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The Medusa Touch

United Kingdom 1978
Directed by
Jack Gold
98 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
3 stars

The Medusa Touch

Synopsis: John Morlar (Richard Burton) is a tortured soul, a novelist who has been given a strange gift, an incredibly powerful telekinetic power that he has used to kill all who have cross him throughout his life. He is wracked with guilt for all he has destroyed and turns to Doctor Zonfeld (Lee Remick) to help him. He recounts his horrific tales to her and soon the doctor realises that the evil that dwells within this devil must be stopped.

As any aficionado of British films of the 70s knows, the words “Lew Grade presents” graced productions that were archetypal of the decade’s output. Melodramatic, action-packed but with preposterous storylines, a plethora of stalwart genre veteran’s and production values that belied the producer’s history with television, the films are a love or hate experience. The Medusa Touch sits happily in the former category.

Sporting some fabulous performances from the likes of Richard Burton, Lee Remick and Lino Ventura along with fine supporting turns by Gordon Jackson and Derek Jacoby, The Medusa Touch somehow manages to provoke fine work from the actors despite the scripts pulpy origins. Burton does have a tendency to over -act, even when covered from head to foot with bandages until only his bulging eyes are visible, but that’s half the fun. You didn’t hire actors like him and expect a subtle, nuanced performance, especially during his later years. Lee Remick revisits her wide-eyed terror struck look from The Omen and ‘plays well as the film’s chief storyteller, Zonfeld, as she recounts, in flashback, all that Morlar has told her. In a nice touch, the officer heading the investigation into the attack on Morlar is a Frenchman, Detective Brunel, played by Lino Ventura.

The scenes of mass destruction as the world feels the wrath of Morlar are impressively staged. Schools burn, churches topple and a plane collides with a sky scraper. Director Jack Gold, probably more famous for his television work like The Naked Civil Servant, handles these moments with ebullient glee, despite his budgetary restrictions. You can’t help but raise a few smiles during the destruction of the church as the giant polystyrene blocks crash down upon the fleeing worshippers.

Burton’s velvet voice works wonders with the verbose script and he really is the reason that the film works so well. Highly recommended for all the wrong reasons. Watching a once-great actor slumming has never been so much fun.




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