Directed by Jack Gold from a script by Oscar winner John Briley (better known for Ghandi and Cry Freedom), The Medusa Touch is a rather curious film from the seventies, when you could pretty much get away with making anything, however bleak or strange, or both.
This film kicks off with a novelist, called John Morlar (played well by the irreplaceable Richard Burton), being bludgeoned to near-death in his apartment while watching a rocket take off on TV. Barely alive he’s taken to hospital where medics think it’s unlikely he’ll ever recover. An investigation is launched, and Brunel, a French detective currently based in London, is assigned the rather odd case.
It soon becomes apparent to our rather bemused Frenchman that there’s a lot more to this case of GBH than initially meets the eye. Through various interviews with people who knew Morlar (resulting in some classy flashbacks of Burton oozing class) he soon builds up a picture of the dying author that is at once both tragic and terrifying. It appears that Morlar believed that he had awesome telekinetic powers and had even demonstrated this to his shrink by seeming to cause an aircraft to crash using just the power of his mind.
As Morlar slowly starts to return to consciousness in hospital it soon becomes apparent that this strange, rather taciturn man had a number of enemies, or at least people who didn’t really like him or were scared of him and that the recent events were not wholly surprising. Things become more worrying when Morlar’s brain scan activity starts to increase massively and a nearby abbey begins to show signs of dangerous cracking in some critical support structures.
To Jack Gold’s (and to everyone else involved) credit, The Medusa Touch comes across as a well-made, original and serious super-natural thriller, which nicely keeps the viewer guessing up until near the end. It was also quite nice to see a Frenchman as the lead in a British film and this ‘detective on secondment’ character is played nicely by Lino Ventura. It was also refreshing that he’s no ultra-suave gent with model good looks; he’s just a normal-looking bloke, with quite normal foibles.
Everything about the film reeks of class, with a classy script, score and cast pulling a fairly hooey premise out of B-movie territory into an almost A-level of credibility. Richard Burton remains the film’s anchor and whenever he’s on screen the film perks up massively.
My only problem with the film is that it’s a little slow-paced, but that shouldn’t mar one’s enjoyment of it too much. And Network has done a great job of sprucing up the print and they have provided us with an excellent high definition transfer.
The Medusa Touch has recently been released on DVD and Blu-Ray and is being distributed by Network Distributing who are, to their credit, currently releasing lots of these rarer British film titles.
Extras on the review disc consist of a commentary track with director Jack Gold, journalist Kim Newman and author Stephen Jones, as well as a cool trailer, a rather bizarre ‘behind the scenes’ featurette on the impressive ‘destroying the abbey’ scene, which sadly just features lots of extras looking confused and various crew setting up shots, and finally an image gallery with 25 photos and posters from the film records.