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Imhotep

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Death is only the beginning.
~ Words of Imhotep.

Imhotep is the main antagonist of the 1932 classic horror film The Mummy as well as its 1999 remake and that film's 2001 sequel, The Mummy Returns. In both versions, Imhotep was an Egyptian High Priest who was cursed and mummified alive when he tried to resurrect his lost love.

He was portrayed by the legendary horror actor, Boris Karloff, in the 1932 film, and by Arnold Vosloo in both the 1999 remake of the same name and its 2001 sequel, and he was voiced by Jim Cummings in the animated series.

History

The Mummy (1932)

Ardeth Bey

Imhotep disguised as Ardeth Bey

In 1932 version, Imhotep was a High Priest during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep. He fell in love with Princess Ankh-es-en-amon, who was a priestess of the goddess Isis, but she grew ill and died. Distraught, Imhotep stole the Scroll of Thoth from its hiding place in the Temple of Isis and brought it to the princess's tomb in an attempt to resurrect her. He was caught in the act before the ritual could be completed and carried off by the Pharaoh's soldiers. Imhotep was sentenced to be buried alive for his sacrilege, and he was buried in a remote spot, the scroll in a casket along side him.

His body remained there until it was rediscovered in 1921 by the archaeologist Sir Joseph Whemple and his assistant Ralph Norton. Unsure of what to make of his find, Whemple brought in his friend, Professor Muller, a noted occult expert, to look at the mummy and he unopened the box. While Whemple and Muller debated over opening the box outside, Norton opened it and read aloud from the scroll. This awakened Imhotep, who took the scroll and walked off into the desert. The sight of the walking mummy drove Norton mad, and he spent the rest of his life in a straightjacket. Upset by what had happened to his assistant, Whemple left Egypt and went home to England, never planning to return. Eleven years later, in 1932, Whemple's son Frank was part of a new archaeological expedition in the same area as his father's had taken place. Imhotep, who had been restored to his normal appearance, approached Frank and his superior, Professor Pearson.

He used the alias of Ardeth Bey and claimed he was an Egyptian archaeologist. He claims to have found clues to the location of Ankh-es-en-amon's tomb, and leads them to it. He allows them to dig up the tomb and install its contents in the Cairo Museum. There he met Whemple, who had returned to Egypt to view his son's discovery. Imhotep stays in the museum past closing time in order to make another attempt at resurrecting his love's mummy. While using the scroll to call her spirit back from the land of the dead, he discovers that the princess has actually reincarnated in the form of Helen Grovesnor, a wealthy young Anglo-Egyptian woman living in Cairo. She also happens to be a patient of Professor Muller. Imhotep is discovered in the museum by the night watchman, whom Imhotep kills with a spell that stops his heart.

However, he leaves the scroll behind on accident. He goes in search of Helen, only to find her at Whemple's house, where she was taken after the Whemples discovered her trying to get inside the museum. Imhotep also learned that Whemple had been given the scroll by the museum staff after the guard was found dead. Professor Muller, coming to retrieve his patient, divined that Ardeth Bey was really Imhotep. Imhotep left the Whemples' house, but planned to retrieve the scroll. To this end, he brought Whemple's Nubian servant under his control. Later, he killed Whemple with his heart stopping spell and had the Nubian bring it to him. Meanwhile, Frank and Helen had begun to fall in love. This caused Imhotep to try to kill Frank, an attempt that almost succeeded, if not for the charm of Isis Professor Muller had given to Frank.

Imhotep called to Helen's soul, and brought her to the museum. There he awakened her memories and informed her of his true purpose: to make her into a living mummy like himself. Frank and Muller arrived at the museum before he could her, and Imhotep attempted to use his spell on them. However, they resisted Imhotep and drove him back. Meanwhile, Helen/Ankh-es-en-amon had kneeled down to a statue of Isis and prayed for help. The statue raised its hand and struck Imhotep with divine lightning, as well as the scroll. Imhotep disintegrated, and the scroll burned away.

The Mummy (1999)

Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo)

Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep in The Mummy (1999).

The language of the slaves. I may have use for you. And the rewards will be great.
~ Imhotep promising Beni Gabor fine rewards.

In the remake, Imhotep is the High Priest during the reign of Seti I. He carries on an affair with Anck-su-namun, the Pharaoh's mistress whom other men are forbidden to touch. He helps her assassinate Pharaoh Seti I, and she kills herself to avoid capture by the royal Medjai guards, intending for Imhotep to resurrect her afterwards. Imhotep and his priests then stole her body and took it to Hamunaptra, the "City of the Dead", where he intended to resurrect her using the Black Book of the Dead . However, he was interrupted by the Medjai before the ritual could be completed. As punishment for their sacrilege, the priests were mummified alive, while Imhotep himself had to endure the Hom-Dai: the worst of all ancient Egyptian curses, which involved having his tongue cut out and being mummified and buried alive along with flesh-eating scarab beetles. However, the curse of the Hom-Dai meant that Imhotep would become a plague upon mankind if he were ever released or resurrected, so the Medjai and their descendants kept a constant watch over Hamunaptra (where Imhotep was buried) for over 3,000 years afterward to ensure that no outsider would ever find the city and thereby risk bringing Imhotep back to life.

