‘The Medusa Touch’ is the answer that might come up in a pub quiz as to whether or not actor Richard Burton ever appeared in a Science Fiction film. French exchange detective Brunel (actor Lino Ventura) an apparent murder until the victim starts breathing again. Hospitalised, it’s not seemed likely that Morlar (actor Richard Burton) will survive. Morlar was a former lawyer, then writer and loner and as Brunel discovers from talking to Morlar’s associates, puts together a picture of a man with a hefty chip on his shoulder with the ability to incite catastrophe with a thought. Being near death isn’t stopping Morlar causing catastrophe around and even off-world as astronauts die in space. His true venom is for London which leads to one enormous bloody climax and a hint of more to come.
In many respects, ‘The Medusa Touch’ is more of a detective story piecing together what is going on than SF but when it hits those notes, it becomes truly scary. The role was taylor (sic) made for Burton. You only have to compare it to how he played Alec Leamus in ‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’ and see how he fit into such parts with utter contempt for the people about him.
The audio commentary led by Steve Jones and Kim Newman is chiefly with director Jack Gold who provides a lot of insight. Lino Ventura’s voice was dubbed with his approval by Dick Decavan, if I’ve got the spelling right. I think we could all spot that other than the final shot, it wasn’t actually Burton in the hospital bed. Something I didn’t know was that Burton also had done ‘The Exorcist 2’ prior to ‘The Medusa Touch’, so got his horror film quota in first. I liked Gold pointing out that regardless of who’s in power in Parliametn, in films, it’s always the Tories who appear in charge. Hopefully, that’s a sign of their incompetence than for any other reason. The cathedral at the end was in Bristol not London. Although they said that Nick Alder’s team did the special effects, the end credits it does say Brian Johnson.
The eighteen minute footage of them preparing the cathedral scene is an incredible look at preparation. I loved how the camera went down the extras congregation and caught two of them discretely reading. Definitely old pros used to long delays in filming and just waiting patiently.
There’s also a short stills gallery to supplement all of this. Although I only saw the advance version, no doubt there will be a supplementary booklet with the final edition.
‘The Medusa Touch’ maintains the scare threshold in a clever mixture of flashbacks to build up the history of Molar so you can see what drives him. The cameos from various British actors and actresses of the day coming in for a couple days performances will also keep you on your toes identifying them. A true tour de force…literally.
(region 2 blu-ray: pub: Network. 1 blu-ray 109 minute film with extras. Price: £ 14.99 (UK). cat: 7957075)
cast: Richard Burton, Lino Ventura, Harry Andrews, Alan Badel, Michael Byrne and Lee Remick
check out website: www.networkonair.com