The Mummy


1h 12m 1932
The Mummy

Brief Synopsis

An Egyptian mummy returns to life to stalk the reincarnation of his lost love.

Film Details

Also Known As
Imhotep, The King of the Dead
Genre
Horror
Release Date
Dec 22, 1932
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 12m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

In 1921, the Held expedition to Egypt, which is led by Sir Joseph Whemple, has discovered the mummy of Imhotep. A high priest, Imhotep was buried alive in the Temple at Karnak. Doctor Muller, who believes in the occult, warns the rest of the expedition of the curse that is imprinted on the gold seals of the Pharoah Amenophis. Knowledge of the curse proves too much of a temptation for Whemple's Oxford assistant, who examines the Scroll of Thoth and goes insane as he sees Imhotep's mummy come to life and take the scroll. Eleven years later, Frank Whemple, Sir Joseph's son, together with Professor Pearson, leads another archaeological expedition. An ageless Egyptian, Ardeth Bey, shows them where to dig for the unplundered tomb of Ankh-es-en-amon, who was a daughter of royalty buried 3,700 years earlier. The tomb is a sensational find, and Ankh-es-en-amon's coffin is placed in the Cairo museum. At the same time, Helen Grosvenor, whose mother was Egyptian, is attracted to her ancestral homeland and is summoned telepathically to the museum as Bey tries to revive the body of Ankh-es-en-amon by reading the Scroll of Thoth. The Whemples find Helen unconscious at the museum door and take her home to recover, while a museum guard dies of shock upon discovering Bey, who then accidentally leaves the Scroll behind in the museum. Frank tells Helen that he fell in love with the beautiful Ankh-es-en-amon during the excavation, and that Helen resembles her. When Bey enters the Whemple home to see Helen, Muller, Helen's doctor, who believes Bey to be the revived mummy, confronts him with the Scroll and a photograph of the mummy of Imhotep. With his eyes glowing hypnotically, Bey causes Sir Joseph to suffer a heart attack when he tries to burn the Scroll and compels the Whemple's Nubian servant to steal it. Under Bey's spell, Helen goes to his temple, where he reveals to her their past: In ancient Egypt, after Ankh-es-en-amon died, Imhotep, who loved her, stole the forbidden Scroll and dared the gods by trying to bring her body back from the dead. Discovered performing this unholy deed, Imhotep was sentenced to be buried alive in an unmarked tomb, along with the Scroll. After returning to Frank, Helen, half-conscious, asks him to save her. Again summoned by Bey's incantations, Helen escapes from her nurse, Frau Muller. In the Cairo museum, Bey dresses Helen in robes and jewels belonging to Ankh-es-en-amon. Bey, who still loves her as he did centuries earlier, tells Helen she must be killed and mummified before he can raise her from the dead to become, like him, a living mummy. Bey burns the actual mummy of Ankh-es-en-amon, as he believes her soul has been reincarnated in Helen. Frank and Muller are powerless before Bey's spells, so Helen entreats the god Isis for assistance. The god's statue raises its arm to point a glowing ankh at Bey, who ages and crumbles to dust. Frank then calls Helen back to the world of the living as the Scroll of Thoth burns.

Film Details

Also Known As
Imhotep, The King of the Dead
Genre
Horror
Release Date
Dec 22, 1932
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 12m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Articles

The Mummy (1932) - The Mummy


Boris Karloff rose from the grave -- again -- when Universal Pictures decided to add a new monster to their repertoire in 1932. Where they had drawn on legend and literature for such past hits as Dracula and Frankenstein, however, they invented their own horror mythology with The Mummy, introducing to the screen the idea of "the dead who walk." Not that the 1932 feature was the screen's first depiction of a revivified mummy. That honor goes to a 1911 silent with the same title. But it was Universal and writer John Balderston who created the idea of a reanimated mummy trying to bring back the woman of his dreams. Their version of The Mummy would inspire a string of sequels in the '40s and a similar series from England's Hammer Studios in the '60s and '70s.

