Carl Laemmle





Joseph: {translating inscription on box} "Death... eternal punishment... for... anyone... who... opens... this... casket. In the name... of Amon-Ra... the king of gods." Good heavens, what a terrible curse!

Ralph: {eagerly} Well, let's see what's inside!

The Mummy is a 1932 movie that played to the popular appeal of Egyptology and the success of other monster themed pictures of the time. Considered one of the classic Universal Pictures monster movies (together with Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon), The Mummy features Boris Karloff in the role of Ardath Bey, secretly the resurrected mummy of an Egyptian priest named Imhotep, who attempts to use the Scroll of Thoth to revive the Princess he loved 3000 years earlier by murdering a modern-day look-alike. The Princess is played by Zita Johann, who also plays the modern-day look-alike Helen Grosvenor. The leads are rounded out by David Manners (of Dracula fame) as Frank Whemple, the son of the archaeologist Sir Joseph Whemple (played by Arthur Byron), who originally discovers Imhotep in the Valley of the Kings.

Frank: Oh, I know it seems absurd when we've known each other such a short time. But I'm serious.

Helen: Don't you think I've had enough excitement for one evening, without the additional thrill of a strange man making love to me?

Universal Studios benefited from the success of previous monster features in its release of The Mummy. The year before Karloff had portrayed the Monster in Frankenstein, and Manners, in an early boost to his career, played Jonathan Harker in Dracula. Edward Van Sloan had actually worked in both Dracula and Frankenstein before playing in The Mummy. Zita Johann, unlike the male leads, was not a prominent Hollywood actress but instead had worked mostly in stage productions. Chosen for her unique look (she claimed she only agreed to do the movie to fulfill her obligation to the studio for one more picture), Johann clashed with director Karl Freund and accused him of trying to pressure her into posing naked for him.

When selecting material for another monster movie, Carl Laemmle, Jr. chose an Egyptian mummy based on the continued interest stemming from Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb a decade earlier. The growing interest in the idea of a "curse" attached to the expedition was largely fueled by media sensation (despite being repeatedly disabused by scholars). Regardless, the movie proved another success for Universal. The Mummy was shot ahead of schedule and under budget, thanks to Freund's pre-union demands on cast and crew, but the duress under which he worked would later lead Karloff to be active in the Screen Actors Guild fight for better working conditions.

Unlike other Universal Pictures monster classics, The Mummy spawned no direct sequels. Eight years after its release, the story was reworked as The Mummy's Hand and this version produced several sequels. In another break from its siblings, The Mummy features very little footage of the monster itself. Where Frankenstein's Monster or Dracula or The Creature all had significant screen time, Karloff only appears in one scene as the bandaged Mummy. For these few moments of screen time, Karloff would sit through a full day of makeup preparation and then begin filming into the evening. Horror makeup icon Jack Pierce used 150 feet of bandages as part of the Mummy design.

Directed by Karl Freund
Produced by Carl Laemmle, Jr.
Written by John L. Balderston (screenplay), based on work by Nina Wilcox Putnam & Richard Schayer

Boris Karloff as Ardath Bey and Imhotep
Zita Johann as Helen Grosvenor and Princess Ankh-es-en-Amon
David Manners as Frank Whemple
Arthur Byron as Sir Joseph Whemple
Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Muller

Released December 22, 1932

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