When he was restored to life in 1926 A.D., Imhotep gained several powers, including regeneration, invulnerability, turning himself into sand, and controlling the desert sands by creating sandstorms, as well as the ability to wield the Ten Plagues of Egypt to an unspecified degree; he was seen to turn water to blood, unleashing locusts, and control the people of the city by inflicting them with boils and sores (Although these last were used before he regained his full powers, which may account for him only using some of the plagues rather than all of them). During the first part of the movie, Imhotep expresses an intense fear of cats, screaming in fear when a white one appears in Evy's room. Ardeth Bay and Evy's superior explain that Imhotep will fear them until he is fully regenerated into becoming human again, cats being associated with the Guardians of the Underworld in Egyptian mythology; Rick uses this information to good effect later in the film.

In the 1999 version, Ardeth Bay is not Imhotep's pseudonym, but rather the leader of an ancient secret society also known as the Medjai, descended from the same Egyptian royal guards devoted to guarding Imhotep's tomb and protecting the world from his malice.

The Mummy Returns

In the 2001 sequel, 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 his faithful cultists known as the Cult of Imhotep including his new right-hand priest Baltus Hafez and Anck-Su-Namun's living 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 Evi, 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 within the sacre oasis known as Ahm Shere, 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 temple-like pyramid 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, Anck-Su-Namun leaves Imhotep to die while he begs for her assistance. 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.

In the sequel, Imhotep is shown to have new powers such as; wallcrawling, telekinesis, and aquakinesis (an ability to control water).

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Imhotep does not appear in the third film, only mentioned by Rick as "the same mummy I put down twice". Ironically, he ends up having a nightclub in Shanghai named after him as a tribute by Jonathan Carnahan, who toasts to him: "May the bugger actually stay dead!".

The Mummy: Animated Series

Imhotep animated

Imhotep in the animated series The Mummy.

Imhotep makes his return in the animated series, where he serves as the main antagonist yet again.

For cartoon continuity, Imhotep's backstory was different. When he was alive, Imhotep, instead of having an affair with Anck-Su-Namun, attempted to use the Scrolls of Thebes to steal the Manacle of Osiris in order "make the world his own". However he as caught and mummified. After his defeat by the O'Connells, he was once again resurrected by the jealous archaeologist, Colin Weasler who intended on having Imhotep become his slave.

This backfired and Weasler became Imhotep's servant. Meanwhile, the O'Connells discover the Manacle of Osiris. Alex O'Connell once again wears the Manacle and it remains stuck on him. After this is discovered, Imhotep and Weasler arrive intending on obtaining the Manacle. Imhotep kidnaps Alex in order to take the Manacle from him. However, despite his efforts, the O'Connells arrive and a battle ensues. Evelyn O'Connell attempts to use The Book of the Dead, used by Colin Weasler, to send Imhotep back. However, Weasler intervenes and Imhotep is "caught somewhere between being human and undead". The Book of The Dead is lost and Weasler and Imhotep flee. For the rest of the season, Imhotep attempts to obtain the Scrolls of Thebes to seperate the Manacle from Alex until the finale in which they are destroyed.

At the end of that episode, Imhotep is presumed dead though they all still have doubts. In the second season, Imhotep returns and attempts to find other means to conquer the world. He resurrects Anck-Su-Namun and the two, along with Weasler, search for the Scythe of Anubis. However, once they obtain the Scythe and seemingly defeat the O'Connells, Anck betrays Imhotept refusing to be sub-servient to him. Imhotep also had a brief alliance with Ninzam Toth in "Spring of Evil" in which they go to the Dark Temple and use the Spring of Evil to turn Alex O'Connell to the dark side. However they failed and the alliance was disbanded. At the series finale, Imhotep steals the Medallion of the Medjai to access Du'wat and form an army of the undead. Whilst there he encounters Anck-Su-Namun trapped. She begs Imhotep to release her but he refuses. In the end, Alex unlocks the "power within" and throws Imhotep into the underworld. Afterwards, The Minotaur predicted that Imhotep would form alliances and return more powerful then ever. However this does not happen as of yet.

Powers and Abilities

Powers

As a mortal, Imhotep demonstrated great mystical powers as the pharaoh's high priest. After being resurrected as a mummy and suffer the curse of Hom Dai by his persecutors, he gained new powers alongside his old ones.

