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  Medusa Touch, The Master Of Disaster
Year: 1978
Director: Jack Gold
Stars: Richard Burton, Lino Ventura, Lee Remick, Harry Andrews, Gordon Jackson, Alan Badel, Marie-Christine Barrault, Jeremy Brett, Michael Hordern, Michael Byrne, Derek Jacobi, Robert Lang, Avril Elgar, John Normington, Robert Flemyng, Philip Stone
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: John Morlar (Richard Burton), a successful writer of doomladen prose, sits alone in his flat watching the broadcast of the latest American excursion to the Moon. Unfolding on the screen is very bad news: all contact with the spaceship has been lost and the crew are now believed dead. As all this is happening, someone enters the room, creeps up behind Morlar and spins round his chair to face him. Morlar mutters something about getting a response but that's the last he says as the figure grabs a small statue and proceeds to bash his brains in with it. Later that night, the body is found, the police called and an investigation is started under a French detective, Brunel (Lino Ventura). But what's this? Against the odds, Morlar is still alive!

I.T.C. mogul Lew Grade was behind this attempt at cashing in on the strain of grave, catastrophe-centred horror that was popular at the time, elaborating on a mixture of the nineteen seventies preoccupation with the occult and disasters to create a combination of the two. An incredibly protracted combination of the two, it must be said, as most of the film involves Ventura visiting characters who knew Morlar and interviewing them to inspire flashbacks and at times flashbacks within flashbacks, which seems over-indulgent at the very least.

The script was adapted from a novel by Peter Greenaway - no, wait, Peter Van Greenaway, and details the growing realisation of Brunel that the man lying in hospital with his head wrapped up in bandages (obviously played by someone other than Burton, except in closeups) really does have psychic powers possibly imparted to him by the Devil in person. Aided by an assistant who tries to give him a fright at every opportunity for reasons best known to himself, Brunel is the main sign that this film is a French-British co-production, explained away by the dubious excuse of an exchange between the police forces of the two countries.

So the story trundles along at increasingly tedious length, with the tired-looking Burton, depsite being top billed, appearing more like a guest star in people's memories. Over and over again Brunel will drop in on those who know Morlar to draw out more information, even though we've worked out that the man is responsible for general death and destruction the scale of which is only getting larger. At the start of the film we're informed that there has been a jet plane crash in London, and the inference is that Morlar caused it. Later on we see him really doing so, in one of those flashbacks of course, and we can understand why someone would think the world would be a better place without him. Oh yeah, he caused the space incident, too.

Lee Remick puts on an English accent to play Morlar's psychiatrist who becomes privy to his beliefs that he has powers beyond reason, thanks to repetitive scenes where someone in his past will piss him off, then suffer the wrath of supernatural forces to do them in. Finally, just as boredom seems to have irrevocably set in, the film offers spectacle as a fund raiser to repair Westminster Cathedral goes horribly wrong and in spite of bits falling off the building for a few days, the event goes ahead. Can you guess what happens? The special effects aren't too bad, but the atmosphere is deadened by a mood of "let's get it over with" duty on the part of the actors, and the final revelation ("Windscale!") is more likely to have your eyes rolling than your blood freezing. What it all has to do with Medusa is anyone's guess. Music by Michael J. Lewis.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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