Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Mummy Theme Park (2000)

One of the few things that irritates me, still, after using internet during so many years is the fact that IMDB still haven't separated Al Passeri and Massimiliano Cerchi. I'm not sure or why it happen, but old Italian special effects maestro Passeri got mixed up with American indie-director Cerchi and is now just one of Cerchi's aliases. Because believe me, the latter didn't do production design on Alien 2: On Earth when he was eight years old or built the miniatures to Atlantis Interceptors when he was eleven (even if it looks like the work of a child). The real Passeri did direct three movies and today I'm gonna look at his last one, The Mummy Theme Park.

A photographer, Daniel (Adam O'Neil) and his co-worker Julie (Holly Laningham) is hired by a sheik in Egypt to document his new project, a theme park that takes the visitors back four thousand years to the time of the pharaohs. With the help of a scientist he actually awoken the mummies as half humans/half robots, reconstructed their physical appearances and uses them has entertainment-slaves! But something goes terrible wrong and soon our heroes is hunted by killer-mummies down in the buried city!

To just claim this is as the worst movie ever made is to do the movie injustice. But I've read it many times over the years and had that opinion myself when I saw it on DVD more than ten years ago for the first time. Yeah, it's not a good movie - but this is one of the few truly original genre movies ever to come from Italy - in the visual department, because I can't promise you never seen anything like it. What we have here is Passeri using all his old-school skills do a whole movie only based on them. I had some strange memories of this being shot digital and using a lot of cheap digital effects, but hey - it's the exact opposite.

I never seen a movie deliberately using so many, nowadays, lost special effects techniques: miniatures in front of camera to create a big environment, perspective illusions, black art (when someone is wearing black clothes and mask standing in front of a black textile and makes dead objects move),  double exposure, the use of mirrors to make a location bigger and back projection (not blue screen). Almost every shot in this movie is a special effects shot using these techniques. There's a couple of simpler digital effects, 2D, which works like cartoonish elements in the storyline. Not meant to look realistic, but more to generate a laugh or just look absurd.  

The look of the movie is also ultra-stylish, not even near realistic. It's a combination between a bad school play and Fellini! Everything is built in studio, as cheap sets for the close-up's and miniatures for the bigger angles. When the close-up comes they are usually quite cramped, so there was probably very little money to build them with. But the miniatures looks their own way.

One thing that looks very cool is the main mummy, who after being burned is a walking flesh-monster with a huge mouth! The nastiness of that creature actually stands out very strange compared with the rest of the movie.

Produced by Production Film 82 in Rome, at RAI's studios and using dubbed Italian actors under new "American" names - this is a pure Italian production and has nothing to do with Massimiliano "Max" Cerchi, at least that what I think. What happen with Cerchi by the way? He and the company he owned, the Las Vegas based Rounds Entertainment, was sued by filmmaker Jeff Carney in 2003 and was ordered to pay 96000 dollars in damages because of distributing a movie he didn't have the rights to and since then he seem to be lost, staying away from the law.

The Mummy Theme Park is a very strange movie. An odd bird, and very unique. Rarely has the Italian film industry seen something like it before and after - except for the two other movies Passeri directed around the same time. But this one is extreme in it's deliberate lack of realism. Give it a shot, but I doubt it's the kind of movie you will like. 


Anonymous said...

"the mummies as half humans/half robots, reconstructed their physical appearances and uses them has entertainment-slaves"

Not that far from reality...look at Gunther von Hagens and his anatomy exhibits.

Sounds like a cool idea though...

Listen Ninja...if you want more people reading your thai reviews...couldn´t you move them over here and post them on this blog instead?

Like a thaifriday..or monday....a theme day every week?

Ninja Dixon said...

Nah, I had Thai movies on my blog before (and still has), but no one appreciated them then either :) So I keep them on their own blog, because it's a special interest of me.

Anonymous said...

Ninja: But that was before I came...hahahhahahhaha....ok....but could you add a anon commentary function on the thai blog..?

I usually go in and take look....very fascinated by the thai western films you mention....I saw Khon fai bin/Dynamite Warrior (2006) a year ago....I thought was flawed but entertaining.

vwstieber said...

I bought the German DVD years ago and never got around to watching it. Now I will, thanks to your review I love his PLANKTON!

DAWN OF THE MUMMY is another nice 1980s oddball mummy movie. The Anchor Bay UK edition is the best to have, IMHO.