Studio head Carl Laemmle, Jr. got the idea from the furor over the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922. Shortly after archaeologists unearthed the intact tomb, members of the expedition began dying in mysterious ways. Public interest in the so-called curse was at an all-time high in the early '30s, so Laemmle thought to cash in on it with a new monster and a new vehicle for the studio's top horror star, Boris Karloff. The initial treatment, Cagliostro, told of an ancient Egyptian who uses nitrate injections to keep himself alive for 3,500 years while he kills anybody who resembles the woman who once betrayed him. Laemmle approved the story idea, then passed it on to John Balderston, co-author of the hit stage adaptation of Dracula. Balderston re-shaped the material, borrowing liberally from the vampire tale, to tell of an Egyptian priest buried alive for trying to revive his lost love from the dead. When archaeologists inadvertently bring him back to life, he goes in search of his love's current reincarnation, fighting her young lover and an older expert on Egyptology to possess her. Also pointing up the film's resemblance to the earlier Dracula was the casting of that film's elderly expert (Edward Van Sloan) and young lover (David Manners) in similar roles. Balderston named the villain Im-Ho-Tep, after the high priest serving under Pharaoh Zoser, then gave him the alias Ardath Bey, an anagram for "death by Ra." After the working titles of The King of the Dead and Im-Ho-Tep, Laemmle changed the name of the film to The Mummy during filming.

Having scored triumphs in Frankenstein, The Old Dark House and The Mask of Fu Manchu, Karloff was considered the successor to Lon Chaney's mantle. With The Mummy he achieved an almost unique honor; he was billed solely by his last name as "Karloff the Uncanny," putting him on a par with Greta Garbo in terms of audience recognition. The price he paid for stardom was high, however. For the few scenes in which he is in full mummy regalia, he had to sit in the makeup chair for eight hours. Make-up artist Jack Pierce applied layers of Fuller's Earth, beauty clay (the same clay used to remove wrinkles on women), cotton soaked in collodion and 150 feet of rooted linen bandages to his body. When director James Whale, who had cast Karloff as the monster in Frankenstein, saw the makeup for the first time, he said it looked as though the star had had a pail of garbage dumped over him. Of course, that was exactly the effect Pierce wanted; he always considered it his favorite of all the many make-ups he had created. Through the day, the Fuller's Earth kept getting in Karloff's eyes. Afterwards, the whole thing had to be melted off. Things improved only slightly once the mummy took on human guise. Karloff still had to sit for hours as more cotton strips were applied to his skin to cover his face and hands with wrinkles for the remaining seven weeks of filming.

To direct The Mummy, Laemmle gave a chance to pioneering cinematographer Karl Freund. Shooting silent films in Germany, he had invented the dolly shot and several special effects techniques. He was also one of the first to use a handheld camera. After filming Dracula at Universal, he got his shot at directing. He even improved on a trick he had created for the earlier horror film. To give Karloff's eyes an unholy light, he focused baby spotlights on them while dimming the rest of the lights. It was one of the film's greatest effects.

Freund worked his cast and crew tirelessly in the days before Hollywood unionization. He frequently kept them on the set until after midnight, which was particularly grueling for Karloff, who had started in the makeup chair eight hours before shooting began. But he finished the film ahead of schedule and under budget (for less than $200,000). His visual sense paid off. Later critics have hailed The Mummy as a photographer's film, while critic and historian William K. Everson called it "the closest that Hollywood ever came to creating a poem out of horror" (in Classics of the Horror Film). The film did huge business, with patrons lined up around the block for its Christmas-season opening. Clips from the picture would resurface in all of Universal's later mummy films, while the giant statue of Isis in the final scene would be reused as "the great god Tao" on the planet Mongo in Flash Gordon (1936).

Karloff would continue as the screen's reigning monster king for decades, acting until his death in 1969 and even after that (some of his low-budget films wouldn't be released until 1971), but this would remain his sole appearance as the mummy. Freund would direct a few more films, including the Peter Lorre classic Mad Love (1935), but soon returned to camera work , claiming that it was a more creative line than directing. His innovations would continue with Oscar®-winning work on The Good Earth (1937). Even when he turned to television, as chief cameraman for I Love Lucy, he made his influence felt as inventor of the three-camera system used for most television series.

Two prominent members of The Mummy's cast would have only short film careers. Leading lady Zita Johann was primarily a stage actress when she played Karloff's reincarnated lady love. The Hungarian-born beauty had turned down Hollywood's first contract offer -- the chance to star in Universal's 1929 version of Show Boat -- to remain on stage. She only made The Mummy because another film planned for her at Universal had fallen through, and she wanted to complete her obligation to the studio. She would later complain that Freund made her the scapegoat anytime he had problems on the set and even tried to get her to pose naked for him. She also wasn't pleased when a series of elaborate flashbacks depicting the Egyptian princess' other reincarnations were cut before the film's release. She made only four more films before returning to the stage, where she worked with such giants as John Houseman and Orson Welles. She only made one more film, a cheap horror film ironically titled Raiders of the Living Dead (1986), before her death in 1993.

