Greatest Film Scenes
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The Mummy (1932)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Mummy (1932)

In director Karl Freund's classic, atmospheric, expressionistic, creepy pre-Code Universal Pictures horror film - his most famous and first US film:

  • the opening title screen after the credits: "This is the SCROLL of TOTH. 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."
  • British archaeologists in the early 1920s in Egypt, led by Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) and Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan), discovered that the mummified 3,700 year-old ancient Egyptian high priest Im-ho-tep (Boris Karloff in his second horror starring role) had not been eviscerated, but wrapped as a Mummy and buried alive in a "sensationally unpleasant manner...he struggled in the bandages"; he had been 'executed for treason' or possibly for a "sacrilege"; he had been "sentenced to death not only in this world but in the next"
  • the engraving on the wooden chest found inside the sarcophagus of the Mummy was translated - - revealing a terrible death curse: ("Death, eternal punishment, for anyone who opens this casket. In the name of Amon-Ra, the king of the gods"); he had been sentenced to a live burial for a forbidden act of sacrilege - for attempting to revive a sacrificial vestal virgin whom he loved named Princess Ankh-es-en-Amon (Zita Johann), a priestess of the temple of Karnak, and the daughter of Pharoah Amenophis
  • the Mummy dramatically awakened and came to life after archaeologist Sir Joseph Whemple's assistant Ralph Norton (Bramwell Fletcher) from Oxford foolishly opened the chest (out of curiosity) and removed the ancient and sacred Scroll of Thoth with which Isis raised Osiris from the dead, according to ancient mythology; after unrolling the parchment, he began to read a translation of the words, causing Imhotep's slow resurrection from his coffin
  • in a frightening sequence, the first movements of the animated mummy were revealed - the opening of one eye, the movement of an arm and hand, the snatching of the Scroll, and then the trailing of bandages under the door
  • the reaction of assistant Ralph Norton to the phenomenon -- instant insanity -- included uncontrollable screams and hysterical laughter, as he described to Sir Joseph Whemple what had happened: "He went for a little walk. You should have seen his face"; later, Norton "died laughing, in a straitjacket"
  • the remainder of the film was set 10 years later in 1932, when Im-ho-tep - now resurrected (and disguised) as a modern Egyptian historian named Ardath Bey, met with son Frank Whemple (David Manners) and Professor Pearson (Leonard Mudie) and suggested that they dig to find the unplundered funerary tomb of the princess Ankh-es-en-amon - it would be the "most sensational find since that of Tutankhamen"
  • Helen Grosvenor (also Zita Johann) - the half-Egyptian daughter of the English governor of the Sudan - appeared at a fancy dress ball, and showed signs that she was somehow connected to the recent dig's findings and to Ardath Bey's incantations; she went into a trance, and after fainting, she uttered words in ancient Egyptian "not heard on this Earth for 2000 years." She arrived at the Cairo Museum where she complained to Frank Whemple and Prof. Pearson about the recent archaeological excavations in Cairo that discovered the Princess: "Do you have to open graves to find girls to fall in love with?" After fainting, she was brought to her apartment, where she uttered words in ancient Egyptian "not heard on this Earth for 2000 years" - she was chanting words of Imhotep (the name of the missing mummy, who was indeed Ardath Bey)
Helen in a Trance-Like State
Helen Uttering Ancient Egyptian Words
Ardath Bey's First View of Helen
  • when Bey first saw her, he believed that Helen was his reincarnated ancient Princess and forbidden lover - he asked: "Have we not met before, Miss Grosvenor?"; his objective was to cause her to "awaken memories of love and crime and death," when as Imhotep, he had conducted a forbidden rite over her corpse in 18th-Dynasty Egypt (circa 1730 BC)
  • in the concluding scene, Helen was lured and summoned to the Cairo Museum by Bey, and appeared in Egyptian royal garb; during a visionary flashback with Helen looking into his magic pool, he recalled how he had stolen the Scroll of Toth to bring the Princess back to life, but was caught doing "an unholy thing" (or sacrilege); as punishment, his father condemned him and secretly buried him alive, with the Scroll, to ensure that "no such sacrilege might disgrace Egypt again"; he remarked how he had suffered for her love: "My love has lasted longer than the temples of our gods. No man ever suffered as I did for you..."
  • his objective was to kill her on an altar in the Chamber of Entombment, then mummify her (or embalm her in a bath of natron), place her in her original sarcophagus, and then resurrect her, and make her his immortal bride; she objected to his crazed plan: "No, I'm alive. I'm young! I won't die! I loved you once but now you belong with the dead. I am Ankh-es-en-amon, but I-I'm somebody else too. I want to live, even in this strange new world!....The bath of natron. You shall not plunge my body into that!"
Bey's Sacrifice of the Reincarnated Helen Grosvenor - She Was Saved by Praying to the Statue of Isis
The Statue of Isis with Ankh Symbol
The Scroll of Toth Burning
The Crumbling of Ardath's Face and Body
  • during the climactic scene as Ardath Bey compelled Helen to lie on the altar, he was about to stab her with a sacrificial knife, but fortunately, as she recalled her past life, she instinctually jumped up and prayed to a large black statue of the goddess Isis to save her and offer forgiveness and protection: ("Oh Isis, holy maiden, I was thy consecrated vestal. I broke my vows. Save me now! Teach me the ancient summons, the holy spells I've forgotten. I call upon thee as of old!"); the statue responded by raising its right arm with an emitted ball of flame from an ankh symbol in its hand to set the Scroll of Toth on fire
  • the spell was broken that kept the curse functioning (and allowed Imhotep to live), and in a stunning transformation scene, Ardath's face dried, crumbled and deteriorated, witnessed by Dr. Muller and Sir Joseph's son Frank, as Helen was saved

Mummified Imhotep

Assistant Ralph Norton Unrolling and Reading the Scroll of Toth

The Slow Resurrection of Imhotep

The Insanity of Ralph Norton

The Entrance of Ardath Bey, 10 Years Later

The Discovery of the Princess' Ancient Tomb

Helen Grosvenor

Visionary Flashback in Magic Pool:

In Ancient Egypt, Imhotep Attempted to Save The Princess

As Punishment, Imhotep Was Mummified and Buried Alive in a Nameless Grave


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