Release Date(s)1978 (November 26, 2021)
Studio(s)ITC Entertainment/Warner Bros (Imprint/Via Vision)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B+
[Editor’s Note: This is a REGION-FREE Blu-ray release.]
The Medusa Touch is one of those late 70s thrillers involving telekinesis, which was in vogue at the time thanks to films like Carrie and The Fury, but feels like a TV movie of the week—perhaps more now than it did then. Director Jack Gold, who had received considerable notice for Man Friday three years prior, adapted Peter Van Greenway’s novel of the same name in 1978. It did decent business at home in the UK, but audiences didn’t turn out for it so much in the US. It’s primarily a supernatural thriller of sorts, but also mixes in sociopolitical commentary by making authority figures, as well as the church and state, the victims of one man’s deadly mind powers. It also plays as a murder mystery with a surprisingly downbeat ending, on par with other supernaturally themed films of the era, including The Omen and Burnt Offerings.
The attempted murder of novelist John Morlar (Richard Burton), who is found alive in his home with little to no pulse, is under investigation by detective Brunel (Lino Ventura). This leads him to Morlar’s psychiatrist, Dr. Zonfeld (Lee Remick), who explains that Morlar is under considerable stress as he believes that he has the ability to cause destruction with the power of his mind. His background is observed, including his troubled upbringing, and his loveless marriage later on. In many of these cases, the people he was involved with are all dead, seemingly due to his telekinetic abilities. Both Brunel and Zonfeld initially scoff at the idea, but the more Brunel learns about him, the more convinced he becomes that he isn’t crazy. As Morlar’s brain continues to function, an airplane crashes into an apartment building and a cathedral begins to crack. It’s now up to Brunel to decide whether or not he believes in his abilities, and if so, how far will he go?
The Medusa Touch was shot by director of photography Arthur Ibbetson on 35 mm film using Panavision cameras (including PSR R-200° models) and lenses, finished photochemically, and presented theatrically in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Via Vision’s Imprint line brings the film to Region-Free Blu-ray with an older but healthy master originally transferred by ITV Studios, likely sourced from an interpositive. Detail is high in the shadowy interiors of Morlar’s home, as well as sections of the hospital, the cathedral, and Zonfeld’s office. A mild softness is evident due to the age of the master, but grain is managed well enough, appearing a bit chunky only in small sections. The color palette offers a surprising array of hues, with robust uses of brown, red, and green. Blacks are mostly deep with good contrast, and the image is stable. Minor density issues, light streaks, scratches, and black and white speckling appear throughout the presentation, but not to its detriment. It’s organic in appearance, but with a touch of age to it.
Audio is included in English 2.0 mono LPCM (erroneously listed as stereo on the artwork and main menu) with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s a strong single-channel source with excellent support for Michael J. Lewis’ score. Dialogue tends to run right down the middle, though occasional overdubbing has more of a roundness to it comparatively. Sound effects are decent as well. And if the end titles are to be believed, there’s no evidence that the film was actually recorded in true stereo, meaning that this track is the best option there is, and a good one at that.
The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary by Jack Gold, Kim Newman, and Stephen Jones
- Audio Commentary by Lee Gambin and Kat Ellinger
- The Welsh Wizard: Richard Burton on Stage and Screen (16:55)
- The Designer’s Touch (14:01)
- Behind the Scenes: Destroying the Abbey (19:03)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:53)
- Photo Gallery (25 in all – 1:40)
Much of this material is carried over from Hen’s Tooth Video and Network Releasing DVD and Blu-ray releases, but there are a couple of new items as well. The first audio commentary with film historians and authors Kim Newman and Stephen Jones, who are joined by director Jack Gold, is an older track, but a good one. The three men discuss many facets of the film, and since Jack Gold has plenty of memories of making it, there’s enough information to keep things interesting. It also helps that they’re jovial with each other, as well. The second audio commentary with writers and film historians Lee Gambin and Kat Ellinger is a new addition. Surprisingly, the two have never done a commentary before, even though they’ve done hundreds of separately. They have a natural back and forth with each other as they watch the film together, likely over a wire, delving into the nitty gritty of the making of the film, as well as the thematic material, and the careers of all involved with it.
The Welsh Wizard is a video essay featuring historian Ian McAnally discussing Richard Burton’s career in detail, from his earliest beginnings all the way to end. In The Designer’s Touch, art director Peter Mullins talks about his involvement with the film. Unfortunately, the audio for this interview primarily comes out of the right speaker and the volume is low, so it might take a little adjustment to hear him properly. (It’s worth pointing out that The Welsh Wizard and The Designer’s Touch are also new additions.) Destroying the Abbey features on-set B roll of a behind-the-scenes crew during the filming of the scene that features the destruction of the cathedral at the end of the film. Last is the film’s theatrical trailer and a Photo Gallery comprised of 25 posters and promotional stills for the film.
The disc sits in a clear amaray case with artwork using a variation of the film’s German poster with a different photo of Richard Burton on the front and a still from the film on the inner sleeve. Everything is housed within a slipcover replicating the artwork for the film’s UK one sheet (thankfully, the much less interesting US artwork wasn’t used at all).
The Medusa Touch is not a film that many horror fans are aware of, perhaps only in name. In the US, it’s currently absent on home video, which means that many have not likely seen it. But for fans of British-based horror and telekinesis films, The Medusa Touch is well worth your time, and Imprint’s Blu-ray release is currently the best option available to see it.
- Tim Salmons