|“||Without my glasses I can't see the deck to cut it, now can I, Daniels?||”|
–Burns explaining his eyesight., The Mummy
Bernard "Bernie" Burns was an American treasure hunter and the first to be killed by the ancient curse of the chest that contained the book of the dead. Burns was known for wearing thick, wire-rim spectacles.
Bernard Burns was a treasure hunter that teamed up with Daniels and Henderson, two fellow American thrill-seekers and one Egyptologist professor named Dr. Allen Chamberlain to find the ancient lost city of Hamunaptra, the City of the Dead, where it was said that untold treasures lay. Together with a team of over a dozen native diggers and workers and a their guide named Beni Gabor, Burns and his three associates intended to find the city and its treasures. Sensing Beni's questionable loyalties early on, as Beni would have no remorse in abandoning the four men out into the desert, Burns and his associates wisely agreed to pay Beni only half of his fee upon meeting them and the other half to be given once they returned to Cairo, forcing Beni to travel all the way to the ruins.
Journey to Hamunaptra
|“||We're gonna find it boys, and we're gonna make history!||”|
–Burns talking about their plans in Cairo., The Mummy
Once the expedition reached the river ports in Cairo, they were all eager to find the lost City of the Dead and boarded a river barge called the Sudan bound for an oasis where they would purchase camels and ride into the scorching deserts. Though Daniels was skeptical of finding Hamunaptra, Burns and Henderson proudly remarked that they would find the city and become rich. On this boat, they all traveled comfortably enough to start a poker game going, a game which Burns was winning at with surprising luck. At this game, however, Jonathan Carnahan stopped by to try his luck and mistakenly let it slip that he and his associates were also seeking the City of the Dead. With this brought to light, Daniels placed a wager to Rick O'Connell, who was leading Jonathan's fellows on their trip: Daniels wagered five hundred dollars that he and his team would reach the City of the Dead before Rick did. Rick accepted, telling them all that he only gambled with his life and not his money, to which Dr. Chamberlain, who was sitting nearby the game, asked haughtily what made him so confident. Rick asked what made the professor and his associates so confident, and Henderson replied that they had a guide that actually been there. Jonathan was about to remark that they too, had a guide, but Rick stopped him from revealing more by forcing him away. The bet was still on, all present leaving it at that and resuming the game, which Burns continued to win.
Later that night, a small number of Medjai silently boarded the riverboat and almost killed Evelyn Carnahan for the map to Hamanaptra that she possessed, as well as a key which came with the map. The Medjai were found almost killing Evelyn and confronted by O'Connell, who fought them off with firepower, only to have the Medjai begin destroying the boat by burning it. Burns, Daniels and Henderson all helped to stave off the marauders with their bullets, but the damages to the boat forced the crew, their beasts of burden, and all the passengers to abandon ship so as to swim to the safety of the shores. Burns, Daniels, Dr. Chamberlain and Henderson escaped as well, completely drenched, being lucky enough to jump ship with all of the horses that escaped from the burning ship, but Burns and his fellows were all on the wrong side of the river.
About two days later, Burns and his fellow treasure hunters, all astride horses, reached a point in their travels of the Sahara that they had encountered O'Connell and his fellows. The trio of Americans, with their guide, professor and team of diggers, were all before O'Connell and his group, about to reach the City, with their wager that whoever reach the ruins first be rewarded with five hundred dollars still on. As soon as the sun rose, the path to the city was revealed and both teams raced off to the city in hot pursuit, with Evelyn reaching the ruins before any of the others did, winning the wager and five hundred dollars.
Burns, Daniels and Henderson reached the ruins and had tents set up, not doing any of the hard work themselves, but rather leaving it to the diggers, while they sat in their tents and took advice from Beni; at about this time, O'Connell came and filched Burns' toolkit to give to Evelyn as a present. Later on in the day, the three Americans and their professor reached the base of a statue where, being on their toes, they came armed and heard sounds on the other side of the statue, pointing their guns at the source of the sounds, which turned out to be O'Connell and his group. Burns and his group claimed the statue as their site to dig, with Burns even pointing out that Evelyn had his toolkit, and O'Connell forcefully replying that the toolkit was hers. Burns and his fellows won the argument for the right to the dig site and as soon as Henderson was about to force open a compartment so as to find treasures; Dr. Chamberlain stopped him from doing the deed, suggesting that there might be traps inside, and that the diggers should be the ones to open it. Burns agreed with the professor wholeheartedly, and as soon as three diggers stepped forward and almost had finished prying it open, a jet of pressurised salt acid shot out at them, killing all three diggers.
Later that night, the Medjai warriors again came, raiding the camp and killing off several diggers in the process. Burns and his fellows were caught off-guard (Burns emerged from his tent, face half-covered in shaving cream), but still managed to fight back until the head warrior, a man named Ardeth Bay, proclaimed that they would kill no more, but that all of them must leave the City or die, giving them one day. This attack only furthered the greedy American treasure hunters' beliefs that there was treasure there, but that they must be cautious and watch out for another attack.
