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The Mummy
  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Intrada / 158m (score 91m)

I don’t think anyone involved with 1999’s The Mummy could have predicted that it would become such a major success: a lighthearted reboot of the classic Universal monster series, Brendan Fraser starred (I repeat: 1999) as a 1920s archaeological adventurer who – with Rachael Weisz’s librarian – accidentally awaken Imhotep, who starts wreaking havoc on everyone and everything to seek revenge for his 700-year entombment.  I haven’t watched it for a very long time but remember quite enjoying it for what it was, and obviously it’s better than the disastrous subsequent attempt to reboot it in 2017.

Jerry Goldsmith worked on a few stinkers in his time but (forthright though he was about most things) he rarely said much bad about them, so it was a surprise when I heard him say – to an audience of thousands before one of his London concerts – that the film was “a piece of shit” before it had even been released.  It seems that for whatever reason he had a miserable time working on it and with director Stephen Sommers – they had done Deep Rising together a couple of years before but wouldn’t work together again.  It goes without saying that whatever feelings the composer may have had towards the film certainly didn’t stop him giving his all and his hugely satisfying powerhouse of a score is one of his last great ones.

Jerry Goldsmith

The album released at the time was a wonderful listening experience but missed out about half an hour of fine material – a deluxe edition always seemed inevitable and has now arrived, nearly two decades later, from Intrada.  Almost all of the middle third of the score is heard for the first time on this album, and even the previously-familiar material sounds radically different thanks to a very dramatic remixing by Bruce Botnick.  Intrada’s press release says this presents “instrumental detail not previously audible” which is true, and there’s a massive, booming quality to the music which I like a lot – but some may find it a bit disconcerting, especially after being so used to the previous mix for so long.

The score is big on action as you might expect – and there’s no shortage of it in the opening “Imhotep”, which presents a number of the score’s main ideas, most notably the dark and garish theme for the mummy himself, which is further explored in “The Sarcophagus” (whose synths are far more prominent than on the previous album).  My favourite cue in the whole score is the spectacular “The Tauregs Attack”, one of the most thrilling action cues ever written by the composer who has never had a serious rival to the crown of greatest action music composer in Hollywood history.  As Douglass Fake notes in the booklet, the style hearkens back to the composer’s great scores of a couple of decades earlier, using real percussion along with brass and strings to provide the rhythmic propulsion under the central melody.  The piece also introduces the theme for Fraser’s character – perhaps the closest the score gets to King Solomon’s Mines (a superficially similar film), it’s got a bit of a comic feel, with a nod and a wink over the heroism that you get from the surface level.

That theme gets a bigger workout still in “Night Boarders” a few tracks later (after a succession of fun but brief previously-unreleased cues), which is another wonderful piece of action music almost as thrilling.  Just before that, the light-hearted “Giza Port” is a great little piece, showcasing a bouzouki that Goldsmith uses throughout the score to give a Middle Eastern flavour (and it works, even though the instrument – as Jeff Bond notes in the booklet – is actually Greek, and was – as is not surprisingly not noted by anyone in the booklet – a rather prominent part of Monty Python’s genius Cheese Shop sketch; it also featured prominently in The 13th Warrior, released not long after this score but – if I recall correctly – written and recorded before it).  “The Caravan” opens with a touch of the beautiful (and sincere) love theme before a rousing rendition of the epic Egypt theme, complete with choir, which was hinted at in the score’s opening cue.

“Camel Race” is another gem of a cue – it starts shimmering away, warming like the sun coming over the horizon at dawn, before a blast from the horns leads us into a brilliant scherzo-like piece of rousing action featuring a stunning version of the love theme which soars away like nobody’s business before horns and percussion bring things to a thunderous conclusion.  Unfortunately the later part of the cue is dogged by a serious audio problem, a buzzing which was apparently present on the master but barely heard on the first album because of the way it was mastered.  What a shame!

A barrage of brass and percussion near the end of “The Prep Room” is the highlight of the previously-unreleased track, which leads into “The Mummy Sarcophagus” (“The Crypt” on the previous album), as tension-building trombone glissando near the start bringing back memories of The Edge, the deliberately-paced action which briefly plays in the middle of the cue cleverly suggesting an unstoppable juggernaut being unleashed.  Pulse-pounding action is then the highlight of “Mumia Attack”, with string runs hearkening all the way back to The Wind and the Lion (and gloriously so).

I love the brief “A Librarian”, released for the first time here: it’s only a minute long but in that time Goldsmith presents some genuinely tender material to open the cue before going into a lovely, lilting arrangement of the love theme.  But undoubtedly the best of the previously-unreleased material is “The Locusts”, which opens with spinetingling action before moving into creepy suspense (with very effective choral involvement) for the middle section and then back to the action to conclude.  There’s a different take on the cue included in the bonus section and Fake says that the version featured on the original album was different again – I must be missing something obvious, but it wasn’t on the original album, so I’m not sure what he’s referring to exactly.

