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TV: M is for...

Medusa Touch, The

MORE GRADE expectations. Supernatural bunkum made for America (weren’t they always?), very possibly RICHARD BURTON’s least finest moment, and frequently shown/buried in ITV’s Sunday night ‘Murder, Mystery, Suspense’ strand (along with that one with the girl who gets buried alive). Burton played the intense Robert Morlar – “I have the power to create catastrophe” – an embittered novelist with telekinetic powers (all the rage back in the 1970s) who killed his parents by sending them over a cliff in a car, burned down his school after being forced to count some leaves, caused his next-door-neighbour to jump out of the window after an argument over some bad fish and made a jumbo jet crash into a tower block. He also brought about the death of several American astronauts (cue cameo appearance from SHAW TAYLOR as television newsreader). Also starring LEE REMICK as Morlar’s shrink (and would-be assassin) and LINO VENTURA as the French detective assigned to the case because of a European police exchange, you see, and not just because the film was part-financed by French money, all right? The climax came with a thanksgiving service at London’s famous dilapidated “Minster Cathedral”. Morlar promised to “bring the whole towering edifice down on their heads”, which he did, with plenty of polystyrene rubble landing on the heads of the great and good (and, hilariously, a bell on top of a hapless bell-ringer) on live TV, although the Queen fortuitously avoided the disaster when Ventura told her security men there’s been “a bumscare”. He then sets off for the hospital where Morlar was taken after Remick’s murder attempt (she committed suicide by the way – do keep up) and purposefully pulls out all those tubes and medical equipment, as GORDON JACKSON watches in awe. Phew! But wait! We can’t believe it! He’s still alive! Lino hands the unconscious Morlar a pencil, with which he shakily writes the word Windscale, site of a nuclear demo the very next day…yikes! Well, it would have been if they hadn’t changed the name to Sellafield about 20 years earlier.



  1. Darren F

    June 15, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Best ITV film ever, still scares the living bejeeses out of me. Richard Burtons finest hour if you ask me….which you didnt…but still utterly brilliant film.

  2. Glenn Aylett

    June 15, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    I quite like it when he turns the tables on a sadistic public school housemaster( weren’t they all in the thirties) by staring at him in a sinister way, making the teacher very nervous and then the school burns down in the night, killing said housemaster. Also doesn’t Richard Burton do the same stare to his father and his car rolls over the top of him? A late great from the one time legend but also check out his sinister portrayal of O Brien in 1984.

  3. iMatt

    September 30, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    The courtroom scene was pretty good too. And the bit when he argues with wife and her new lover (played by Jeremy Brett).

  4. Barbersmith

    April 7, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Great fun, and in no way deserving of the sneering review above.

  5. George White

    March 10, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    Rewatched the Medusa Touch, or tried to. I list it as one of my favourite films. Except most of it is awful. The structure of it is weak. Endless flashbacks, it feels very TV-ish, very Return of the Saint, it is ITC, but with the dubbing of Lino Ventura (which is well-done, by David De Keyser) and the less well done repurposing of Marie-Christine Barrault. The main story feels confused, some of the actors wasted, which is odd, as Jack Gold was a TV director, but his films aren’t usually my style. Maybe, second unit was doing the work. It really comes to life though with the death sequences and disaster sequences, which are fantastic, and why I love the film. The whole bit with John Normington and the schoolhouse burning down, the plane crash. There’s a few nice little performances, Gordon Jackson’s shock horror, Robert Lang coping with his wife’s suicide, Derek Jacobi’s little cameo, but Michael Hordern’s creepy fortune teller should have been a larger role, and the film is ruined by the structure. Yes, the flashbacks of Burton’s childhood are great, but then you start having flashbacks within flashbacks, and bits like the trial and the whole row with Jeremy Brett feel inert. There’s a fabulous film lurking within, but those remnants are fantastic. Maybe I need to rewatch it when I’m in a better mood.
    Rewatching it, and it actually does click. Some of the scenes drag, it does need a few minutes cut, yes the trial and the arguments are a bit cringy, and the endless walking along with Harry Andrews, and there’s great stuff I forgot and or always ignored – like Frances “former Mrs. Sting” Tomelty, as the sinister Nordie nanny.It’s more than remnants. About 70 per cent of the film is great.

    • THX 1139

      March 11, 2018 at 12:40 am

      The disaster movie stuff is the strongest, but everything where the characters have to interact comes across as if nobody’s heart was in it. I do like the collapsing cathedral effects, they’re very good.

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