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