The Medusa Touch (1978)
“He sounded quite mad, and yet I believed every word he said.”
The late Richard Burton is in fine form as the tortured and occasionally repentant bringer of death and mayhem to those unfortunates who become entangled with his own dark destiny. It’s often been said that Hollywood’s gain was literature’s loss as Burton decided to follow the call of the stage over the comfort of the study. The Medusa Touch gave him the unique chance to blend both roles as he brilliantly portrays conflicted and misanthropic author, John Morlar.
Bludgeoned beyond hope of recovery in the opening scene, Morlar’s strange and haunted life is retraced through a series of interviews and encounters, doggedly unravelled by world weary French detective Inspector Brunel. Director Jack Gold deftly builds and maintains an omnipresent and growing sense of menace in every mundane scene as Brunel slowly wrings the hidden truth from a reluctant cast of characters including barristers, publishers and neighbours, who are all deathly afraid of the nearly dead man without really knowing why. Lee Remick’s performance as the rational therapist who begins to doubt everything she knows is crucial to drawing both Brunel and the viewer into Morlar’s own inevitable descent into insanity.
When Morlar launches his final catastrophic assault on God from the twilight between life and death, Brunel has no choice but to act. Knowing that Morlar’s crimes are beyond any corporal authority, the protector of justice is forced to forsake that which he has sworn to defend by committing murder.
The Medusa Touch’s great strength flows from its sheer ordinariness in the face of the inexplicable, as the characters who cross Morlar’s path are at once relieved and yet hesitant to speak of the supernatural force they somehow sense has touched their ordered, rational lives. Michael J. Lewis’ quirky but will crafted soundtrack brilliantly supports a series of compelling cameos by Derek Jacobi,
Jeremy Brett and Michael Hordern as Morlar’s chill shadow darkens their lives.
Watch the trailer here and enjoy a brilliantly crafted, scripted and sadly underrated film.