Romantic leading man David Manners had made his film debut by chance. He was on his way to a job on a Hawaiian plantation when he visited Hollywood and was spotted by director James Whale, who cast him in his World War I drama Journey's End (1929). The casting of an unknown was so shocking that more experienced actors would cuss Manners out in the street. But he stayed in leading roles for years, including work in the 1934 horror classic The Black Cat, until he abruptly retired from filmmaking to focus on writing and painting in 1936. Although his official statement was that he was simply tired of the grind of making films, rumors persist that he either had a nervous breakdown or got tired of pressure to hide his homosexuality by taking a wife for appearances. But though he lived more than 60 years after leaving Hollywood, he was always best remembered as the star of three of Universal's most famous horror films.

Producer: Carl Laemmle, Jr.
Director: Karl Freund
Screenplay: John Balderston
Based on a story by Nina Wilcox Putnam & Richard Schayer
Cinematography: Charles Stumar
Art Direction: Willy Pogany
Music: James Dietrich (uncredited)
Principal Cast: Boris Karloff (Im-Ho-Tep/Ardath Bey), Zita Johann (Helen Grosvenor/Princess Anck-es-en-Amon), David Manners (Frank Whemple), Edward Van Sloan (Professor Muller), A.S. Byron (Sir Joseph Whemple), Bramwell Fletcher (Norton), Noble Johnson (The Nubian).
BW-74m.

