The Mummy (1932 film)

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The Mummy
The Mummy 1932 film poster.jpg
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 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.


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. Despite the warning of his friend Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan), 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. Frank calls Helen back to the world of the living whilst the Scroll of Thoth burns.

Cast (in credits order)[edit]


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

Inspired by the opening of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922 and the Curse of the Pharaohs, producer Carl Laemmle Jr. commissioned story editor Richard Shayer to find a literary novel to form a basis for an Egyptian-themed horror film, just as Dracula and Frankenstein informed their previous hits. Shayer found none although the plot bears a strong resemblance to a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle entitled 'The Ring of Thoth'. Shayer and writer Nina Wilcox Putnam learned about Alessandro Cagliostro and wrote a nine-page treatment entitled Cagliostro. The story, set in San Francisco, was about a 3000-year old magician who survives by injecting nitrates. Laemmle was pleased, and he hired John L. Balderston to write the script. Balderston contributed to Dracula and Frankenstein, and had covered the opening of Tutankhamen's tomb for New York World when he was a journalist. He moved the story to Egypt and renamed the film and its title character Imhotep, after the historical architect.[2]

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. 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.[citation needed]

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 and sequels and remakes[edit]

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.[3]


  1. ^ a b Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomohawk Press 2011 p 127-130
  2. ^ a b Vieira, Mark A. (2003). Hollywood Horror: From Gothic to Cosmic. New York: Harry N. Abrams. pp. 55–58. ISBN 0-8109-4535-5. 
  3. ^ Kroll, Justin, Snieder, Jeff, "U sets 'Mummy' reboot with Spaihts",, Published 2012-04-04, Retrieved 2012-05-04.

External links[edit]