At the end of the last millennium, writer and director Stephen Sommers brought Universal Pictures' The Mummy to life on the silver screen in the May of 1999. The film made $416 million at the worldwide box office, and was a huge success for
the studio. As of 2015, the film has spawned numerous spin-offs and sequels, and in this episode of Cutting Edge we'll be taking a look at the BBFC cuts that were made to the first three films that were released as part of the Mummy series.
The Mummy was initially submitted to the BBFC in 1999 and with the film having received a PG-13 rating in the United States, the filmmakers wanted the UK's equivalent rating, the 12, for its British release. However, the BBFC objected to a
scene early in the film that featured Brendan Fraser's character, Rick O'Connell, being hanged. He is saved from death by Evelyn, played by Rachel Weisz, but the Board objected to the film's portrayal of the event, as they later recounted in their Annual
Report for 1999:
One particular issue for the Board is that of imitable techniques, especially in relation to films aimed at younger audiences who may not always be able to understand the consequences of their actions. One
of the year's most popular films The Mummy was classified '12', but not before 14 seconds were cut from a hanging sequence. The length of the original sequence and the lack of adverse effects on the hero as a result of his being hanged was a cause for
concern and could be interpreted by young viewers as indicating that hanging was not a particularly dangerous activity.
In order for the filmmakers to attain their 12 rating, the BBFC demanded four cuts to The Mummy's hanging sequence
for its original theatrical release.
Cut Scenes: Hanging
For the first cut the BBFC stated:
The full shot of O'Connell falling through the trapdoor and dangling must be removed.
As Evelyn barters for O'Connell's life with the prison warden Hassan, we are treated to various cross cuts to O'Connell as he suffers on the noose. One of these cutaways to our hero features a pan across the prison's cheering crowd, which ends on
a shot of O'Connell continuing to struggle. Again, the BBFC objected, stating:
[Remove] the last part of the pan across the courtyard (to remove the sight of O'Connell dangling on the rope).
A further three shots of O'Connell hanging where also removed, which resulted in the loss of some dialogue between Evelyn and Hassan. The original scene in the uncut version contains the following dialogue. The missing scenes in the UK cinema
version have been emphasised in bold for clarity, with the following images showing what visual cuts were made in the UK cinema version:
EVELYN: He knows the location to Hamunaptra.
EVELYN: I would never! [Cut to a two-shot of Evelyn and Hassan talking, as O'Connell hangs in the background]
HASSAN: Are you telling me this filthy, godless, son of a pig knows where to find the city of the dead?
[Cut to O'Connell hanging in close-up, his eyes rolling back into his head]
EVELYN: Yes! And if you cut him down, we will give you... [She looks off-screen, and we cut to O'Connell struggling]
EVELYN: 10 percent.
HASSAN: 50 percent.
With these cuts made, The Mummy was classified on June 14th 1999, with the BBFC noting the film had been:
Passed '12' for frequent, scary scenes of horror.
Re-cut for 12 rated VHS
The film came in to the BBFC for a home video rating later that year, with Universal Pictures submitting the uncut version of the film that reinstated the footage that had been
removed for the UK cinema version. Once again, the BBFC demanded that the hanging scene be cut for video, and the distributors duly complied. However, the edits made amounted to 18 seconds (in comparison to the 14 seconds of cuts made on film) due to
both the removal of extra dialogue as well as the use of substituted footage.
Cut Scenes: Hanging
To begin with, a line of dialogue spoken by Hassan was muted on the soundtrack. As O'Connell stands on the gallows, Evelyn offers £500 to Hassan in order to save O'Connell's life. In the uncut
version, Hassan calls a halt to the proceedings and turns towards Evelyn. Placing his hand on her thigh suggestively, he says:
And what else? I'm a very lonely man.
Evelyn hits his hand away, and the prison crowd laughs. In the UK video version, however, his line, "I'm a very lonely man" is muted on the soundtrack.
With regards to the editing of the hanging sequence, the initial wide shot of
O'Connell dropping through the trapdoor was partially reinstated for the VHS release, with the BBFC allowing the beginning of the shot to remain, so long as the rest of the shot (which tracked in to focus on his struggling) was removed. The panning shot
across the courtyard that ends with the sight of O'Connell struggling was cut short as it was in the UK cinema version.
The last three shots of O'Connell on the rope were also removed as they had been in the UK cinema version, but some substituted
footage was also used. The UK video version contains the following dialogue and footage. Notice the panning shot that was slotted in, as well as the restoration of Evelyn's line, "10 percent". The video below outlines the cuts visually, but the
affected sections have again been emphasised in bold below for clarity:
EVELYN: He knows the location to Hamunaptra.
HASSAN: You lie.
