Bram Stoker’s Legend of the Mummy (1998): A Sphinx-er Says What?

Matty unwraps Jeffrey Obrow’s deathly dull horror flick.

Two of the most overlooked DTV trends of the ‘90s: the brief upswing in possessory titled Bram Stoker adaptations in the wake of Francis Ford Coppola’s lavish 1992 interpretation of Dracula (see: Bram Stoker’s Burial of the Rats (1995) and Bram Stoker’s Shadowbuilder (1998)), and the run of mummy shockers that landed on video store shelves just before Egyptian shufflers hit the big time thanks to a certain Stephen Sommers blockbuster (see: The Mummy Lives (1993), The Eternal (1998), and Talos the Mummy (1998)). Though not a good movie by any means, BRAM STOKER’S LEGEND OF THE MUMMY is at least notable for bridging the gap between both fads.

A sluggish Hammer horror homage, Legend of the Mummy takes its cues from Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars — the same 1903 novel that the iconic fright studio brought to the screen as Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) (which, in a further twist of interconnectivity, also featured perpetually awesome scene-stealer Aubrey Morris). Tedious beyond belief and lensed with all the pomp of a public access broadcast, there are some pluses but they’re few and far between.

Amidst the usual blend of curses and reincarnation, top-billed star Louis Gossett, Jr. cuts loose with a fun performance, and he’s joined in the kitsch-y overacting stakes by Mark Lindsay Chapman, and Home Improvement foil Richard Karn (as an on-hand museum curator-cum-unlikely ladies’ man, no less). The mummy effects by Chad Washam and Chris Fording are pretty cool, too. It’s just a shame that their work is barely seen. Instead, director Jeffrey Obrow repeatedly sidesteps his bandaged-wrapped hook in favour of bad exposition and shoddy, Omen (1976)-lite supernatural occurrences. Something of a minor-league horror hero thanks to his pairings with fellow helmer Stephen Carpenter, the traces of talent that Obrow demonstrated on such flawed but fascinating cult favs as The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982), The Power (1984), and The Kindred (1987) desert him here. Even the inherent spookiness of the film’s gothic mansion setting is fudged by his anonymous direction. But hey: as lame as this soul-sapping clag-a-thon is, Legend of the Mummy is still better than Obrow’s dismal Dean Koontz caper, Servants of Twilight (1991)

Legend of the Mummy was released on U.K. video on 16th February 1998 and caused enough of a splash to warrant distributor Third Millennium repackaging David DeCoteau’s otherwise unrelated Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (2000) as a sequel two-and-a-half years later. Stateside, Legend of the Mummy was part of the first deal brokered between Robert E. Baruc’s Unapix and HBO. Unapix licensed it and Richard Brandes’ Devil in the Flesh (1998) to the network in early ‘98 at a cost of $450,000 apiece. Consequently, Legend of the Mummy premiered on HBO on Friday 30th October 1998 before arriving on tape the following December via Unapix subsidiary, A-Pix. It had a nice shiny cover. Another little win I guess… 

Also known as ‘Bram Stoker’s The Mummy’.

USA ● 1998 ● Horror ● 97mins

Louis Gossett Jr., Eric Lutes, Amy Locane, Richard Karn, Aubrey Morris ● Dir. Jeffrey Obrow ● Wri. Jeffrey Obrow, adapted by Obrow, Lars Hauglie & John Penney from the novel The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker

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