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I feel sorry for The Curse of King Tut's Tomb as it's going to be mis-judged by many. I imagine most consumers are going to see the name "Casper Van Dien," the word "miniseries" and the fake-looking beastie on the cover and pass it up, thinking it can't possibly be any good. These were my sentiments precisely when I first caught wind of the release, but I was very wrong in my judgement. Quite surprisingly, I enjoyed this miniseries very much. It shall serve as a reminder to myself that I don't posses the ability to judge entire projects without having seen them first. Don't scoff at me that way.... you probably do it too.

The Curse of King Tut's Tomb
Feature
Archeologist Danny Freemont is looking for the final piece of an emerald tablet, once owned by King Tutankahmen, that if joined with the other pieces, holds a dark power capable of destroying mankind; his arch-nemesis, Morgan Sinclaire, is one step behind and plans to harness the tablet's power for his own benefit. Backed by a diabolical organization called the Hellfire Council, Sinclaire has a few dark powers of his own to call on and will stop at nothing to beat Freemont to Tut's tomb. Lucky for our hero, he won't be going it alone but rather with a beautiful Egyptologist, Dr. Azelia Barakt, his two best mates and a handful of other brave souls. Together, their fight against Sinclaire and the Hellfire Council for the tablet will take them from the ice caverns of the Arctic to scenic Egypt and even the fiery underworld itself.

Not that I worry about such things, but my credibility with readers of DVDActive must be going to hell. In the past month I've given somewhat positive reviews to a cheesy disaster miniseries, a Sci-Fi Channel original movie and now this. I can honestly say I had a terribly fun time with The Curse of King Tut's Tomb. Almost non-stop action and adventure from start to finish, it has likable enough heros, a deliciously sinister set of villains and fantastic production team to bring them all to life.

If you saw the first screenshot above, you might've noticed our hero's likeness to another famous archeologist of the early 1900's. It's unquestionable that The Curse of King Tut's Tomb rips off the Indiana Jones trilogy in several places, but it's a fairly good rip-off. Truth be told, I'd take this miniseries over any episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles you could offer me. Dare I say that with a bigger budget, better lead and expanded story, this could even have worked as an Indy prequel? I dare. Curse has an epic and adventurous spirit about it that makes for an entertaining watch.

The Curse of King Tut's Tomb
Casper Van Dien isn't anything to write home about in the lead role, but he's decent enough. The good guys of the series are heavily upstaged by the forces of evil at work against them. Malcom McDowell and Simon Callow are good fun as the leaders of the Hellfire Council but the most enjoyable performance of the miniseries comes from the Council's most under-estimated member, Morgan Sinclaire. Jonathan Hyde plays the role to diabolical perfection. The guy won't hesitate to lull his victims into a false sense of security and then off them. He also has a penchant for killing those who do his bidding after they've done so. Scariest of all, he tries to mummify our hero while still alive and gets as far as trying to remove his brain through his nose. Sinclaire is a soul-sucking devil-dealing madman and a fabulous asset to the show.

My problems with the miniseries are mostly small change. I'm fairly certain that Sinclaire hums the Jaws theme at one point while dunking our hero in a tank of serpents, a tune that wouldn't be composed for another fifty years. It also tips it's hat several times to a favorite of mine, Casblanaca, once directly even though it wouldn't be made for another twenty years. Another quibble is that the feature seems to think that newsreels of the time period were shot in widescreen. They most definitely were not. Lastly, the special effects work isn't all that impressive and luckily most of them are confined to the final battle of the show between Tutankahmen and a demon-beast thing from hell.

Regardless of what I thought of the script, the production team behind Curse created an awesome world for it's characters to live in. A mix of actual locations and sound-stages bring to life arctic caves, Egyptian city-streets, archeological digs, ancient underground tombs and even the fiery down-under itself. These exotic locales mixed with some fantastic camera-work make for a miniseries that's at the very least, pleasing to the eyes. Very impressive is the bag of tricks the cinematographers pull from, including several captivating crane, dolly and handheld sequences. I honestly couldn't find a dull shot in Curse if I wanted to.

The Curse of King Tut's Tomb
Overall, I felt this was a wonderfully good miniseries filled with amusing heroes, nefarious villains and a great balance of adventure and humor. To give you an idea of just how much I enjoyed The Curse of King Tut's Tomb, I'll tell you that I found it light-years better than Stephen Sommer's Mummy films, although that statement may not be saying very much to the credit of this title. The ending to Curse was satisfying in that it left the door wide open for a sequel. If this team behind this miniseries could create another that could keep up the energy and production values of the first, I'd be all for another story with these characters. The key element would unquestionably be pitting a threatening enemy against our hero, Danny Freemont.

Video
No thanks to Echo Bridge Entertainment and their nasty habit of not listing vital technical specs on their packaging, I found that The Curse of King Tut's Tomb is presented in anamorphic 1:85:1 widescreen. Image quality ranges from good to absolutely piss-poor. Whenever we enter a dark place such as a tomb or city-street after hours, the picture is filled with noticeable grain. I can't be sure as to what Curse was filmed with, but certain exteriors had to have been shot on celluloid because of the nasty artefacts and scratches they're host to. Perhaps these individual images were borrowed from other sources. In the end, it's a pity because this is a very well-shot production. If only Echo Bridge could've done some tweaking here and there, the miniseries would look much better.

Audio
The disc is home to both a Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mix. Having stated my feelings about DTS time and time before, I listened to The Curse of King Tut's Tomb with the 5.1 track and enjoyed every moment of it. The audio mix of the feature is outstanding from the echoey-halls of the underground tombs to the fiery atmosphere of hell. The score also comes across nicely, sounding best when it's not ripping off musical cues from John William's Indiana Jones work.

The Curse of King Tut's Tomb
Extras
Echo Bridge is getting better at this supplemental feature thing, but they still have much to learn. Although not necessarily a supplement, I must give praise to the wonderfully animated menus, a trademark of Echo Bridge's discs.

First up is a three minute mini-featurette called 'The Dark Secrets of the Hellfire Council' which contains nothing secretive if you've seen the miniseries. It's mostly made of clips from the feature sprinkled around cast interviews. As much fun as Simon Callow and Malcom McDowell are, they tell us nothing we don't already know here, literally regurgitating what they can recall from their shooting scripts about the Hellfire Council. Absolutely pointless. Up next is an even less satisfying six and a half minute "Shooting "Egypt" in India" mini-featurette. It's comprised of director Russell Mulcahy and many of the cast sharing their opinions on India. Clearly bullshitting every word, their interviews all read like "It's hot... but a beautiful country. I'd love to come back." Who in their right mind cares? Interview the cinematographers or producers or even a historian, just make it of interest to the viewer. Cripes, I imagine even the production assistants would have more fascinating things to say than this.

In that fat chance that Echo Bridge Entertainment follows up on the reviews that their titles are given, I'd like to offer them a golden nugget of advice. If you're going to pay someone to assemble the on-set interviews and footage from the miniseries you distribute, have that person assemble them differently than this. These two features are a complete waste of nine minutes of someone's life. Perhaps only use interviews that pertain to the actual production process itself and not the country where you shot or obvious plot details? Still... I'll give the disc a 4 for its effort.

The Curse of King Tut's Tomb
Overall
For me, The Curse of King Tut's Tomb was an enjoyable miniseries. The video quality of the disc leaves something to be desired, but the excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 track might make up for it. The supplements are a waste of time and effort, but even still, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this title to those who enjoy adventure epics and don't mind a slight lack of originality. Overall, a win for Echo Bridge Entertainment.


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