Imhotep (The Mummy)

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The Mummy character
Boris Karloff The Mummy.jpg
First appearance The Mummy
Last appearance The Mummy Returns
Portrayed by Boris Karloff, Arnold Vosloo
Species Undead human
Gender Male
Occupation High priest
Religion Ancient Egyptian religion
Nationality Egypt Egyptian

Imhotep is a fictional character and the titular antagonist in the 1932 film The Mummy, and later featured in its 1999 remake and its sequel The Mummy Returns again as one of the main antagonists. He is loosely inspired by the historical figure Imhotep, a noted polymath and counselor to the Pharaoh Djoser in the 27th century BC.

The Mummy (1932)

In his original appearance, Imhotep was portrayed by Boris Karloff as a high priest of Ancient Egypt, who steals the Scroll of Thoth in attempt to resurrect his lover, Princess Ankh-es-en-amon. For Imhotep's sacrilege, the princess's father, Pharaoh Amenhotep III, orders Imhotep to be mummified and buried alive. The scroll is buried with him, so that no one would ever again have the chance to use it again like he did.

Imhotep is accidentally revived when an archaeological expedition discovers his mummy and one of the archaeologists unknowingly reads the scroll's ancient life-giving spell. While reviewing his mummy, the archaeologists that discovered Imhotep note not only was he buried alive as indicated by his struggle, but that sacred spells meant to protect his soul on its journey to the Underworld were chipped off his coffin, so his soul would be condemned in the afterlife.

Imhotep escapes from the archaeologists and assumes the identity of Ardath Bey, a modern Egyptian. In this form he helps the archaeologists find the tomb of Ankh-es-en-amon. When Bey meets a woman, Helen Grosvenor, who bears a striking resemblance to Ankh-es-en-amon, he realizes that she is a reincarnation of the princess, and attempts to mummify her and make her his bride.

Imhotep is able to use years of power and strength to control other in person and through a looking pool from afar, causing both attraction to him, and death to those he wishes it upon. His powers allow him to control others to take his orders, which gives him control and the ability to draw Helen Grosvenor to him, where she can never remember what she did, or why she was with him. In the end Grosvenor, recalling her past life, appeals to the goddess Isis, who causes Imhotep to dissolve.

The ancient Egyptian priest from the film is named after a famous Egyptian architect, Imhotep, who was responsible for designing the step pyramid at Sakkara. He is also well known for becoming his own priest, and excelling in medicine where he was considered a healer, using plants to treat common diseases.[1] Though the mummy of Imhotep has never been found, an empty sarcophagus was found in a tomb that is thought to have been his. People are in a disagreement on if the tomb discovered actually does belong to Imhotep, however, because there is evidence that whoever was laid to rest in that tomb did not worship Ra.[2]

The Mummy (1999)

In the 1999 remake, Imhotep is portrayed by Arnold Vosloo and is the main antagonist of the film. In 1290 BC, Imhotep was high priest under the rule of Pharaoh Seti I. He began an affair with Seti's mistress, Anck-su-namun, and they murder the Pharaoh when he discovers it. They are discovered and Anck-su-namun commits suicide, intending that Imhotep resurrect her. He attempts to do so but is captured at Hamunaptra by the Medjay (the Pharaoh's sacred bodyguards), and is punished by enduring the Curse of the Hom Dai: the ritual involves cutting out his tongue and burying him alive in a sarcophagus filled with carnivorous scarab beetles. The curse transforms Imhotep into an undead fiend kept in a state of living death; if revived, he would gain control over sand and other elements.

During an archaeological dig three thousand years later, Imhotep is accidentally revived when Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan reads the Book of the Dead at Hamunaptra, where his sarcophagus was. Imhotep regenerates himself using the flesh of four thieves who breached his burial chamber and opened a cursed chest. He attempts to resurrect Anck-su-namun again, using Evelyn as a sacrifice. Ultimately, Imhotep is defeated when he is stripped of immortality by the Book of Amun-Ra, and he is stabbed with a sword by the film's protagonist, Rick O'Connell. As he degenerates into a skeletal form and falls into the pool from which he summoned Anck-su-namun's Ba, Imhotep vows he will return to have his revenge.

Once revived, Imhotep gained several powers, including regeneration, invulnerability, and the ability to turn himself into sand and control the desert sands. He could also wield the Ten Plagues of Egypt to an unspecified degree; he could turn water to blood, unleash swarms of locusts, and control the people of the city by inflicting them with boils and sores. Early in the film, Imhotep expresses an intense fear of cats, screaming in fear when a white one appears in Evelyn's room. Ardeth Bay (the leader of an ancient secret society devoted to guarding Imhotep's tomb, rather than an alias of Imhotep) and Evelyn's employer explain that Imhotep will fear them until he is fully regenerated, cats being associated with the Guardians of the Underworld in Egyptian mythology. Rick uses this fear against Imhotep later in the film.

The Mummy Returns (2001)

In the 2001 sequel, The Mummy Returns, Imhotep, having been resurrected and freed from the resin he had been trapped in at the end of the first movie by a group of cultists and Anck-su-namun's reincarnation, proceeds to seek out the Bracelet of Anubis, which was the key to finding the lair of the Scorpion King, an ancient warrior whose defeat will grant Imhotep control over the Scorpion King's near-indestructible Army of Anubis. After finding the bracelet on the arm of Alex O'Connell, the son of Rick and Evey, Imhotep captures the boy and uses him to find the lair of the Scorpion King, rejuvenating his body using the flesh of mercenaries Anck-su-namun tricks into opening the cursed chest. Once Imhotep reaches the lair, he walks over a magic seal on the floor which causes him to be robbed of his telekinesis, immortality, and other powers granted by the Curse of Hom Dai by Anubis, who seemingly wishes him to face the Scorpion King as a normal mortal. When the Scorpion King responds to Imhotep's summons, Imhotep tricks him into attacking Rick O'Connell. When Rick kills the Scorpion King and sends him and his army to the Underworld, the palace begins to collapse. Rick and Imhotep both nearly fall into a chasm, that apparently leads to the Underworld, and grab onto the ledge. While Rick is rescued by Evelyn, Imhotep begs Anck-su-namun for assistance to save him, but she selfishly refuses and leaves him to die. After this betrayal, Imhotep loses all will to live, since his only reason for returning from the grave was to be reunited with his lover, who apparently did not fully reciprocate his affection. He gives Rick and Evelyn a sad envious smile and willingly casts himself into the pit, thus ending his reign of terror once and for all.

The Mummy: The Animated Series (2001–2003)

In the animated series, based on the 1999 and 2001 films, he is voiced by Jim Cummings and is again the main antagonist.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)

Imhotep does not appear in the third film. He is only mentioned by Rick when informing his son that he took out "the same mummy, twice!", at which point Rick puts up two fingers. Jonathan Carnahan names a nightclub in Shanghai after him and toasts to him: "May the bugger actually stay dead!".


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