Saturday, 5 March 2011

Review - The Medusa Touch (1978)


The Medusa Touch is often overlooked during surveys of British horror – probably because it’s a big, glossy star-packed affair, and when people think of “British horror films” what immediately springs to mind is meagre budgets, wobbly sets and “him off the TV” character actors. The purists might also moan that it’s not even wholly British, but ropes in some European cash to bolster the budget – however, these days this is a tactic uniformly adopted by so-called “British” horror films from Dog Soldiers to Underworld. There is also a tendency by the public at large to think of The Medusa Touch as a more of a disaster movie than an outright horror – but these disasters, spectacular as they are, have been caused by a psychic phenomenon. And that’s about as “horror” an idea as you can get.
The film seems to start with the death of its biggest star, as Richard Burton sits down to watch the news on his telly, only to have his viewing pleasure curtailed by repeated blows to the bonce. Even the officers which attend the scene of the crime are shocked (“talk about beating someone’s brains out…”), but it seems that this victim is made of strong stuff – as they watch, the body starts to breath again.
Identified as “John Molar”, the injured man is whisked off to a nearby hospital, the staff there already stretched to capacity as they deal with the aftermath of a plane crash. We are introduced to Molar’s GP, Dr Zanfeld (Lee Remick), which kicks off a dizzying number of flashbacks and flashbacks-within-flashbacks, all narrated in Burton’s fruity brogue (“I have a gift for disaster…”).
Throughout his life, Molar has convinced himself that he was responsible for the deaths of a variety of friends and family – whether by measles, faulty handbrakes, fire, suicide or ill health. When his baby was born deformed, his sanity began to fail. But it wasn’t until the death of his wife and her lover in a car crash that he began to realise that this might be more than just an astonishing streak of bad luck - “I made it happen… it wasn’t like the others, where I knew it would happen!”
Zanfeld now explains that Molar demonstrated his power to her by causing the plane to crash (in a scene frighteningly prescient of 9/11), and in a great twist, Burton announces his intention to use his powers to do good… as he sees it.
“I have the power to create catastrophe!”
Things race to a tense and exciting climax – but how can they stop this monster? As his miraculous recovery from the brutal attack has shown, the man seems to be indestructible.
The Medusa Touch is fantastic – a film which delivers on all levels, being truly terrifying and a fantastic thrill ride. Burton is a solid and terrifying monster, and the wonderful star-a-minute cast are all playing to their strengths. It’s a common lament, but in this case, totally justified - they just don’t make films like this any more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great movie. I remember seeing it as a 10-12 year old and being terrified.