  • Invulnerability: Imhotep had demonstrated that he was virtually invulnerable to the weapons of the modern age, including both guns and swords. He demonstrated that even if he's hit by blades or bullets, he simply will not die. It is also logical to assume that he is immune to all known ailments and narcotics.
  • Immortality: Having been resurrected more than once and being over 3000 years old, Imhotep is effectively immortal.
  • Superhuman Strength: Despite him being a walking corpse, Imhotep has demonstrated extraordinary strength for a 3000 year old rotting pile of flesh. He has shown to be capable of lifting a well fit full grown adult into the air several feet with great ease.
  • Self-Sustenance: As a mummy, Imhotep has shown to have no need to eat, drink or breath to survive.
  • Regenerative Healing Factor: Imhotep had demonstrated that he could heal from any form of physical injury. He must first however kill those who opened the chest containing the Book of the Dead by sucking them dry of all organs and fluids to make himself human again. Even after this, Imhotep can heal himself as well as reassemble himself in case any of his limbs are severed from his body.
  • Pestilence Inducement: According to Evelyn, those like Imhotep who suffered the curse of the Hom-Dai had the power to manipulate both diseases and pests such as locusts and scarabs. The first time he uses this power was after he accidently resurrected by Evelyn whom read the Book of the Dead out loud, where the mummy roars and conjures scarabs and locusts to attack everyone whom present in Hamunaptra.
  • Necrokinesis: A power he has demonstrated before his mummification, Imhotep has the power to resurrect the dead. He demonstrated such powers when he resurrected Anck-Su-Namun from her grave, as well as resurrect a small army of priests to do his bidding.
  • Eclipse Manipulation: Upon arriving in Cairo, Imhotep's powers had grew to the point where he could at will cause an eclipse which blotted out the light of the sun.
  • Telekinesis: Some speculate that Imhotep has the separate powers to manipulate both sand and water, however due to him being capable of demonstrating the ability to lift people up and throw them at a great distance, it is most likely due to his powers of telekinesis, which the said telekinesis was the very power that enhanced his strength. He has shown to be incredibly gifted with this power due to his ability to manipulate the sand and water, making a wall of either element and a large version of his face is visible.
  • Sand Manipulation: Imhotep has demonstrated in both his rotting form and even partially regenerated form that he has the power to turn his body into sand and fly out the window, either as a sandy tornado in various size or a jet of sands. He can carry immense loads with him while he is in this form which was seen when he dropped Beni Gabor and Evelyn Carnahan onto nearby sand. This power also enables him to turn into sand and enter places that are locked which was demonstrated when sand entered Evelyn's room and he formed from it.
  • Hypnosis: Imhotep had demonstrated the power to actually hypnotize people, putting them into any time period he desired. In 1932 film, Imhotep used this to brainwashed a Nubian to become his servant and even hypnotize Helen so she willing to mummified and reanimated as undead bride for him. In The Mummy Returns, he demonstrated this only once when he was about to kiss Meela Nais who was somewhat repulsed by the mummy's appearance. To get her to kiss him, he hypnotized her, allowing her to see herself as Anck-Su-Namun and Imhotep in full human form. She then kissed him, being completely unaware she was kissing a corpse.
  • Aquakinesis: Imhotep had demonstrated the power to have complete over water.
    • Water Divination: Imhotep can reading the future, the present and the past and/or provide help to a problem at hand via Egyptian Occult means as well as allowed the others to see what he perceived, with water as medium. In 1932, he displayed this to Helen, Ankh-es-en-amon's reincarnated self to tell her about both her and his past life, whereas in The Mummy Returns, Imhotep did the same to Meela Nais their past selves.
  • Life-Force Absorption: Imhotep demonstrated this deadly ability by sucking the life essence and flesh of his victims. When he did this, his mouth would opens in 90 degrees and unhinged in process as if it vertically widens.
  • Blood Transformation: Imhotep has demonstrated the power to turn water or liquid into blood. Used to warn the whole building that he visited when he goes to kill an archaeologist for regenerating himself.
  • Heart Stopping: Imhotep can cause the hearts of others to instantly stop, effectively killing them via magic. This power only displayed in 1932 film.

Abilities

  • Weapon Proficiency: Imhotep has demonstrated his skills in the use of swords, knives and even staff-based weapons.
  • Multilingualism: Imhotep had shown to mostly speak in his native tongue of Ancient Egyptian, however he was fully capable of speaking English(which skills in speaking English was exclusive in his cartoon incarnation). He also could recognize certain languages such as Yiddish (a form of Hebrew dialect) and even Arabic.

Weaknesses

  • Ancient Egyptian Artifacts: Being resurrected by the Book of the Dead, Imhotep proved to be near invincible. The only problem he faced even when fully regenerated, was a vulnerability to artifacts of mystical nature. Artifacts such as the Book of Amun-Ra had the power to strip him of his immortal powers, rendering him mortal.
  • Cats: According to Terence Bey, cats are the guardians of the underworld. Since Imhotep came back from the underworld, he will fear them until he is fully regenerated. Once that takes place, cats will no longer be a problem for the mummy.

Gallery

1932 Film

Remake Trilogy

Trivia

  • He was loosely inspired by the Egyptian polymath with the same name.
  • "Imhotep" is the title of a video game.
  • Imhotep was featured in the British comedy television series Look Around You. He is depicted as an invisible Moai.
  • In the 2010 Marvel Comics series S.H.I.E.L.D., Imhotep was the name of a man who formed the very first SHIELD.
  • For the most part, Imhotep is the Big Bad of The Mummy franchise.

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