World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

The Mummy (1932 film)

The Mummy
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Karl Freund
Produced by Carl Laemmle Jr.
Written by John L. Balderston
Starring Boris Karloff
Zita Johann
David Manners
Edward van Sloan
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release dates
  • December 22, 1932 (1932-12-22)
Running time
73 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $196,000[1]

The Mummy is a 1932 American Pre-Code horror film from Universal Studios directed by Karl Freund and stars Boris Karloff as a revived ancient Egyptian priest. The movie also features Zita Johann, David Manners and Edward Van Sloan.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast (in credits order) 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception, sequels, and remakes 4
  • Controversies 5
  • Historical accuracy 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


An ancient Egyptian priest called Imhotep (Boris Karloff) is revived when an archaeological expedition in 1921, led by Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron), finds Imhotep's mummy. Imhotep had been mummified alive for attempting to resurrect his forbidden lover, the princess Ankh-es-en-amon. Whemple's friend, Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan) inspects the mummy and exclaims "The viscera were not removed. The usual scar made by the embalmers knife is not there." Sir Joseph Wimple responds, "I guessed as much." Despite Muller's warning, Sir Joseph's assistant Ralph Norton (Bramwell Fletcher) reads aloud an ancient life-giving scroll – the Scroll of Thoth. Imhotep escapes from the archaeologists, taking the Scroll of Thoth, and prowls Cairo seeking the modern reincarnation of Ankh-es-en-amon.

10 years later, Imhotep is masquerading as a modern Egyptian named Ardath Bey. He calls upon Sir Joseph's son Frank (David Manners) and Prof. Pearson (Leonard Mudie). He shows them where to dig to find Ankh-es-en-amon's tomb. The archaeologists find the tomb, give the mummy and the treasures to the Cairo Museum, and thank Ardath Bey for the information.

Imhotep encounters Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann), a woman bearing a striking resemblance to the Princess. Believing her to be Ankh-es-en-amon's reincarnation, he attempts to kill her, with the intention of mummifying her, resurrecting her, and making her his bride. She is saved when she remembers her past life and prays to the goddess Isis to save her. The statue of Isis raises its arm and emits a beam of light that destroys the Scroll of Thoth, thereby reducing Imhotep to dust. At the urge of Dr. Muller, Frank calls Helen back to the world of the living while the Scroll of Thoth burns.

Cast (in credits order)


Film poster with text: "Karloff the uncanny in The Mummy"

Inspired by the opening of [3] Balderston invented the Scroll of Toth, which gave an aura of authenticity to the story. Toth was the wisest of the Egyptian gods who, when Osiris died, helped Isis bring her love back from the dead. Toth is believed to have authored The Book of the Dead which was no doubt the inspiration for Balderston's Scroll of Toth.

Karl Freund, the cinematographer on Dracula, was hired to direct two days before filming began. The film was retitled The Mummy. He cast Zita Johann, who believed in reincarnation, he also named her character 'Ankh-es-en-Amon' after the only wife of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. The real Ankhesenamon's body had not been discovered in the tomb of King Tut and her resting place was unknown, her name however would not have been unknown to the general public and no doubt drew people's attention in the post Tutankhamoun era. Filming was scheduled for three weeks. Karloff's first day was spent shooting the Mummy's awakening from his sarcophagus. Make-up artist Jack Pierce had studied photos of Seti I's mummy to design Imhotep; however, Karloff looked nothing like the mummy of Seti I in the film, instead bearing a resemblance to the mummy of Ramesses III. Pierce began transforming Karloff at 11 a.m., applying cotton, collodion and spirit gum to his face; clay to his hair; and wrapping him in linen bandages treated with acid and burnt in an oven, finishing the job at 7 p.m. Karloff finished his scenes at 2 a.m., and another two hours were spent removing the make-up. Karloff found the removal of gum from his face painful, and overall found the day "the most trying ordeal I [had] ever endured".[2] Although the images of Karloff wrapped in bandages are the most iconic taken from the film, Karloff only appears on screen in this make-up for a few minutes; the rest of the film sees him wearing less elaborate make-up.

A lengthy and detailed flashback sequence was shot, but cut from the completed film. This sequence showed the various forms Anck-es-en-Amon was reincarnated in over the centuries. Stills exist of the flashbacks, but the footage has been lost. It was shot in Cantil, California, Universal City, and the Mojave Desert.

The piece of classical music heard during the opening credits, taken from the Tchaikovsky ballet Swan Lake, was previously also used for the opening credits of Dracula.

