The Awakening (1980)
Film: The Awakening
Director: Mike Newell
Writer: Chris Bryant, Clive Exton and Allan Scott
Starring: Charlton Heston, Susannah York and Jill Townsend
This film takes place in Egypt, 18 years in the past. We have a married couple played by Charlton Heston and Jill Townsend. He is an archeologist and his wife is pregnant. She has followed him there so they can be together. They are interrupted by another woman, played by Susannah York. She is Heston’s assistant. Townsend believes there is something more going on between them and she doesn’t trust York.
Heston and York are searching for an unnamed queen that no one is sure exists. There was a Dutch archeologist who claims to have found evidence of her existence, but there has been nothing concrete. There are hints about her in some of the hieroglyphics. Where their excavation site is, they are finding nothing. Heston takes York for a ride and apologizes for what Townsend said the previous night. Heston knows that York heard it. She informs him that she is fine.
They stop off and decide to see if they can find anything here. After a small rock slide, they find evidence of another tomb that has been hidden. The top of it states that the Unnamed One is inside and she should not be released. They shift all their attention to this location.
Once the door is discovered, Heston attempts to open it with a sledge hammer. Every time he hits it, Townsend feels a sharp pain. By the time he gets inside, she has passed out. Heston comes back to camp to find that Townsend needs a hospital. He takes her there. She is sleeping and Heston knows there is nothing he can do. He gives his number to the nurse and how to reach him. He goes back out into the field.
As Heston gets into the tomb to find this mummy, Townsend needs to have her baby delivered immediately. The doctors do everything they can to save it, but they cannot get it to breathe. That is until the mummy is uncovered. The baby then begins to breathe on its own, even though the doctors and nurses had given up heroic measures. Heston goes to touch the hand of the mummy and it moves, much to his horror. York doesn’t see anything and he doesn’t speak of it.
Heston comes back to find his daughter is born. He is happy, but Townsend knows that he was not around. She tells him that she is going to visit her parents in the United States, with their daughter. She wants him to come too. He tells her that he cannot and this is where they part ways.
His attention is more on trying to get the mummy of this Queen, known as Kara, back to the United Kingdom. Egyptian officials will not allow this. The man he speaks with though does give him an ankh made of gold, with jewels and a mirror in the loop to give to his new daughter when she comes of age. He thanks him for the gift.
The film then shifts 18 years into the future. Heston and York are now married. He is a professor in England. We also see that he is still wrapped up in what he is doing that he forgets about everyone else. He has the urge to return to Egypt. His main reason for going is to get Queen Kara’s mummy there. There is an issue being raised as well about there being a bacteria or virus that anyone who entered the tomb may have.
The baby has grown up to be Stephanie Zimbalist. Her 18th birthday is coming up and she decides that she wants to see her father. Zimbalist has money due to her grandfather leaving her a sizable sum. Her mother is against this, believing that she was abandoned by Heston for York. She does tell Zimbalist that she is an adult and if she wants to go him that is her choice.
She goes to him. Heston is elated to see her. He wants to spend all day with her. York seems to be getting a little bit jealous of this shift. Heston takes Zimbalist with him to Egypt, to show her the tomb of Queen Kara. We also learn that this queen believed that she could resurrect herself. She needs the seven star jewel and her organs, which are kept in jars. They were never found during the initial search.
Going back to the tomb, they find these jars. Zimbalist begins to feel weird and like Queen Kara, she comes on her to father. Heston fears that his daughter wants to resurrect this queen. He also wants to as well, going as far to steal the jars that were found by Ahmed Osman. He also gets Queen Kara’s mummy to England by wanting more tests run on a possible virus she is carrying.
Can Queen Kara be resurrected? Is Zimbalist needed to bring her back? Or is there something more horrible in store for her?
This film is interesting. Growing up I was interested in Egyptian history and mummies, so I really enjoyed that aspect of this film. I like the idea of this ruthless queen knowing how to bring herself back and being able to control those who are easily manipulated into helping. I thought Heston was very good in his role. One thing that really struck me about him was his obsessive nature. I really don’t think anything holds his attention for long enough for him to realize the repercussions. I also liked Zimbalist. I thought she was very attractive and the change of her nature was well done. I also really liked the ending as well, definitely breaks that Hollywood ending concept.
There were quite a bit of issues for me in this film. First off, I think that is quite boring. They focus too much on the build up and the ending doesn’t do enough to save this. I feel the searching and discovery of the mummy takes a little too long. Heston and York stumbling upon her tomb seemed a little too convenient as well. I didn’t care for York or Townsend, as both were bland. Townsend especially makes some rash, life-altering decisions without much thought. I also felt the film took way too long arguing about getting the mummy out of Egypt, while not fleshing out this possible virus her mummy is carrying. I also thought Heston’s reaction as to what he is doing in the end of the film to be confusing, I mean if you see it, how could you not know what you were doing?
With that said, I will give credit to this film where it is due. This film was the first Egyptology film to be filmed in Egypt. There was some really good acting from Heston and Zimbalist. The story is decent, but drags some things out too much. The ending though is good, but it just doesn’t do enough to save this film. I would recommend giving this a viewing if you have read the novel this is based off of, The Jewel of the Seven Stars by Bram Stoker. If not, there are much more entertaining mummy films out there.
My Rating: 5 out of 10