Dawn Of the Mummy's On Blu-ray!?

I was talking on a forum recently about Dawn Of the Mummy, saying how the UK disc is so much better, with the anamorphic widescreen print and the commentary. But I've been thinking about that discussion for the last couple days. Was the UK disc really so much better? I was operating from some pretty old memories. It was time to break out both versions and give 'em the full DVDExotica treatment.

Update 9/30/15 - 12/7/23: Wow, I had no idea this was coming out on blu-ray!  I just popped onto Diabolik one day and there it was, in stock.  So I pounced.
If you've never seen Dawn, don't let its title and artwork fool you. This is not one of those mummy movies where a bunch of stuffy English professors stand around in a drawing room warning each other about the mummy they'll finally confront in the last five minutes. This has more in common with Fulci than Hammer or the Universal classics. It's not Italian, though; it's an Egyptian movie in English with some American stars. The set-up is traditional: in ancient Egypt, a king is buried with his treasures and a curse. Cut to modern times and an American is excavating the tomb with his local guides. So naturally the mummy wakes up and is out for blood.
But things start to get very 80s when a group of attractive young models stumble into the same pyramid, looking to smoke, screw and have a photo shoot. And the mummy, who's a freakishly tall, bad-ass looking mummy, also happens to command an army of the dead: pure zombie flesh eaters. Everyone winds up at an outdoor Egyptian wedding in a small village, and it's practically war between the living and the dead. Things move at a pretty good clip here; you won't be bored at long, dry scenes of exposition. It gets right down to the exploitation. And while this movie definitely looks and feels cheap, it's also got some pretty impressive production values. The film was shot in both NY and Egypt. Some interiors are shot on sound-stages, but they're often out riding on horses and camels in and around real pyramids. And the special effects for the mummy, the kills and explosions are all pretty strong. The acting and the dialogue are a little dodgier, but that almost adds to the fun.
So Dawn Of the Mummy was released in both the US and the UK in 2003. Only Anchor Bay's UK disc had the anamorphic widescreen transfer, though, so the word was out avoid Madacy's US DVD. But looking back at my UK disc, it's not too pretty either.  Fortunately, in 2023, CMV Laservision has released it on BD (and DVD, as part of a mediabook combopack) in Germany.  It includes two cuts: uncut and the German theatrical version.
1) Madacy DVD; 2) AB FS DVD; 3) ABWS DVD; 4) CMV Uncut BD;
5) CMV Theatrical BD; 6) CMV Uncut DVD; 7) CMV Theatrical DVD.

Let's start with the fact that Anchor Bay gave you a choice: even before the main menu, you get to pick 4:3 or 16x9. The 4:3, on both Madacy and AB is open matte, about 1.30:1, not a pan & scanned or chopped off sides deal. The widescreen is slightly pillarboxed to about 1.72:1. All three transfers are actually ugly, murky, soft videotape-looking images. The two Anchor Bays are identical except of course for the matting. But the Anchor Bay and Madacy transfers are noticeably different. They both basically have one big, unique flaw, in addition to the aforementioned ugly, murkiness they share. Madacy has stronger colors and is a bit brighter, though it's also slightly black crushed. But mainly, it just looks softer and even more VHS-like. Anchor Bay is a little duller, more film-like with additional visible detail - and it looks like they cleaned off some flecks and dirt - but it has a serious interlacing problem.

Now, I came into CMV's new blu with low expectations.  I figured if they just fixed the interlacing, removed a smidgen of the DVD's compression and didn't botch anything, I'd be happy.  Turns out they did more than that.  But only for their BD, which seems to utilize a new HD scan.  Their DVD features two junky old transfers reminiscent of Madacy and AB, though at least they're not interlaced.  Their fullscreen DVD is 1.32:1 and looks similar to the AB disc, maybe a teensy bit clearer, and their widescreen DVD is slightly windowboxed to 1.77:1, cropping even a little tighter than AB, but otherwise looking just like it minus the interlacing.

