Eighteen years ago, Egyptologist Matthew Corbeck (Charlton Heston) was convinced there was another tomb out there in the North African deserts to be found, and had brought his pregnant wife Anne (Jill Townsend) out to accompany him on his expedition. She was aggrieved that he seemed to want to spend more time with his assistant Jane Turner (Susannah York) as they investigated the landscape and followed up their research, but she would have more to worry about soon as once out in the middle of nowhere, Corbeck uncovered a set of hieroglyphs with Jane's help. Just as they were shifting the sand from them, miles away at the camp Anne doubled up in pain...
Bram Stoker's novel Jewel of the Seven Stars had been adapted quite recently to the release of The Awakening, in the form of the Hammer movie Blood from the Mummy's Tomb which was a flop for the British studio, but that did not deter a different bunch of Brits in the shape of EMI trying to make a hit out of it in a form that could have proven far more commercial. That form being lifted from seventies blockbuster The Omen, which featured a child of Satan leaving a selection of dead bodies in his wake thanks to his supernatural protection, so how about making a mummy movie which might not have included a walking - or shuffling - mummy menace, but did have a bunch of grueome deaths?
Actually, this did have a mummy, but it stayed fairly inert as the spirit of the dreaded Ancient Egyptian Queen Kara did her worst from beyond the grave rather than some shambling, bandage-wrapped monstrosity. Her preserved form, gold mask and all, did get a number of dramatic closeups, but no more than that for we jumped forward after the Corbecks' baby's two months' premature birth to the present day where she has grown up to be living in New York City with Anne, and the estranged Matthew is in England, attending to his research having found a better romantic partner in Jane. It seems to have been fairly quiet on the Kara front all these years after some, yes, inexplicable demises occurred, but now the Corbeck daughter is of age, things start hotting up.
Or that was the idea, instead the movie continued to crawl by at its funereal pace which gave you plenty of time to appreciate the recreated antique paraphernalia, which obviously had had a lot of attention paid to it and dammit they were going to show these pieces off. In the meantime, the murders by uncanny forces were sparked off once again, all intent on getting the audience talking judging by the often elaborate set-ups which saw off the doomed characters: booby trapped tombs, falling shards of glass, squashed by traffic, and so forth. The centre of this was daughter Margaret, played by Stephanie Zimbalist who was starting to make her name in television; a couple of years later she would be best known for humorous detective show Remington Steele.
Here, on the other hand, she was essaying something of a cypher as we could tell Margaret was simply being moved around the sets and locations until she could be possessed by Queen Kara, who Corbeck observes murdered thousands while she was alive - first time around - and thus it is imperative that she never be brought back. Which is precisely what the wicked Queen has in mind, yet is so all-powerful that any tension arising from the possibility she could be vanquished left not so much the chills The Omen banked on, and more a shrug of futility. The Awakening may have been shot on authentic Egyptian locations, but director Mike Newell, making his feature debut, did very little with them, they might as well have crafted this on soundstages for all the atmosphere this had. It really was curiously half-hearted, with Cheston serious but uncharismatic for a change, and the mood of a television special blowing the budget on a holiday with perks for the cast and crew doing little to engender any terror, or indeed interest. Maybe it was simply too derivative. Music by Claude Bolling.