Once he became a star playing the Monster in Frankenstein (1931), Boris Karloff’s career was never the same.
His follow-up to that acting triumph was as the title character in this tale, which was partially inspired by the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt. There was reportedly a warning found written on the findings, which said that anyone who opened the tomb would die. The fact that many participated in the excavation died shortly afterward gave the world press a field day and fueled the desire for more stories about mummies and curses.
Karloff plays Im-Ho-Tep, a mummy unearthed and accidentally revived by an archaeology team in Egypt. He vanishes for several years before re-emerging as Ardeth Bey, who has his sights set on the beautiful Helen (Zita Johann) and attempts to use her to resurrect his deceased love.
As with Frankenstein, Karloff makes his character pitiable and, once again, has great makeup from Jack Pierce to help him out.
Edward Van Sloan is also great as Dr. Mueller, a Van Helsing-like archeologist who attempts to save Helen before it’s too late. Not surprisingly, Van Sloan played Van Helsing in Dracula (1931).
This film’s success led to several sequels during the 1940s, although none of them starred Karloff and, interestingly, the mummy’s name in the follow-ups was changed to Kharis.