Few would hail The Medusa Touch as Richard Burton’s best work. But this movie is still a fine example of this legendary actor’s charismatic talent.
Detective Brunel investigates the attempted murder of John Morlar, a misanthropic author who was bashed in the head at home. In the course of his investigations, he meets Zonfeld, the psychiatrist Morlar was consulting, and learns that Morlar’s life was plagued with inexplicable disasters since young. Increasingly, it becomes apparent that Morlar possesses vast telekinetic abilities and he was likely the cause for all the disasters in his life. Brunel then discovers to his horror that Morlar has one more vengeance against mankind in mind. Even in his catatonic state, Morlar is determined to punish the humans he so despised one more time.
I have a story to share! On a Tuesday night in 1988, I caught glimpses of The Medusa Touch on a free television channel. 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 even had a few nightmares about it. This lasted till the age of YouTube before I finally learnt the movie was called The Medusa Touch. After which I watched the entire movie, of course. And found it as unnerving and horrific as it was on that 1988 Tuesday night.
Yes, I’m going all fan-boy here. I also acknowledge that, on closer examination, the movie is not flawless. Burton, neck deep in alcoholism, tends to overact. Lee Remick also feels as if she badly needs a shot herself. Despite these, the movie still works because it is so effortlessly enthralling. One can’t help but be fascinated by Burton’s angst-ridden rants. The story behind the “monster” also demands sympathy, and forces one to consider what exactly is responsible for social deviance. For those able to view this as only a movie, the similarity of the disasters to certain world-changing events would undoubtedly heighten the story’s realism too. Here’s a grim tale about what happens when a man’s disgust for his fellow beings reaches boiling point. The tragedies he wills into reality are boundless. Worse, the horrific truth could be that there is a little bit of Morlar in many of us.
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