by Frank Miller
The Mummy (1932) - The Mummy

The Mummy (1932) - The Mummy

Boris Karloff rose from the grave -- again -- when Universal Pictures decided to add a new monster to their repertoire in 1932. Where they had drawn on legend and literature for such past hits as Dracula and Frankenstein, however, they invented their own horror mythology with The Mummy, introducing to the screen the idea of "the dead who walk." Not that the 1932 feature was the screen's first depiction of a revivified mummy. That honor goes to a 1911 silent with the same title. But it was Universal and writer John Balderston who created the idea of a reanimated mummy trying to bring back the woman of his dreams. Their version of The Mummy would inspire a string of sequels in the '40s and a similar series from England's Hammer Studios in the '60s and '70s. Studio head Carl Laemmle, Jr. got the idea from the furor over the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922. Shortly after archaeologists unearthed the intact tomb, members of the expedition began dying in mysterious ways. Public interest in the so-called curse was at an all-time high in the early '30s, so Laemmle thought to cash in on it with a new monster and a new vehicle for the studio's top horror star, Boris Karloff. The initial treatment, Cagliostro, told of an ancient Egyptian who uses nitrate injections to keep himself alive for 3,500 years while he kills anybody who resembles the woman who once betrayed him. Laemmle approved the story idea, then passed it on to John Balderston, co-author of the hit stage adaptation of Dracula. Balderston re-shaped the material, borrowing liberally from the vampire tale, to tell of an Egyptian priest buried alive for trying to revive his lost love from the dead. When archaeologists inadvertently bring him back to life, he goes in search of his love's current reincarnation, fighting her young lover and an older expert on Egyptology to possess her. Also pointing up the film's resemblance to the earlier Dracula was the casting of that film's elderly expert (Edward Van Sloan) and young lover (David Manners) in similar roles. Balderston named the villain Im-Ho-Tep, after the high priest serving under Pharaoh Zoser, then gave him the alias Ardath Bey, an anagram for "death by Ra." After the working titles of The King of the Dead and Im-Ho-Tep, Laemmle changed the name of the film to The Mummy during filming. Having scored triumphs in Frankenstein, The Old Dark House and The Mask of Fu Manchu, Karloff was considered the successor to Lon Chaney's mantle. With The Mummy he achieved an almost unique honor; he was billed solely by his last name as "Karloff the Uncanny," putting him on a par with Greta Garbo in terms of audience recognition. The price he paid for stardom was high, however. For the few scenes in which he is in full mummy regalia, he had to sit in the makeup chair for eight hours. Make-up artist Jack Pierce applied layers of Fuller's Earth, beauty clay (the same clay used to remove wrinkles on women), cotton soaked in collodion and 150 feet of rooted linen bandages to his body. When director James Whale, who had cast Karloff as the monster in Frankenstein, saw the makeup for the first time, he said it looked as though the star had had a pail of garbage dumped over him. Of course, that was exactly the effect Pierce wanted; he always considered it his favorite of all the many make-ups he had created. Through the day, the Fuller's Earth kept getting in Karloff's eyes. Afterwards, the whole thing had to be melted off. Things improved only slightly once the mummy took on human guise. Karloff still had to sit for hours as more cotton strips were applied to his skin to cover his face and hands with wrinkles for the remaining seven weeks of filming. To direct The Mummy, Laemmle gave a chance to pioneering cinematographer Karl Freund. Shooting silent films in Germany, he had invented the dolly shot and several special effects techniques. He was also one of the first to use a handheld camera. After filming Dracula at Universal, he got his shot at directing. He even improved on a trick he had created for the earlier horror film. To give Karloff's eyes an unholy light, he focused baby spotlights on them while dimming the rest of the lights. It was one of the film's greatest effects. Freund worked his cast and crew tirelessly in the days before Hollywood unionization. He frequently kept them on the set until after midnight, which was particularly grueling for Karloff, who had started in the makeup chair eight hours before shooting began. But he finished the film ahead of schedule and under budget (for less than $200,000). His visual sense paid off. Later critics have hailed The Mummy as a photographer's film, while critic and historian William K. Everson called it "the closest that Hollywood ever came to creating a poem out of horror" (in Classics of the Horror Film). The film did huge business, with patrons lined up around the block for its Christmas-season opening. Clips from the picture would resurface in all of Universal's later mummy films, while the giant statue of Isis in the final scene would be reused as "the great god Tao" on the planet Mongo in Flash Gordon (1936). Karloff would continue as the screen's reigning monster king for decades, acting until his death in 1969 and even after that (some of his low-budget films wouldn't be released until 1971), but this would remain his sole appearance as the mummy. Freund would direct a few more films, including the Peter Lorre classic Mad Love (1935), but soon returned to camera work , claiming that it was a more creative line than directing. His innovations would continue with Oscar®-winning work on The Good Earth (1937). Even when he turned to television, as chief cameraman for I Love Lucy, he made his influence felt as inventor of the three-camera system used for most television series. Two prominent members of The Mummy's cast would have only short film careers. Leading lady Zita Johann was primarily a stage actress when she played Karloff's reincarnated lady love. The Hungarian-born beauty had turned down Hollywood's first contract offer -- the chance to star in Universal's 1929 version of Show Boat -- to remain on stage. She only made The Mummy because another film planned for her at Universal had fallen through, and she wanted to complete her obligation to the studio. She would later complain that Freund made her the scapegoat anytime he had problems on the set and even tried to get her to pose naked for him. She also wasn't pleased when a series of elaborate flashbacks depicting the Egyptian princess' other reincarnations were cut before the film's release. She made only four more films before returning to the stage, where she worked with such giants as John Houseman and Orson Welles. She only made one more film, a cheap horror film ironically titled Raiders of the Living Dead (1986), before her death in 1993. Romantic leading man David Manners had made his film debut by chance. He was on his way to a job on a Hawaiian plantation when he visited Hollywood and was spotted by director James Whale, who cast him in his World War I drama Journey's End (1929). The casting of an unknown was so shocking that more experienced actors would cuss Manners out in the street. But he stayed in leading roles for years, including work in the 1934 horror classic The Black Cat, until he abruptly retired from filmmaking to focus on writing and painting in 1936. Although his official statement was that he was simply tired of the grind of making films, rumors persist that he either had a nervous breakdown or got tired of pressure to hide his homosexuality by taking a wife for appearances. But though he lived more than 60 years after leaving Hollywood, he was always best remembered as the star of three of Universal's most famous horror films. Producer: Carl Laemmle, Jr. Director: Karl Freund Screenplay: John Balderston Based on a story by Nina Wilcox Putnam & Richard Schayer Cinematography: Charles Stumar Art Direction: Willy Pogany Music: James Dietrich (uncredited) Principal Cast: Boris Karloff (Im-Ho-Tep/Ardath Bey), Zita Johann (Helen Grosvenor/Princess Anck-es-en-Amon), David Manners (Frank Whemple), Edward Van Sloan (Professor Muller), A.S. Byron (Sir Joseph Whemple), Bramwell Fletcher (Norton), Noble Johnson (The Nubian). BW-74m. by Frank Miller