Reception, sequels, and remakes

The film was a success at the box office, particularly in England.[1] Unlike Frankenstein and Dracula, and other, later Universal horror films, this film had no sequels, but rather was semi-remade in the 1940s B-film The Mummy's Hand (1940), and its sequels, The Mummy's Tomb (1942), The Mummy's Ghost (1944), The Mummy's Curse (1944), which were later spoofed in 1955's Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. These focus on the mummy Kharis. The Mummy's Hand recycled footage from the original film for use in the telling of Kharis' origins; Karloff is clearly visible in several of these recycled scenes, but he is not credited.

In the late 1950s British Hammer Film Productions took up the Mummy theme, beginning with The Mummy (1959), which, rather than being a remake of the 1932 Karloff film, is based on Universal's The Mummy's Hand (1940) and The Mummy's Tomb (1942). Hammer's follow-ups — The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964), The Mummy's Shroud (1966) and Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971) — are unrelated to the earlier film or to each other.

The 1999 Universal film The Mummy also suggests that it is a remake of the 1932 movie, and may be considered as such in that its titular character is Imhotep, resurrected from the dead by the Book of the Dead, and out to find the present-day embodiment of the soul of his beloved Anck-su-namun, and features an Egyptian named Ardeth Bay (in this case, a guard of the city and of Imhotep's tomb), but develops there from a different story line, in common with most postmodern remakes of classic horror and science-fiction films. It spawned a sequel in 2001, The Mummy Returns, and a prequel spin-off of that sequel, The Scorpion King, in 2002, which in turn spawned a 2008 prequel, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, and a 2012 sequel, The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption. A second sequel, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, was released in 2008. Also a short-lived animated series simply titled The Mummy ran from 2001 to 2003.

Universal has announced another forthcoming remake of the film.[4] The new remake is tentatively scheduled for a March 2017 release. The new film will be directed by Alex Kurtzman. In October 2015 Kurtzman hinted that the new reboot could possibly feature a female lead as the mummy character which would be the first for the film franchise. Universal's The Mummy is planned as the first film in a series of interconnected monster films as Universal plans to build a franchise out of its vault of classic movies.[5]


Like other movies that take place in modern Egypt, there has been a decrying of the "[7] Hall states, films typically deal with the past if it relates to legend and superstition. An example that he presents is The Mummy (1999) in which the archaeological curator of the Cairo Antiquities Museum leads a secret sect – descended from the bodyguard of Ramses – pledged to defend the world from Imhotep (the Mummy)” (Hall 161).[7] In The Mummy Returns, "one of the henchmen of Imhotep is the curator of Egyptian antiquities at the British Museum. Both these curators are depicted as Egyptians engaged in arcane activities, confirming their subservience to the western, colonial myth about Egypt and suggesting that only Europeans / Americans can truly understand the Egyptian past, through its appropriation and redefinition, often through the practice of archaeology (Hall 161).[7]

Historical accuracy

The Scroll of Thoth is a fictional artifact, though likely based on the Book of the Dead. Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge, is said to the be the inventor of hieroglyphs and the author of the Book of the Dead.[8]

Conspirators were caught in a plot to assassinate Pharaoh Ramesses III around 1151 BCE.[9] Papyrus trial transcripts reveal the method of execution, which may have been being buried alive. Although not common practice, it is possible that a fictional priest such as Imhotep would be punished this way.[10]

There is no evidence to suggest that Ancient Egyptians believed in or considered the possibility of re-animated mummies. Mummification was a sacred process meant to prepare a dead body to carry the soul through the afterlife not for being reincarnated and living again on earth. While it is possible that some individuals were mummified by being buried alive it is unlikely that ancient Egyptians would think resurrection was possible because they were very aware of the fact that all the necessary organs had been removed and the body would be of little use on earth anymore.[3]


  1. ^ a b Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomohawk Press 2011, pp. 127-130
  2. ^ a b Vieira, Mark A. (2003). Hollywood Horror: From Gothic to Cosmic. New York: Harry N. Abrams. pp. 55–58.  
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Kroll, Justin, Snieder, Jeff, "U sets 'Mummy' reboot with Spaihts",, Published 2012-04-04, Retrieved 2012-05-04.
  5. ^ "Female Lead Could Play Mummy". 
  6. ^ Schroeder, Carolyn T. "Ancient Egyptian Religion on the Silver Screen: Modern Anxieties about Race, Ethnicity, and Religion." University of Nebraska Omaha. Oct 2003. 20 Jan 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d Hall, Mark A. "Romancing the stones: archaeology in popular cinema." European Journal of Archaeology 7.2 (2004): 159-176.
  8. ^ Book of the Dead
  9. ^ Ramesses III
  10. ^ Schablitsky, Julie (2007). Box Office Archaeology, p.21. Left Coast Press. ISBN 978-1598740561.



External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.