EVELYN: I would never! [Cut
to a two-shot of Evelyn and Hassan talking, as O'Connell hangs in the background]
HASSAN: Are you telling me this filthy, godless, son of a pig knows where to find the city of the dead? [Cut to O'Connell hanging in
close-up, his eyes rolling back into his head]
EVELYN: Yes! And if you cut him down, we will give you... [She looks off-screen, and we cut
to a newly inserted section of the panning shot across the crowd as seen earlier, which cuts away as the gallows come into shot before we see O'Connell struggling ]
EVELYN: 10 percent.
HASSAN: 50 percent.
With these cuts made, The Mummy was passed with a 12 rating for a VHS release on December 1st 1999.
Uncut for 15 rated DVD
The film was again seen by the BBFC for a UK DVD
classification in early 2000, with Columbia Tristar submitting the uncut version of the film. Despite internal BBFC guidelines that supposedly prevented an uncut version of a film being available on the market at the same time as a cut version, the DVD
edition was passed uncut with a 15 rating on February 4th 2000, which saw the previously cut footage reinstated in full.
One can only assume this was permitted due to the fact that the DVD format was in its relative infancy, and the DVD
cover clearly stated that the version of The Mummy on disc was the full uncut version. With the VHS format on the way out, this 15-rated version of The Mummy would become the standard version available to British consumers, and is the version currently
available on the UK Blu-ray release.
The Mummy Returns The sequel to the original film was released in the United States on May 4th 2001, after minor edits had been made to the film to satisfy
the MPAA. Sequences of heavy gunfire had been cited as being too intense for a PG-13 rating, so they were reduced by the filmmakers in order to attain that rating. This PG-13 cut of the film was submitted to the BBFC for a cinema rating, with the
filmmakers requesting a 12 certificate. One brief occurrence late in the film was cited as being problematic by the BBFC, which had to removed in order for a 12 rating to be granted.
Cut Scenes: Evelyn vs. Anck-Su-Namun
The cut in question occurs during a fight scene between Evelyn and Anck-Su-Namun, where the former head-butts the latter after she is trapped against a wall. For the UK version,
two shots were affected. A close shot of Evelyn throwing the head-butt is trimmed at the end by a few frames, and the following medium shot of Anck-Su-Namun recoiling is replaced by an alternate take of the same shot which suggests that Evelyn forces her
opponent away in a less violent manner.
With these cuts made, the film was passed 12 on May 18th 2001 with the BBFC stating that the film:
Contains scary scenes of horror and moderate violence.
The Mummy Returns was later
submitted for a video classification in its original PG-13 form, and the same head-butt was cited for deletion by the Board for a 12 rating on video. The cut video version was classified on September 20th 2001, and was released on video and DVD.
Uncut on 12 rated DVD and Blu-ray
This cut version was the only version available to UK buyers until 2008, when a double disc DVD set was released that contained the uncut 15-rated version of The Mummy and
a new 12-rated version of The Mummy Returns.
The latter had been resubmitted for a DVD
classification and passed with the head-butt reinstated, whilst retaining its 12 certificate. This uncut version was later released on Blu-ray, and all current editions of The Mummy Returns are thus uncut in the UK, with the BBFC consumer advice reading:
Contains moderate violence and scary horror moments.
The Scorpion King
This spin-off/prequel to The Mummy starred Dwayne
Johnson (billed as The Rock) as the titular character, and was released in the United States on April 19th 2002 with a PG-13 rating. The distributors submitted the film to the BBFC for an advice viewing, indicating that they wished to attain a 12 rating.
Cut Scenes: Head-butt
After viewing the film, the BBFC indicated that a head-butt delivered by The Rock was likely to push the film up to a 15 rating, so the filmmakers edited this occurrence from the feature before
submitting it for a formal theatrical classification.
The film was classified by the BBFC with a 12 rating on April 19th 2002 for:
Moderate action violence.
This cut version was released on VHS and DVD, but whilst the latter sports a 15 rating, it
only does so due to the DVD's commentary by The Rock having earned a 15 rating; the feature itself is still the cut version.
On the face of it, the UK Blu-ray release may also sport the cut UK version, as the Belgian release is uncut
with additional Chinese and Dutch subtitles that do not appear on the UK disc. However, the status of the UK Blu-ray is yet to be confirmed at the time of writing.
British fans wishing to confidently buy uncut versions of The Mummy, The Mummy
Returns and The Scorpion King can purchase the American Blu-ray releases of all three films, as they all fully uncut and Region Free; allowing playback on any UK Blu-ray players. The UK Blu-ray releases of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are also
fully uncut, but film collectors who wish to have consistent packaging across the Mummy series may wish to import all three films from the United States instead, since American Blu-ray cases differ in size in comparison to their UK counterparts.
Special thanks to film collector Robert Beardsley, whose time, research and access to materials were invaluable in the creation of this article.
Video Episode 23: The Mummy Series