In The Mummy (in theaters Friday), Sofia Boutella’s revenant Egyptian princess battles a cursed Tom Cruise. Here’s a look back at the history of movie mummies, from South America to Cairo to an East Texas retirement home.
5050 BC: CHILEAN CREATION
Ancient societies across the world practiced mummification. The oldest known mummies hail from the Chinchorro culture, in modern-day Chile and Peru.
3500 BC: PYRAMID SCHEME
Egyptian embalmers developed the mummy look, cloaking their dead in cloth. In 2660 B.C., King Djoser built himself the first pyramid. (The builder’s name? Imhotep.)
1827: SCI-FI DEBUT
Jane Webb was only 19 when she invented the concept of a reanimated pharoah in her protofeminist sci-fi adventure The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century.
1881: RAMESSES II
The deceased god-king never came to life after his body was discovered. But when his remains were later flown to France, he was issued a passport. Spooky!
1922: KING TUT CURSE
When some of Howard Carter’s compatriots died after he discovered the boy king’s tomb, newspapers pushed the idea of a curse. See? We always had fake news!
1932: MOVIE TIME
Frankenstein star Boris Karloff played Imhotep in the first Mummy movie, and became a cinematic classic: eyelids cracking open, wrapped arms, unfolding cloth.
1942: CHANEY CHANGE
When Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolf Man) took over the franchise, his three (terrible) films cemented the character’s essential arc: “Shuffling Dead seeks Attractive Companion.”
1955: SILLY STRING
Sixteen years after the Three Stooges spoof We Want Our Mummy, Universal pitted their own funnymen, Abbott and Costello, against the monster.
1958: A RUN FOR THE BORDER
The Aztec Mummy was a rip-off, but the Mexican undead warrior had unique adventures in The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy and 1964’s Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy.
1959: HAMMER TIME
Peter Cushing is the archaeologist. Christopher Lee is the enshrouded. In the best scene of Hammer Film’s garish Mummy remake, the horror legends try to shoot, stab, and strangle each other.
1971: GHOULISH GIRL
Two-time Bond girl Valerie Leon plays an ancient Egyptian queen and a lookalike modern Londoner in Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb. She’s kinda cinema’s first female mummy.
1999: IMHOTEP RETURNS
The swaggeringly goofy Brendan Fraser trilogy gets a bad rap, but thank The Mummy Returns for Dwayne “Scorpion King” Johnson’s film career.
2002: BUBBA HO-TEP
Bruce Campbell plays Elvis and Ossie Davis is JFK, and they fight the cowboy-hatwearing mummy who’s tormenting their nursing home. Who says there are no new ideas?
The kid-friendly monster movie Hotel Transylvania features a mummy named Murray, but also features a bride of Frankenstein voiced by Fran Drescher. Spin-off, please!