The Medusa Touch (1978)

I have a “gift” for disaster

This one has been pretty much ignored and it seems a shame.

It is one of those very Seventies sorts of films, admittedly, with a lot of ranting about how awful everything is — although it also seems to put that ranting in a very poor light, perhaps even suggesting that it is fundamentally destructive.

It is also a very British sort of thriller, with an incredible cast of familiar British actors and a slow-burn plot that gradually reveals the secrets of the (mostly absent) main character, John Morlar (a very battered, tormented and marvelously unsympathetic Richard Burton).  A police inspector (Lino Ventura, as a barely explained French detective in the UK on some sort of exchange program.  But don’t worry too much about that, no one else does) tries to find out why someone has tried to beat Morlar to death.  But what he finds proves to be increasingly more disturbing — and far more important than the simple question of who actually tried to kill him.

Brian DePalma’s Carrie had thrust telekinesis on the horror world only two years earlier, but this film dares to take the whole notion to even dizzier heights.  Curiously, the same year, the Ozploitation film, Patrick, also featured a comatose telekinetic who continues to terrorize people with his powers even though he lies motionless in his hospital bed.  

Although Patrick never caused the death of hundreds of people just to prove he could.

I suppose a lot of people will find this one too slow for their tastes, although the detective story is played out nicely, and the series of flashbacks and narration telling Morlar’s story are compelling and forceful (even if you think Burton might be overacting just a touch).  But the final flashback, and the explosive finale kick the film up quite a few notches and are among the best film disasters of the Seventies.

Let’s face it:  if you are in the mood for a solid British mystery film — and don’t mind if there’s a bit of horror and science fiction thrown into the mix — then you won’t easily find one half this good.  

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