DAWN OF THE MUMMY (1981) Reviews and overview

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‘They came from the dead… A monstrous, chilling terror stalking the living.’

Dawn of the Mummy is a 1981 American/Egyptian supernatural horror feature film produced and directed by Frank (Farouk) Agrama (Queen Kong), from a screenplay co-written with Ronald Dobrin and Daria Price. Original director Armand Weston (The Nesting) left the production.


A photographer and a group of American models travel to Egypt for a fashion shoot. While shooting in an ancient tomb, their hot lights accidentally revive a mummy and his followers, a band of zombies…

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In the early 1980s, when rental video releases routinely included half an hour of lengthy trailers, Dawn of the Mummy was one of those films that played better as a coming attraction than as a film. The trailer offered cod-Egyptian pop/mysterioso music (from Shuki Levy), images of zombie mummies crawling from the sands and invading a desert town and a lot of running and screaming models and none of the aimless wandering-around and tourist footage that characterises the finished picture. Subsequent DVD releases were never going to establish the film as a lost classic, but it is generally watchable in a loony sort of way.

It opens with extras running about the desert in ‘3000 BC’ and then cuts to a present day of bleached blond studs and fluffy-haired babes as a desert tomb of Safiraman is discovered by an unethical thug archaeologist who wants to loot the place and, independently, a hysterical photographer who wants to use the tomb as a backdrop for a fashion lay-out.

First, some gas mutates potential tomb-robbers, then the very tall mummy wanders around, and finally some attendant zombies emerge from the desert and shamble about, killing off the characters and spoiling a local wedding by eating the bride.

Directed by Frank (Farouk) Agrama, who also helmed the infamous Queen Kong, on Egyptian locations, this is a stew of Hammer and Universal mummy licks, Italian rip-off zombie stuff and sub-Indiana Jones archaeology. It’s an unashamed ‘B’ picture with ridiculous characterisations and unbelievable dialogue, yet – like too many movies from this era – moves at a foot-dragging plod when a rapid 1940s-style pace would really have helped.

Pleasingly, the bizarre holiday footage time-outs, as ugly Americans learn how to use a hookah or paint their toenails while cruising in jeeps past pyramids, were just dead footage back in the day, but now they have an oh-my-God-what-are-they-wearing! charm that adds to the overall trash entertainment value.

Kim Newman [official site], MOVIES & MANIA guest reviewer

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Other reviews [click links to read more]:

“A mummy-zombie invasion hybrid isn’t a half-bad idea, unless it’s burdened by predictable scripting and unremarkable acting, and backed by an incongruous slasher score (picture frenetic music accompanying low-speed mummy chase).” Peter Dendle, The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, McFarland

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‘The last half hour is an eye-gouging, skin-ripping, mutilating and eviscerating good time and yes, most definitely worth the wait. I am even willing to ignore the fact that Surferman and his friends are able to almost simultaneously be in town and at the fashion shoot campground despite the fact that there was clearly a huge distance between the two as set early on. The gore really is just that satisfying.’ That Which Should Not Be Measured

“Some praise should be given to the special effects and zombie/mummy make-up in the film. While not looking as delightfully rotten as the zombies in Fulci’s films, the corpses look appropriately decayed, while Sephriman looks terrific despite spending most of his time staring confusedly at nothing in particular. The gore is plentiful, and is usually realized quite effectively, aside from the brief cleaver to the head scene, which is really the fault of some rough editing.” Movie Feast

“The gore’s the main emphasis (the promise of sex is a red herring) yet nothing here is particularly innovative or even well executed.” Jamie Russell, Book of the Dead

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“The story, dialogue and performances are so absurd that the film’s extremely violent bits are more amusing than tasteless. And the mummy make-up is surprisingly excellent: naturally thin actors are wrapped in dirty, bloody rags with sections of dried flesh exposed. Make no mistake – Dawn of the Mummy is truly a bad movie but is also a hilarious one…” Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide

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Cast and characters:

  • Brenda King as Lisa
  • Barry Sattels as Rick
  • George Peck as Bill
  • John Salvo as Gary
  • Ibrahim Khan as Karib
  • Joan Levy as Jenny
  • Ellen Faison as Melinda
  • Dianne Beatty as Joan
  • Ali Gohar as Tariq
  • Ahmed Rateb as Omar
  • Bahar Saied
  • Ali Azab
  • Ahamed Labab as Ahamed
  • Laila Nasr as High Priestess/Old Hag
  • Kandarp Raval as The servant boy (mummy)

Film Facts:

This film should not be confused with Roger Christian’s 2013 film Prisoners of the Sun (written by Peter Atkins and Anthony Hickox), which was retitled Dawn of the Mummy for its British 4Front Films DVD release.

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