The Medusa Touch (1978) – Film Review
Director: Jack Gold
Cast: Richard Burton, Lee Remick, Lino Ventura
by @Roger Crow
When I first saw this thriller in 1982, I dismissed it as an Omen clone. And there’s still some merit to that. It even has the dreamy Lee Remick, who must have been a tad bored of being offered supernatural thrillers when this was filmed a year after the success of that first Omen movie.
However, as nuts and bolts thrillers goes, it’s still pretty good, despite the fact the structure is basically a series of flashbacks.
We open with Richard Burton’s character Morlar at home watching coverage of a Moon shot. A mystery assailant apparently beats him to death, and from that point on Lino Ventura’s dogged detective Brunel is left to carry the bulk of the film. Not a bad actor, but the wrong man for a film like this.
There are so many times when it looks like Richard Burton has been replaced by a body double that it feels a bit of a con. But when he’s on screen, my goodness he makes those moments count.
Whether in a court room scene, dispensing his case for the defence, or those more intimate moments when he and Lee Remick’s shrink Zonfeld are discussing his alleged powers, Burton is utterly magnetic. Even a moment worthy of Crossroads, when he discovers his wife is having a fling, he manages to burn up the screen like an arsonist in a cinema.
There are so many quality actors propping up the rest of the movie, including legends like Michael Hordern, Derek Jacobi, Gordon Jackson, Harry Andrews, and a young Michael Byrne, a decade before playing a key Nazi in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. And there’s a plane crash orchestrated by effects legend Brian Johnson, which is a reminder of how great model effects used to be before the film industry became slaves to CGI.
It’s intriguing that screenwriter John Briley honed his craft on Children of the Damned years before this was made. The Medusa Touch covers similar ground, and though it could have done with a 90-minute running time, and someone a little more engaging than Ventura as the key detective, this is still well worth a look for newcomers and for those who haven’t seen it in years.