The blus, however (both blu-ray transfers have the same basic transfer) are pillarboxed to 1.66:1 and are so much clearer and more detailed.  This is clearly a whole new scan and looks so much better.  Damage, cigarette burns, etc have also either been cleaned up, or just weren't present on the source CMV used.  The color timing, however, is all over the place.  Some shots look great, others have elevated black levels (the swim scene at the oasis is particularly egregious) and overall, it just feels like we're jumping between different sources, which to some extent, we actually are.
CMV Uncut BD.
The theatrical version is cut by six minutes, and the uncut blu uses the same HD transfer with SD inserts composited in.  Above, you can see the lower insert quality; this is the shot where it really looks the worst.  It's still not interlaced, and the inserts generally don't stand out too badly from the rest of the footage in motion.  Or, at least, the color timing shifts stand out far more than any fluctuations in image quality.  But make no mistake, the blu is still a big step forward from the DVDs (just look at the grill on the jeep, for example, and now un-noisy it is for the first time on the BD), and some shots look really impressive, even if grain is still light even at the best of times.

All three discs include the original English mono for the uncut version, with Anchor Bay also offering an exclusive 5.1 remix.  Disappointingly, the BD audio tracks are lossy, just like the past DVDs, though the new ones are a bit cleaner.  I also have to point out that the German theatrical BD is not English friendly at all, but that's no great loss, since it's the cut version.  And the cut version on CMV's DVD does include both audio tracks if you're that curious.  None of these releases include English subtitles, and only CMV's uncut blu has optional/ removable German subs for the insert shots.
The other surprise for me was that Madacy also had the commentary on it. The primary extra on both discs is a light but very illuminating commentary by director Frank Agrama and moderated by the guy from Dark Delicacies (they're the people who got my Crystal Lake Memories blu-ray autographed!). You don't find a lot of Egyptian horror flicks on your video store shelves, so it's good to have such a detailed account of this film's history. But that commentary is pretty much all there is. Madacy's only other extra is a bonus trailer for some movie called Road Ends. Anchor Bay at least has the actual Dawn Of the Mummy trailer, which is worth a watch for some fun narration ("Egypt, home of the pyramids. A nice place to visit... but would you want to DIE there?"). But that and a photo gallery are the only other extras. Oh, and Anchor Bay has a nice, fold-out insert. All told, a tiny improvement, but nothing to go out of your way for.

CMV keeps the commentary (for the uncut version only) and the trailer, but that's basically all there is, at least for English speaking audiences.  They actually recorded a new commentary with an expert (for the uncut BD only), but it's in German with no subtitles.  They also included a German dub of the trailer (in addition to the English one), an image gallery and a couple bonus trailers.  Plus, as a mediabook, it includes the full-color pages, though of course that's all in German, too.

There are two limited edition covers.  The one I have, pictured at the top, is limited to 444 individually numbered copies (mine is #134).  And the other, which uses the same imagery as the AB disc, is limited to 666.
So Anchor Bay's Dawn, though preferable to the Madacy disc, wasn't the vastly superior presentation I remembered it being.  But both are ugly as sin and were in serious need of an upgrade.  And CMV's new edition, though far from perfect (really, they couldn't give us the audio in DTS-HD?), delivers that upgrade.  This is not up to the quality of a label like Arrow or Vinegar Syndrome, but it's infinitely more watchable than the DVDs. And it's a very fun movie that's absolutely worth having in your collection, so you might want to wait and see a little bit, if a US or UK release turns out to be just around the corner.  But if not, you should definitely pick this one up.


  1. What I wouldn't give for a proper film scan of this one!

  2. I rented this one from Netflix a while back. From what I recall, it moves at anything but a good clip and most of the gory stuff occurs in the last ten minutes during the aforementioned wedding massacre grand finale.

  3. I have the CMV Laservision (German) DVD. It looked pretty good to me, but I think I'd only seen parts of the movie on VHS before watching the disc.
    It has the 1.33-version in the extras along with a few trailers.