’s Mummy Returns. Why is this superficial piece on this disc? I have no idea, but I do know it’s a waste of time.
A new featurette called 100 Years of Universal: The Carl Laemmle Era runs eight minutes, 41 seconds and includes notes from Hollywood Left and Right author Steven J. Ross, NBC Universal Archives and Collections director Jeff Pirtle, Moguls and Movie Stars writer/producer Jon Wilkman, Early Universal City author Robert S. Birchard, and niece Carla Laemmle. The show offers a quick biography of Universal founder Carl Laemmle. While this is an interesting and efficient overview, I’d like to see a more detailed look at a Hollywood pioneer.
Note that the Mummy Blu-ray drops a 95-minute documentary called “Universal Horror”. It appears on the Frankenstein Blu-ray, so fans can still find it, but it’s a shame it doesn’t reappear here as well.
The Mummy became the third of the classic “Universal Monsters” films. It’s not as strong as its predecessors, but I think it has interesting moments. The Blu-ray gives us very good visuals along with acceptable audio and an engaging set of supplements. This becomes a fine presentation of a moderately enjoyable movie.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of THE MUMMY