Quotes

Stuck in the desert for two months, and was it hot! That tomb--
- Frank Whemple
What tomb?
- Helen Grosvenor/The Princess
Surely you read about the princess?
- Frank Whemple
So you did that.
- Helen Grosvenor/The Princess
Yes. The fourteen steps down and the unbroken seals were thrilling. But when we came to handle all her clothes and her jewels and her toilet things -- you know they buried everything with them that they used in life? -- well, when we came to unwrap the girl herself--
- Frank Whemple
Oh, I know it seems absurd when we've known each other such a short time. But I'm serious.
- Frank Whemple
Don't you think I've had enough excitement for one evening, without the additional thrill of a strange man making love to me?
- Helen Grosvenor/The Princess
Look - the sacred spells which protect the soul in its journey to the underworld have been chipped off the coffin. So Imhotep was sentenced to death not only in this world, but in the next.
- Doctor Muller
Maybe he got too gay with the vestal virgins in the temple.
- Assistant
Possibly.
- Doctor Muller
Put it back. Bury it where you found it. You have read the curse. You dare defy it?
- Doctor Muller
In the interest of science, even if I believed in the curse, I'd go on with my work for the museum. Come back with me, and we'll examine this great find together.
- Sir Joseph Whemple
I cannot condone an act of sacrilege with my presence.
- Doctor Muller
"Death... eternal punishment... for... anyone... who... opens... this... casket. In the name... of Amon-Ra... the king of the gods." Good heavens, what a terrible curse!
- Sir Joseph Whemple
Well, let's see what's inside!
- Assistant

Trivia

Henry Victor appears in the credits of the film as "Saxon Warrior," yet he never actually appears in the movie. The Saxon Warrior was part of a long flashback sequence showing all the heroine's past lives from ancient Egypt to the present. The sequence was cut from the final film.

'Ardath Bey' (the name Imhotep assumes after his exhumation) is an anagram of 'Death by Ra' (Ra is the Egyptian sun-god).

Boris Karloff based his mummy on that of Ramses III and spent eight hours putting on his makeup.

The ring Boris Karloff uses has been in the possession of 'Forrest J. Ackerman' for many decades (he wears it).

A lengthy and complicated re-incarnation scene, so important to the plot, never made it into the film because such scenes were banned from the screen by the Hays Code. This did upset many people, including the film's leading actress, Zita Johann, who was a firm believer in re-incarnation.

Notes

Nina Wilcox Putnam's and Richard Schayer's story was entitled "Cagliostro." The film's working titles were Imhotep and The King of the Dead. Jerry Ash is listed in Hollywood Reporter production charts as the cameraman on the film, although Charles Stumar received screen credit. Following the credits the following words appear: "This is the Scroll of Thoth. Herein are set down the magic words by which Isis raised Osiris from the dead. Oh! Amon-Ra-Oh! God of Gods-Death is but the doorway to new life-- We live today-we shall live again-In many forms shall we return-Oh, mighty one." According to New York Times, Boris Karloff was billed at the time as "Karloff the Uncanny." This was Karl Freund's first directorial effort after photographing Dracula and Murders in the Rue Morgue for Universal. During the 1940s Universal produced a series of sequels, beginning with The Mummy's Hand (1940) with Tom Tyler as the Mummy; The Mummy's Tomb (1942); The Mummy's Ghost (1944); and The Mummy's Curse (1944); all starring Lon Chaney. According to modern sources, The Mummy's Hand and The Mummy's Curse contained scenes from the original The Mummy, while the latter's statue of Isis reappeared as the god Tao in the serial Flash Gordon, also released as the feature Rocket Ship (see below). Additional footage was shot of Helen in later incarnations according to modern sources, including an ancient Christian, a medieval princess, a Norse Viking and a French noble. Modern sources also note that Karloff's salary was still below $400 a week at the time of this production, and his make-up, which was applied by Jack Pierce, consists of cotton, rubber cement and paint. The Mummy was remade by the Hammer studios in England in 1959, with Terence Young directing and Christopher Lee in the title role. Universal produced its own remake in 1999, directed by Stephen Sommers and starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, and Arnold Vosloo. The success of this version spawned a 2001 sequel, The Mummy Returns, with the same director and stars, and a 2002 prequel, The Scorpion King, directed by Chuck Russell and starring professional wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1932

Released in United States 1998

Released in United States March 1976

Released in United States on Video August 3, 1994

Re-released in United States on Video August 6, 1996

Shown at Film Forum Universal Horror Festival in New York City October 30 - November 12, 1998.

Formerly distributed by MCA Home Video.

Released in United States 1932

Released in United States 1998 (Shown at Film Forum Universal Horror Festival in New York City October 30 - November 12, 1998.)

Released in USA on laserdisc December 1988.

Released in United States March 1976 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Midnight Monsters) March 18-31, 1976.)

Released in United States on Video August 3, 1994

Re-released in United States on Video August 6, 1996