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THE MUMMY – Jerry Goldsmith

themummyOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Jerry Goldsmith’s first effort of 1999 is a barnstorming action score of epic proportions. The density of the orchestrations and the complexity of the melodic lines put you in mind of vibrant works such as First Knight, Deep Rising, and especially The Wind and the Lion with its intoxicating ethnic percussion and pervading sense of Arabic mystique. A loose remake of Boris Karloff’s 1932 horror classic, The Mummy is an old-fashioned, tongue-in-cheek Saturday matinee flick with more than a few passing resemblances to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Universal Pictures and director Stephen Sommers hope it will be the first big action movie to smash the box office in a summer market already dominated by the imminent release of The Phantom Menace. It stars Brendan Fraser as a treasure-seeker who travels to 1930s Egypt searching for lost artefacts. What he finds, though, is far worse – the mummified body of the ancient Egyptian priest Imhotep, who was buried alive in disgrace by the then Pharaoh, and who unleashes a terrible vengeful power on those who disturbed him from his slumber.

Goldsmith’s score is a sheer delight from start to finish. Although essentially one long action cue, the sheer ebullience of it all lifts The Mummy above 99% of its contemporaries, making it stand alone as one of the best adventure scores for many a year. Goldsmith’s music adopts a definite middle-Eastern flavour throughout, and is accentuated by the inclusion of several lilting themes for exotic strings instruments and woodwinds. It’s difficult to explain how this effect is achieved in non-technical terms, but you’ll certainly know it when you hear it in tracks like ‘Giza Port’ and ‘The Caravan’. It somehow just sounds “Egyptian”. The horror aspects of the film are eloquently accentuated through the inspired use of deep, rumbling percussion and the occasional inclusion of a low choir. Cues such as the powerful ‘Imhotep’, the menacing ‘The Sarcophagus’, and the almost unbearably creepy ‘Discoveries’ benefit markedly from Goldsmith’s ingenuity here. In addition, the equally unnerving ‘The Crypt’ includes a deafening descending brass motif similar to the one used so effectively in The Edge.

The sweeping love theme, heard in short bursts in several tracks, is eventually given a full and vibrant performance, complete with heavenly chorus, in the final cue to smartly round off the album. The rest, therefore, is action. Surprisingly for Goldsmith, there are very few synthesisers present in The Mummy, which instead relies for the most part on the oomph of the orchestral performance, especially the brass section, which performs increasingly difficult passages with seemingly effortless ease. The vast majority of tracks are full-blown epics with molto oomph, but each one is subtly different from the other in terms of tempo. There is something of a recurring horn theme which runs through many of the cues, but on the whole each has a unique character in its orchestration or structure which makes it immediately memorable.

‘Tuareg Attack’ has an especially impressive snare drum performance and a whole load of swirling, whooping string work. The tumultuous ‘Night Boarders’ features a whirlwind xylophone solo underneath all the booming brasses. The propulsive ‘Camel Race’ presents an noticably strong performance of the expansive main theme, and ‘Mumia Attack’ is a frenzied cacophany of percussion, while the entire final section – from ‘My Favourite Plague’ right up to ‘The Sand Volcano’ – is an unrelenting musical bombardment of the aural senses, although the final cue does contain a bold, slightly comical march with a tempo reminiscent of his work on Small Soldiers. Many score fans have generally acclaimed The Mummy to be Goldsmith’s finest action score in a decade, something I find somewhat surprising as much of the music strongly resembles last year’s Deep Rising – a score which was quite roundly dismissed by all and sundry (a similar thing happened with Star Trek Insurrection and U.S. Marshals, incidentally, where one was lauded and the other denounced, despite their stylistic similarities).

Undoubtedly, The Mummy is a fine example of contemporary orchestral action scoring, but whether it stands the test of time as well as The Wind and the Lion will remain to be seen. One thing for sure, though, is that fans will be hoping Goldsmith’s doesn’t keep this kind of symphonic writing under wraps for this long again. Excuse the pun…

Rating ****½

Buy the Mummy soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Imhotep (4:19)
  • The Sarcophagus (2:17)
  • Tuareg Attack (2:21)
  • Giza Port (2:03)
  • Night Boarders (4:06)
  • The Caravan (2:52)
  • Camel Race (3:26)
  • The Crypt (2:26)
  • Mumia Attack (2:17)
  • Discoveries (3:41)
  • My Favourite Plague (3:59)
  • Crowd Control (3:12)
  • Rebirth (8:33)
  • The Mummy (6:19)
  • The Sand Volcano (5:40)

Running Time: 57 minutes 46 seconds

Decca 289-466-458-2 (1999)

Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Orchestrations by Alexander Courage. Recorded by Mike Ross-Trevor. Mixed by Bruce Botnick. Edited by Bruce Botnick and Ken Hall. Mastered by Bruce Botnick. Album produced by Jerry Goldsmith.

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