DAWN OF THE MUMMY: A Zombie In Tutankhamen Drag Is Still A Zombie

You’ve got to give director Frank Agrama credit for coming up with a nifty hook: during the early 80’s deluge of zombie gore epics, he came up with the idea of a mummy gore epic. Indeed, Dawn Of The Mummy gives some feeble lip service to the mummy genre via a quick prologue showing an evil Pharaoh being mummified and buried with his servants.  That said, don’t be fooled – this is really a zombie movie that pinches its title from Dawn Of The Dead and most of its shock tactics from Lucio Fulci’s Dawn-inspired Zombie.

Here’s the Dawn Of The Mummy plotline: evil Pharaoh gets buried and promises death to any who interfere with his eternal slumber. Cut to modern times, where greedy treasure hunters are of course digging their way into the tomb. Also stumbling into the scenario are a photographer and a gaggle of airhead models desperate for an exotic site to do their latest shoot. The crypt is disturbed (the Pharaoh is revived by the heat of photo lights!), the mummies come back to life and – after much foot-dragging from the plot – the mummies start chowing down zombie-style on the models, the treasure hunters and the hapless Egyptians in a nearby village.

There’s not much to say about Dawn Of The Mummy. The script is dumb, the acting is aggressively lousy and gorehounds will be disappointed by the minor amount of splatter here (maybe 3 or so minutes worth sparingly spread out across the running time). The novelty of the mummy-goes-zombie story hook wears thin under the film’s threadbare storytelling and cheap, hasty approach of the filmmakers.

Agrama gets some mileage out of his atmospheric Egyptian locations (namely, a few nice Pyramid shots) but his pacing is oppressively slow.  The performances he gets from his actors are even worse: in any would-be moment of drama, he just has the actors shout their lines at each other. He does manage to deliver some splattery carnage in the last ten minutes, thanks to effects masterminded by Fulci film veteran Maurizio Trani, but it’s presented in such a rushed, ineptly filmed way that it fails to provide a real payoff.

If you are masochistic enough to give Dawn Of The Mummy a shot, it does have two entertaining elements.  The first is the performance John Salvo as Rick, the chief grave robber.  He utilizes the kind of crazy, googly-eyed facial expressions that haven’t been seen since the days of silent pictures, says his lines in a bad pseudo-Humphrey Bogart accent and acts weirdly orgasmic whenever he sees treasure items.

The other fun element of the film is Shuki Levy’s score, which combines kitschy Egyptian exotica melodies with chintzy dance beats to create a sound best described as “disco on the Nile.”  It’s interesting to note that Levy would go on to have a prolific career scoring t.v. shows, including a lot of animated cult faves from the 1980’s like He-Man and Inspector Gadget, and he also wrote several episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  If the rest of the film had this kind of trashy creativity his score provides, it might have lived up to its title’s trashy come-on.

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