The next day, the team of Americans, accompanied by Beni and their professor had finally managed to get the compartment that had killed three opened. From it came a wooden chest, lined with hieroglyphs that the professor warned told of a curse. Henderson laughed this off, but the professor read aloud the meaning of the markings: death would come upon all that opened the chest by means of a mummy that would kill all of those who opened the chest and assimilate their organs, tissues and fluids. From this, the mummy would regenerate, being not undead but a curse upon the Earth. Regardless, Henderson opened the chest, revealing the ancient black Book of the Dead, which Dr. Chamberlain was astonished to find; Henderson and the other Americans, however, cared nothing for this book, and in upset, Henderson kicked the chest, revealing a compartment within it that contained five canopic jars filigreed with jewels and gold. With their new acquisitions in hand, Burns, Daniels, and Henderson expected to take the jars back to Cairo and fetch up high prices for them. Dr. Chamberlain though, with a canopic jar in his possession, had another prize: the Book of the Dead, which he tried very hard to force open in his tent later that night. While he was asleep, the Book still in his hands, Evelyn came into his tent and took the Book. She decided to prove to O'Connell that curses did not exist by reading the incantation of the curse that would awaken a cursed mummy. It worked at once, and the mummy returned to life.
|“||My glasses! My glasses! Hey, could you help me find my--||”|
–Burns being tripped and losing his glasses, asking for help finding them., The Mummy
With the mummy's resurrection, the curse began to take effect. The curse entailed this: if the mummy were to arise, with him would come the Ten Plagues of Egypt. The first to come was the plague of locusts, which caused all of those at the ruins to run screaming into the chambers in fear. As Bernard was running from the plague, he tripped and fell, knocking his spectacles off, trying to reach for them; Beni came up from behind him running to escape the plague and stepped on his glasses, breaking them. Beni made no effort to help Bernard back up as Bernard was rendered essentially blind. Bernard looked around with his poor vision, trying to figure out where he was when he saw a figure, but because his glasses were gone the figure appeared fuzzy. Terrified at not knowing who it was, Bernard turned around and beheld the mummy: as he shrieked in fear at this, the mummy proceeded to consummate the curse and tear out Bernard' eyes and tongue. Later on, Bernard was compelled to stand blindly and in pain when he was found by Evelyn, who was relieved to find someone she knew. But she was appalled to see what had happened to him and terrified out of her wits when she saw the culprit: the resurrected Imhotep, who was coming close to her and trying to see who she was as Bernard lay groaning in agony and writhing away.
|“|| You bastards.|
What did you do to him?
We saved him; saved him before the creature could finish his work.'
Afterwards, Burns was found by the Medjai, who appeared to the group of treasure hunters. Ardeth Bay, their leader, explained to them the seriousness of what they had done. The curse was brought down upon all those who opened the chest and with that revealed Burns, who lay in serious agony at the loss of his eyes and tongue. Daniels and Henderson were furious at the mutilation of their friend, believing that the Medjai were the culprits. Ardeth Bay explained that they had saved Burns before the mummy could finish him off. Ardeth then instructed them all to leave at once, which everyone present did. As Burns was blinded, Henderson and Daniels helped him onto his horse and promised to lead him in the right direction.
Return to Cairo
|“|| So uh, how's your friend?|
He had his eyes and his tongue ripped out; how would you be?
Two days after the events at Hamunaptra, Burns still lay in terrible pain and Daniels and Henderson suggested that death would be a much better fate for Burns than his current plight, with the decision made to leave Cairo to head for Alexandria. Burns lay in pain but in some small relief at the news that he received: an honoured bidder came by to offer an auction for the canopic jar that Burns owned, with Burns hoping that he could obtain some medical help or treatment for his newfound affliction, but the bidder was in reality Imhotep in disguise, aided by Beni.
|“||Mr. Burns, Prince Imhotep thanks you for your hospitality. And for your eyes, and for your tongue. But I'm afraid more is needed. The prince must finish the job. And consummate the curse which you and your friends have brought down upon yourselves.||”|
–Beni Gabor., The Mummy
Although Imhotep took Burns' eyes and tongue, Burns' eyes seemed poor help as even with a different owner, Burns' eyesight was still very weak. Imhotep had Beni inform Burns that he thanked Burns for his hospitality, as well as his eyes and tongue. Beni then revealed that more was needed, and so Imhotep finished his consummation and took away Burns' flesh, leaving Burns a desiccated corpse.
Personality and Traits
Bernard Burns was an easygoing man that always seemed cheerful and optimistic. Burns was the least taciturn of the three American treasure hunters, seeing no need for unnecessary violence, and even at the loss of his eyes could still have some sense of humour.
A tall man with short brown hair, Burns was easily noticed by his round, wire-rim spectacles, which he was essentially blind without. During the expedition set up by he and his friends, Burns wore a light chequered jacket, trilby hat light grey shirt, suspenders, belt, knickerbockers and bow tie, dispensing with his tie when in the deserts heading towards Hamunaptra.
Behind the Scenes
Burns was portrayed by actor Tuc Watkins.
In the novel of the film, it was revealed that Burns' first name was "Bernie", short for "Bernard".
The original fate for Burns as seen in the script was that Burns would receive Imhotep in his hotel room, thinking him to be some guest and hear Beni state that "Prince" Imhotep's eyesight was not up to par, to which Burns would point Imhotep would don them over his death mask and proceed to kill Burns.