THE AWAKENING (1980)
Notes: OrionPictures. 101 minutes.
Matthew Corbeck: Charlton Heston
Assistant Jane Turner: Susannah York
Wife Anne: Jill Townsend
Daughter Margaret: Stephanie Zimbalist
Paul: Patrick Drury
Dr. Khalid: Bruce Myers
Dr. El Sadek: Nadim Sawalha
Dr. Kadira: Miriam Margolyes
Dr. Richler: Ian McDiarmid
Yussef: Ahmed Osman
Co-Produced: Andrew Scheinman, Martin Shafer
Produced: Robert Solo
Associate Producer: Harry Benn
Directed: Mike Newell
Screenplay: Allan Scott, Chris Bryant, CliveExton
Music: Claude Bolling.
Summary: Coolopening music accompanies watery Egyptian scenes and art. (Thenagain, it’s easy enough to sound “Egyptian” with anout-of-tune oboe and unpredictable chromaticism.) The movie isvery promising: the opening line, after we’re told vaguely “18years ago,” is “Gin and tonic, then?”
Pregnant wife Annie is bitchy about her husband,Matthew Corbeck, spending so much time on his job, and with Janehis assistant, trying to discover a nameless lost queen of Egypt,as postulated by a 17th-century Dutchman, Van Horn. She’s “tryingto grab the attention of a man who’s haunted by the dead.”Corbeck and assistant find a tomb and a curse in hieroglyphics:”Beware the man who comes from northern skies,” as “thenameless one” must not be allowed to live again. As they bash into the tomb,his wife has pangs of the womb.
The still-pregnant wife lapses into a coma.He goes back to the dig. She screams simultaneous to his entryinto the tomb. A bloody dead baby comes alive when Corbeck opensthe sarcophagus of Kara. The mummy’s hand is disturbingly supple.
“I thought I’d be so happy,” saysthe distraught wife on seeing the baby, and blames her husbandfor not being there. At the dig, an Egyptian antiquities officialconfronts Corbeck and soon loses his life when a rope catcheshim and he falls to his bloody death. A museum official offersCorbeck an ankh for his daughter, but his wife and baby have fled.
“The Present”: an eclipse eighteen years later has odd effects on artifacts. A bearded Professor Corbeck is visited by someone saying that decay has set in among his discoveries. He wants to return to Egypt.
The Remington Steele girl likes theseal at the zoo but not the hyena. She mysteriously senses a needto go to England to visit her father. Mom is bitchy about theguy “deserting” them for his new wife, former assistant Jane.
On the way to the airport, assistant/new wifewho is driving says, “I wish that Triumph would get off mytail.” Matthew goes to Egypt, and about Kara says, “I’d forgottenhow lovely she was.” A bacteriologist wants “to cutthe flesh itself,” but quickly is hit by a car. Kara willgo to England.
Daughter Margaret intrudes upon daddy’s Egyptologicallecture: “sensing the ordered rhythm of life, death, rebirth.”A happy uniting and “it’s time you two met” (Discovery,meet Daughter; Daughter, Discovery), followed by dinner conversationabout Kara having died at 18. “The nameless one must be foreveralone.” All references to her were destroyed due to her vengeanceagainst her father for killing her lover and marrying her himself.Incest may have been common, but only among the pharaohs. Shehad a block dropped on her father and killed thousands of peoplewho had spoken to him. Kara also spread the rumor that she couldreincarnate herself through a ritual. If only we had the jarsand the seven-starred jewel. Weirdness pervades the dinner.
We hear that the mummy’s jarred viscera werenot found. Paul, from the department, pops in and later callsMargaret for a date. Daddy’s jealous. At a microbiological moment,Paul recognizes a virus and says the mummy should go back to Egypt.Matthew pitches a fit. He raves about Egypt, and Margaret hasn’t”seen it, tasted the place.” So it’s a date, Daddy!New wife frets.
In the tomb, Margaret seems possessed in talkingabout marrying/hating Daddy. An assistant, Yussef, is killed in a booby-trappedroom, but we discover the organ jars and smuggle them back toEgypt. Jane realizes Matthew’s obsession with trying the ritual.He intones: “Is there a child on earth who doesn’t believein magic? I don’t. I don’t. We’re rational. We’re civilized. Weknow the limits of nature. We know. Or are we just afraid to testour certainty, our holy scientific certainty, against that ancientqueen’s belief in magic?”
A mathematical expert calculates the coincidencesbetween 1800 BC and now, what with Ursa Major (of the seven stars)having come full circle and all. Matthew calls Jane and tellsher to get a secret key to the safe and destroy the jars. Shetries, but light bulbs blow, there’s freaky noise, artifacts intimidate,it’s windy, she goes onto the balcony and falls to paralysis.She sees a shard dangle before it pierces her throat.
At the funeral, Paul says she was frightened.Margaret, in a state, seems to make sleeping bloody daddy tryto open the safe with the jars. The next day when the doctor visitsdaddy, she admits to Paul, “I was in the house when Janedied…. I don’t feel like myself anymore.” After a mirrortrauma, she sees a shrink who advises her to go to a clinic. Shehas a fit about daddy and attacks the doctor, who falls on hisown sedative.
Mom’s in a cab. Margaret’s hooked up, comatosein a hospital. Paul blames Matthew’s obsession for Margaret’smental state. Matthew insists that Kara is forcing his hand.
Margaret telepathically whispers “Helpme” to daddy. He begins the ritual, but maybe Paul will cometo the rescue. Matthew invokes Anubis and Osiris and pours hisown wrist blood into fires. With Margaret present now, he cutsopen the bandages to reveal Kara’s skeleton. “May Anubistake away my eyes. Open thine.” But he doubts this will work:”There’s nothing there.” He begins ‘awakening,’ realizingthat the mummy won’t rise but that his daughter is the reincarnation.He batters and tears at the corpse. Margaret suddenly sproutsCleopatra make-up and hisses. Daddy is killed under a collapseof stone blocks as he realizes the horror. We last see her viciouseyes.
Commentary:The film claims to be based on Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of theSeven Stars. Okay. But the real value of this film is theuse of mummy material to explore the incestuous daddy obsessionwith daughter. Matthew wants a stasis, represented well by mummification.Yet he has obsessive urges towards any woman but his wives: acorpse from 1800 BC and a daughter he’s never seen until she’s18. The film involves supernatural forces, not really an incarnatedmummy, but is good horror due to the nature of the “awakenings”involved — awakenings not of Egyptian corpses, but of psychologies,awakenings to the horror of standard sick family relationships.