Wowsy. I was at the local thrift shop and I found this VHS tape called THE MEDUSA TOUCH (1978) and when I picked it up, its weight felt like a brick in my hand. It cost 45 cents because the thrift shop is crazy. It looked kind of boring because it had RICHARD BURTONâ€™s face on the cover but it just felt so at home in my mitt that I had to make it mine. Hey, it turns out I really liked this movie. It wasnâ€™t boring in the least and Iâ€™m even going to apply an â€œunsung classicâ€ scratch-and-stiff sticker upon it! Why, this movie is a thriller that thrills and itâ€™s also witty and thought provoking and all that classy stuff! If you dig the more somber, headier side of horror like say, THE WICKER MAN, THE CHANGELING or THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, this is going to float your boat. You should watch it in your library with a brown-colored alcoholic beverage of your choice. If you have a fireplace, light it with your mind.
Our story begins on a wonderful note with RICHARD BURTON getting his head bashed in by an unseen assailant. A French detective (LINO VENTURA) stops by to inspect the aftermath and is astonished to find BURTON is still alive! He is rushed to the hospital and the investigators are left to wonder whom on Earth would ever want to bash RICHARD BURTONâ€™s skull in and how on Earth is he still alive after having his head smashed in so brutally? While BURTON chills out in a PATRICK (1978) style coma, the detective snoops around and pieces together his life story, which means we get a full RICHARD BURTON movie even though he is in a coma all thanks to the glorious power of flashback-flavored storytelling. The biggest blabbermouth at the clothesline is THE OMENâ€™s LEE REMICK who portrays BURTONâ€™s long-suffering psychiatrist. She tells the detective how BURTON would go on and on about how he could make terrible accidents occur just by thinking about them and how she assumed he was a fruit cake until the evidence that he wasnâ€™t a fruit cake was too in her face to ignore.
You may be thinking to yourself, â€œI wouldnâ€™t watch that movie even if it meant saving the lives of thousands of strangers.â€ If so, then this movie is even more perfect for you. It starts out being about this narcissistic dude with a God complex but then as we travel forward we go through the same conversion as the characters as they come to believe and fear his claims. Ultimately, we realize that this guy isnâ€™t simply representing unhinged folks with freaky telekinetic powers but mankind itself and its douche-y attraction to destruction and evil. I mean Iâ€™m a fairly nice person but if I could blow up stuff with my mind, letâ€™s face it, the entire world would be charred to a crisp by now.
Thereâ€™s a satisfying twist that you may see coming but not so early on that it will piss you off, a hearty dose of pitch black humor and finally youâ€™re left with a disturbing chill. In fact, this movie is probably more disturbing in our post 9/11 world than it was back in 1978. Or maybe thatâ€™s just me. Watching a plane crash into a building is not what it used to be. Donâ€™t worry, you wonâ€™t have to wait around for a used copy to knock on your door like I did; it looks like THE MEDUSA TOUCH was recently released on DVD and Blu-ray! Itâ€™s so good I may have to shove out a little more than 45 cents for an upgrade!
In 1978 Roger Ebert selected this as the worst film of the year, calling it “stupefyingly stupid.” It’s not; it’s a true neglected gem that’s often lumped in with the other bad cinematic choices Burton made during the late 60s and throughout the 70s. I had a bitch of a time finding a VHS copy of this. Back when video stores shelled out big bucks for movies to have a copy on the shelves, I’ve always suspected that Ebert’s review was a kiss of death. How many rental places were willing to pay $70+ for a poorly-distributed box office failure that one of the most famous critics in the country said was atrocious? Delighted that it will finally get its due.
Senski, I think you are right and I’m surprised I never came across this one before. I can imagine it not being somebody’s cup of tea but i can’t imagine calling it “stupefyingly stupid”! Oh that Ebert! I was just reading last night that he wasn’t too impressed with ALIEN either but then changed his tune years later! Sad he won’t be around to change his mind about THE MEDUSA TOUCH too.
I’m watching this Siskel & Ebert “Best and Worst of 1978” right now and had to share it with you.
Ebert was dead wrong. This flick was quite good.
Right on Father Merrin!
Here is a list of some other movies he wasn’t crazy about…
As much as I did love the Siskel and Ebert shows as a kid I can’t ever say I ever trusted their opinions too much. I knew we had very different tastes.
And I dunno- he was saying that the airplane crash looked fake in TMT? I didn’t think so at all and it’s decades later.
Wow, I did not know this was out there. Today I am a little less afraid that my memory is declining! 🙂
Keep in mind that their War on Slasher Films was about two years away. They certainly had contempt for most genre films of the decade, their love for Halloween to the contrary.
Lol. You can kind of tell a storm is brewing!
Was Siskel really THAT offended by “The Wild Geese”?
those two really enabled each other.
Listen to Siskel describe THE HOWLING as “a movie about a woman who goes on vacation and is tortured by the locals”. It starts about 6:30.
Thanks crabby moon!
Wow. they really had an axe to grind!
As soon as Siskel said “We will NOT show you these scenes of graphic violence.” I booed the screen.
How can they bring up “When A Stranger calls” with a straight face? That movie should be rated G.
“These movies hate women!”
Did they really say that in THE HOWLING a woman goes on vacationâ€¦alone? They didn’t notice her husband?
Are they even watching the movies?
My favorite thing is Ebert’s review on HALLOWEEN 3. Where he talks about how Michael Myers is the burnt guy in the hospital.
I can’t imagine how he came to that. Here is that review…
“A half-baked scheme like that feels right at home in “Halloween III,” which is a low-rent thriller from the first frame. This is one of those Identikit movies, assembled out of familiar parts from other, better movies. It begins at the end of “Halloween II,” when the monster was burned up in the hospital parking lot, but it’s not still another retread of the invincible monster. In fact, the monster is forgotten, except for a lab technician who spends the whole movie sifting through his ashes.”
And who could be upset by SILENT SCREAM. That is the sweetest movie. I love how they skip over the fact that the killer in SILENT is a woman.
I was way too young to be allowed to see a lot of the horror films they reviewed, so their show was a way of getting a taste of forbidden fruit, right under the nose of my parents. Just the short clips they showed from Halloween (the closet scene) scared the hell out of me…and my imagination filled in the rest. Sometimes years would pass before I finally had an occasion to see the films that Siskel & Ebert had hooked me on with their clips. I owe them.