Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Medusa Touch, The

UK/French movie (1978). Coatesgold/Sir Lew Grade/Elliott Kastner/Arnon Milchan/ ITC. Pr Anne V Coates, Jack Gold. Exec pr Arnon Milchan. Dir Gold. Spfx Brian Johnson. Vfx Doug Ferris. Screenplay John Briley. Based on The Medusa Touch (1973) by Peter Van Greenaway. Starring Richard Burton (John Morlar), Michael Byrne (Duff), Lee Remick (Dr Zonfeld), Lino Ventura (Brunel). 109 mins. Colour.

A visitor to the flat of writer Morlar clubs him almost to death. His brain inexplicably survives the awful damage. As he lies in intensive care, seemingly a vegetable despite his EEG traces, Inspector Brunel, investigating, is led to Morlar's psychiatrist, Zonfeld. Largely through her he discovers, at first incredulously, that Morlar has throughout his life been telekinetically (> Talents) able to create disaster around him, usually unconsciously causing the deaths of those who earn his hatred; to prove his ability to her Morlar caused a plane crash and the failure of a NASA Moon shot. At this second proof she attempted to kill him. But Morlar has forced his mind to live on for one last crime . . .

Van Greenaway's novels, as Morlar's are implied to be, were too original for the comprehension of the literary establishment, who therefore largely ignored them, and this intelligent movie, a Crosshatch between fantasy and thriller genres (the latter occasionally parodied), has suffered the same fate. Yet, despite some rebarbative moments, it functions well at both levels, the swirling moral subtexts of the novel (Morlar is not so much a villain as in large part a wish-fulfilment figure, and his actions are a debate between Good and Evil) being translated well to the screen. TMT is a movie not easily forgotten. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.