Set in a parallel universe in which Shaw Taylor reads the news, Richard Burton plays John Morlar – “the man with the power to create catastrophe” and a writer of terrible yet inexplicably popular books.
Also on board are Lee Remick, and Lino Ventura as Detective Inspector Brunel, a sleepy French cop who’s here on an official exchange visit, you understand (not just because the film was a French co-production).
Morlar uses his telekinetic (now there’s a 1970s phrase if ever there was one) powers to cause all sorts of mayhem.
He sends his parents over a cliff in a car, sets his school on fire, gets his next-door neighbour to jump out the window because of some bad fish, sends a jumbo jet into a tower block and causes the death of some American astronauts.
There is insufficient explanation as to why Morlar feels compelled to cause these tragedies when people he doesn’t even know are often involved.
An appealing Third World theory is offered – when he knocks the astronauts out of orbit to protest the millions spent on space exploration over feeding the hungry – but it is inconsistently supported.
The climax comes when ‘Minster Cathedral’ collapses on live TV – “I will bring the whole crumbling edifice down on top of their heads! I tell you!” – Morlar brags as he lies in a hospital bed after being bludgeoned to near-death in a murder attempt (spoiler: it was Remick).
French bloke rushes to the bedside, pulls out all those wires and stuff, and Morlar is dead. Except – aha . . . he’s not!
With a felt-tip pen, Morlar shakily and significantly writes the name “Windscale” on a bit of paper. Except that it had already been called Sellafield for about 15 years. But still, The Medusa Touch is the kind of disposable cinema that can be enjoyed in spite of itself.
“I am responsible for most of the world’s di-zaw-sters,” Burton says at one point, and – considering the previous ten years of his career (and travesties like The Heretic) – one can only admire his honesty.
Detective Inspector Brunel