Few would hail The Medusa Touch as Richard Burton’s best work. But this movie remains a fine example of this legendary actor’s charismatic talent.
I have a story to share! On a Tuesday night in 1988, I caught glimpses of The Medusa Touch on one of the free television channels. What I saw was intense and intriguing, but unfortunately my folks wanted to watch a tacky variety show on another channel, and so I never found out what the movie was about or even what it was called. No thanks to this, creepy images of a man swaddled in bandages, with “a gift for disaster,” stuck in my head for years. I admit to having a few nightmares about it. This lasted till the age of YouTube before I finally learnt what the name of this 70s horror flick was.
After which I watched the entire movie, of course. You know what? It was as equally unnerving, horrific and unforgettable as it was on that Tuesday night in 1988.
Yes, I’m going all fan-boy here. I also acknowledge that, on examination, the movie is not without its flaws. Sir Richard Burton, neck deep in alcoholism, tends to overact. Lee Remick feels as if she badly needs a double-shot herself. Despite these, the movie still works because it is so effortlessly enthralling. You can’t help but be fascinated by Burton’s misanthropic, angst-ridden protagonist. The story behind the “monster” also demands your reluctant sympathy, on top of forcing you to consider whether nature or nurture is responsible for social deviance. For those able to view this as only a movie, the similarity of the protagonist’s “disasters” to certain world-changing events would greatly heighten the degree of realism in the storytelling. Here is a grim tale about what happens when a man’s disgust for his fellow beings reaches boiling point. The tragedies he wills into reality has no limits. The horrific truth could be that there is a bit of John Morlar in many of us.
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