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The Medusa Touch

D: Jack Gold C: Richard Burton, Lee Remick, Lino Ventura

THE MEDUSA TOUCH is one of the few masterpieces in the horror genre of the seventies. Original, literate, and at same time extremely cinematic with great special effects and a great score – even Richard Burton can’t spoil it. In fact, he’s rather perfect for the part: Morose, self-absorbed and an insufferable ham. Equally typecast is the doll-faced, wide-eyed Lee Remick, whereas Lino Ventura is the surprise guest at the party, adding a quota of Gallic sanity to the proceedings. Add to this a long list of cameos, being a perfect fit for the anecdotal construction of the movie. John Morlar firmly believes that he’s a man with the power to create catastrophe, and so he is. Why he desperately needs to convince his psychiatrist of this, is not clear, but somehow it seems in keeping with his psychopathic personality, like the serial killer advertising his crimes in the media, even at the cost of his his own personal safety. He’s murdered two minutes into the picture, and the clues aren’t limited to a bloody statue of Napoleon (!) and a whisky glass. They are on the blood-spattered television screen, in the news, and even on the scene of a recent plane crash. Of course, challenging the establishment, authority and conservatism was something that went over big in the seventies, the rebellion usually a great deal sillier than the institutions that it was supposed to be rebelling against. Consequently, Morlar’s victims, before venturing into wholesale slaughter, are a teacher at a boarding school, a hanging judge, and finally, the Church of England. It is a protest, which is as empty as the protester, self-righteously killing those, who self-righteously kill in cold blood, in cold blood. As opposed to most movies about a human monster, often being rather undramatically disposed of, the final scene rates as one of the great moments of the cinema.

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