The Mummy (1932) Synopsis
The movie The Mummy (1932) is a supernatural horror film directed by Karl Freund and produced by Carl Laemmle Jr. The screenplay by John L. Balderston was adapted from a treatment written by Nina Wilcox Putnam and Richard Schayer ¹. The movie stars Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners, Edward Van Sloan, and Arthur Byron. In the film, Karloff stars as Imhotep, an ancient Egyptian mummy who was killed for attempting to resurrect his dead lover, Anck-es-en-Amon. After being discovered and accidentally brought to life by a team of archaeologists, he disguises himself as a modern Egyptian named Ardeth Bey and searches for Anck-es-en-Amon, whom he believes has been reincarnated in the modern world ¹².
In 1921, an archaeological expedition led by Sir Joseph Whemple finds the mummy of an ancient Egyptian high priest named Imhotep. An inspection of the mummy by Whemple’s friend Dr. Muller reveals that the mummy’s viscera were not removed, and from the signs of struggling Muller deduces that although Imhotep had been wrapped like a traditional mummy, he had been buried alive. Also buried with Imhotep is a casket with a curse on it. Despite Muller’s warning, Sir Joseph’s assistant Ralph Norton opens it and finds an ancient life-giving scroll, the “Scroll of Thoth”. He translates the symbols and then reads the words aloud, causing Imhotep to rise from the dead. This snaps Norton’s mind, and he laughs hysterically as Imhotep shuffles off with the scroll. Norton is said to later die, still laughing, in a straitjacket ¹.
Ten years later, Imhotep has assimilated into modern society, taking the identity of an eccentric Egyptian historian named Ardeth Bey. He calls upon Sir Joseph’s son Frank and Professor Pearson and shows them where to dig to find the tomb of the princess Ankh-es-en-amun. After locating the tomb, the archaeologists present its treasures to the Cairo Museum, after which Bey disappears. Bey soon encounters Helen Grosvenor, a half-Egyptian woman bearing a striking resemblance to the princess, who stays with Muller. Bey falls in love with her but so does Frank. After it is discovered that Bey is the mummy Imhotep, Muller urges Joseph to burn the Scroll of Thoth, but when Joseph tries to do so, Bey uses his magical powers to kill him and then hypnotizes a Nubian to be his slave and bring the Scroll to him ¹.
Imhotep then uses the Scroll of Thoth to resurrect Anck-es-en-Amon, but she is not happy with him. She rejects him and commits suicide. Imhotep is then mummified alive along with the Scroll of Thoth and buried in Hamunaptra, the city of the dead ¹.
- Boris Karloff as Imhotep / Ardeth Bey
- Zita Johann as Helen Grosvenor / Princess Anck-es-en-Amon
- David Manners as Frank Whemple
- Edward Van Sloan as Doctor Muller
- Arthur Byron as Sir Joseph Whemple
- Bramwell Fletcher as Ralph Norton
- Noble Johnson as The Nubian
- Kathryn Byron as Frau Muller
- Leonard Mudie as Professor Pearson
- James Crane as The Pharoh
- Henry Victor as The Saxon Warrior (scenes deleted)
- Arnold Gray as Knight (scenes deleted)
- The discovery of Pharaoh Tutankahmen’s tomb and the alleged curse it contained inspired Universal to make this film ¹.
- The main theme music to the opening credits is the same movement from Swan Lake used to open Dracula (1931) ¹.
- Throughout the film’s production, there was great tension between Zita Johann and director Karl Freund, who disliked each other immensely ¹.
- Despite being less culturally influential than its predecessors Dracula and Frankenstein, The Mummy was still a moderate success, spawning several sequels, spin-offs, remakes, and reimaginings ¹.
“What was a success was the film’s leading man, Boris Karloff. Having made a name for himself with Frankenstein the year earlier, Karloff would solidify the power behind it with The Mummy. There is an incredible commitment by Karloff, who was actually wrapped as a mummy to heightened effect in the film. This is especially present in the scene where Imhotep is being buried alive, his eyes truly capturing the terror of the moment as the wraps are brought around his face. This scene in particular is one moment of The Mummy you may find yourself wishing you could have been a first time viewer in 1932, the horror and terror in the eyes piercing and horrifying.” 
“While definitely my least favorite of the Universal monster movies I’ve seen so far, “The Mummy” is still a decently enjoyable little flick. It has an okay plot, meh characters, good performances, good music, and really good directing/cinematography.”