The action becomes much angrier around the middle of the score and a whole host of previously-unreleased short action cues follows, the highlight of which is “The Flies”, highlighting a particularly strident version of the mummy’s theme. These lead up to the familiar “My Favourite Plague”, ballsy and boisterous – and hugely entertaining. Spooky choir introduces “Crowd Control”, then a burst of absolutely ferocious low brass ushers in yet more dark action, a salve finally arriving in the shape of the love theme (albeit a rather tentative version of it). “Sand Storm” is absolutely brilliant – a thunderous action cue which sees the main hero and villain themes do battle with each other. It has a very satisfying epic bent to it; then comes the short “Desert Burial”, with a noble (and standalone) horn melody giving a rather silly character a much more sincere send-off than he really deserved.

We near the end of the film with a pair of lengthy action cues – “Rebirth” and “The Mummy Attack” run fifteen minutes between them and offer an exhausting ride through some very dark territory, Goldsmith rarely taking his foot off the gas. The focus is very much on the mummy’s theme and various offshoots from it but as in “Sand Storm” the composer uses Rick’s theme as a kind of counterweight. About three minutes into the first cue there is an uncompromising passage of action which really is Goldsmith at his best, masterfully heightening the tension and providing thrills at the same time. “Escape from the Tomb” is a fine new piece of the musical jigsaw that underscores the end of the film, a rollicking cue the offers a nice bridge between the darkness of the previous piece and the slightly brighter action of the wonderful “The Sand Volcano”, presented here standalone rather than segueing into the end titles as previously.

Speaking of the end titles… sadly here we have an unbelievable misfire, with the four minutes of brilliant material Goldsmith wrote for the first part of the titles being inexplicably crossfaded into extracts from cues earlier in the score (as in the film) – I know that some people want their soundtrack albums to slavishly adhere to what is heard in the film even when it makes no musical sense – but seriously, it makes no musical sense.  You’ve got the great rarity at the time of the greatest film composer who ever lived actually composing two separate complete pieces of music for the end titles which would have made brilliant standalone pieces to stick onto everyone’s “Best of Goldsmith” playlists, one a beautifully swooning take on the love theme and the other a final blast of Rick’s theme – and then it gets crossfaded into other stuff.  I may be the only one who cares about it, but still – it’s a major disappointment for me.

Total Recall right at the start of the 1990s and First Knight right in the middle are undoubtedly the best scores Goldsmith wrote during the decade, but The Mummy is one of two (the other being Mulan) from the end of it which are only a short way behind.  It’s a thrill-ride from start to finish and, while the new album perhaps isn’t quite the definitive version we had all been hoping for given the couple of issues I’ve noted, it’s still hugely satisfying.  The 57 minutes of score on the first album are the best 57 minutes the score has to offer, but the extra 35 just flesh everything out further and make it even more enjoyable.  Goldsmith was one-of-a-kind at this sort of film and right at the end of his career, his powers were showing no signs of waning here – it’s a far richer and more involving effort than the film had any right to get.  Indeed, it’s a spectacular score.

Rating: *****

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  1. Lu Van der Eeken (Reply) on Tuesday 14 August, 2018 at 09:40

    I think that when it came to action scoring Williams’ music for the Indy quadrilogy certainly rivals (or even betters?) Goldsmith’s output but that’s an old debate. He was certainly very oood at it but it seems I’m in the minority where ‘The Mummy’ is concerned, I think it’s one of Goldsmith’s lesser effprts. I always found ‘The 13th Warrior’ or ‘First Knight’ to be better scores. And I think Silvestri surprisingly outdid him on the second one.

  2. André (Reply) on Wednesday 15 August, 2018 at 21:14

    The Mummy Score has its flaws but has on the other side so many outstanding moments and tracks that this is truly a 5 star score. The Mummy contains some of the best avdenture score tracks I ´ve ever heard in a movie like this. The best tracks are in the first half and at the end of the movie. With the best moments Alan Silvestri can´t compete, but Silvestri has also some fantastic tracks and moments in the second movie with five star quality.

  3. Daniel Henderson (Reply) on Thursday 16 August, 2018 at 15:51

    1999 was just an excellent year for Jerry Goldsmith. While The Haunting had some great bits, The Mummy and The 13th Warrior were blasted out of the park. I’d love to get an expanded 13th Warrior just to complete the 1999 set.

    But The Sand Volcano was and is just magical.