Kharis is the name of the mummy featured in the four films produced by Universal Studios in the 1940s following their original 1932 film "The Mummy", which starred Boris Karloff as a different mummy character, Im-ho-tep. Inspired by worldwide interest in Egyptian archeology of the era, the Mummy is the only major Universal monster of the 1920s, '30s, and '40s whose origin as a fearsome being is credited to the films in which he appears; the Phantom of the Opera, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, and the Invisible Man all originated in literature, and the Wolf Man was derived from werewolf myths.

In the first Kharis film, "The Mummy's Hand" (1940), the character was played by Western-film actor Tom Tyler, while the three subsequent films, "The Mummy's Tomb" (1942), "The Mummy's Ghost" (1944), and "The Mummy's Curse" (also 1944), starred Lon Chaney, Jr. in the role. Although the iconic image of the mummy's face is usually Karloff's, the Kharis films are responsible for the enduring stereotype of the lumbering, foot-dragging monster, as Karloff's bandaged creation is seen only briefly while Kharis is a major on-screen character in all four follow-up films. The Kharis movies also introduce the notion of tana leaves as integral to the mummy's survival.

"The Mummy's Hand" introduces Kharis in a series of flashbacks that are pulled from the original 1932 film except for inserts with Tyler replacing shots in which Karloff would have been conspicuous. The original film's ancient-Egypt scenes tell the story of Imhotep, who is punished for attempting to resurrect a dead lover, while in the Kharis films the identities and details of this story are simply changed to describe a similar but alternate scenario. For this reason the Kharis films are not sequels to the original, as occasionally misperceived, but do relate narratively to each other.

The make-up for Kharis was designed by Universal's resident monster expert Jack Pierce. While Tyler's features can be discerned easily under the make-up (as could Karloff's), Chaney is unrecognizable, due in part to the increased use of a mask rather than customized make-up over the course of the series. While in "The Wolf Man" Chaney played the starring role both in and out of makeup, Tyler was shown as the human Kharis in Chaney's mummy films during flashback scenes, a somewhat demoralizing budgetary measure that showed Chaney's importance to be mainly that of his famous name.

While the Kharis films lack the artistic distinction of the 1930s Universal horror classics, they remain popular among genre fans. An aspect of the Kharis series is that the years that pass between them narratively would set the final one in the late 20th century, though no attempt was made to alter the depiction of clothing, hairstyles, or technology.

Christopher Lee portrayed Kharis in the 1959 Hammer horror film "The Mummy".


In the remake films made in the late 1990s the mummy is called Imhotep and is portrayed by Arnold Vosloo. Here he was the high priest of Pharoh Seti I until he betrayed his pharoh out of love for the Pharoh's mistress Anck-su-namun, subsequently undergoing an ancient curse as punishment for his attempt to resurrect her after she slays the pharoh. Due to the curse, Imhotep is condemned to remain alive as he is devoured by sacred scarebs for all eternity, but, if awakened, he would command the sands and the Ten Plagues of Egypt, as well as being virtually immortal. After he is unintentionally awakened in the 1920s, Imhotep seeks to use Evelyn Carnahan as the sacrifice with which he will resurrect Anck-su-namun, but is opposed by soldier Rick O'Connell, who manages to keep Imhotep occupied until Evelyn finds a spell that allows her to rescind Imhotep's immortality and powers by sending his soul to the underworld.

In the sequel, "The Mummy Returns", Imhotep is resurrected by an ancient brotherhood who seek to pit him against the Scorpion King, thus granting him command of the army of Anubis, with which he can conquer the world. Aided by the reincarnation of Anck-su-namun- whose soul is eventually fully restored to the body-, Imhotep makes his way to the Scorpion King's temple, but his powers are taken by Anubis, who wishes him to fight the King as a mortal. As he and Rick clash against each other and the King, Rick defeats the King by stabbing him with the Spear of Osiris, a powerful mystical weapon, simultaneously opening a portal to hell which he and Imhotep are left suspended above. Although Evelyn risks her life to save Rick, Anck-su-namun flees rather than try to help Imhotep, causing the former priest to hurl himself into hell in despair.

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