The Medusa Touch (film)

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The Medusa Touch
Original 1978 film poster
Directed byJack Gold
Produced byAnne V. Coates
Jack Gold
Arnon Milchan (executive)
Screenplay byJohn Briley
Based onThe Medusa Touch by
Peter Van Greenaway
StarringRichard Burton
Lino Ventura
Lee Remick
Harry Andrews
Music byMichael J. Lewis
CinematographyArthur Ibbetson
Edited byAnne V. Coates
Ian Crafford
ITC Entertainment
Citeca Productions
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures (USA)
Release date
  • 7 April 1978 (1978-04-07) (UK)
  • 14 April 1978 (1978-04-14) (NYC)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Medusa Touch is a 1978 British supernatural thriller/horror film directed by Jack Gold. It stars Richard Burton, Lino Ventura, Lee Remick and Harry Andrews, with cameos by Alan Badel, Derek Jacobi, Gordon Jackson, Jeremy Brett and Michael Hordern. The screenplay was by John Briley, based on the novel The Medusa Touch by Peter Van Greenaway.[1]


Monsieur Brunel, a French detective on an exchange scheme in London, is assigned to investigate the murder of novelist John Morlar. As they examine the crime scene, Brunel discovers the victim is still alive in spite of his severe injuries and has him rushed to hospital.

With the help of Morlar's journals and Dr. Zonfeld, a psychiatrist Morlar was consulting, Brunel reconstructs Morlar's past life. Seen in flashback, it is filled with seemingly inexplicable catastrophes and the sudden deaths of people he disliked or who grievously offended him. Morlar had become even more convinced when a supposed psychic examined his hands, became ill at what he foresaw, and promptly refunded Morlar's fee. Dr. Zonfeld scoffs at this explanation, asking Morlar if he seriously believes in palmistry as a means of predicting the future. However, Morlar has realised the disasters were caused by his own will.

As flashbacks continue, it becomes shown that Morlar is a psychic with powerful psychokinetic abilities. Morlar's earlier legal career is seen to have halted in a courtroom defence speech that reveals his disgust at the world and offends the judge resulting in a lengthy imprisonment for his client. He inadvertantly curses the judge who dies of a heart attack later with a look of unaccountable terror. Later, he proves to Dr. Zonfeld that he can cause disasters when, with her watching, he forces a Boeing 747-200 to crash into a London office tower, killing everyone on board.

Brunel eventually figures out that Zonfeld has attempted to kill Morlar in order to stop him killing more people, particularly American astronauts in a manned space mission that is being widely broadcast in the media. Failing to convince him, she had bashed in Morlar's skull with a blunt object and left him for dead. Brunel confronts her and she admits trying to kill Morlar. Brunel does not arrest her right away, partly because he is also becoming convinced of Morlar's telekinetic powers. Later, Brunel returns to Dr. Zonfeld's office, but he discovers she has committed suicide, having left a note apologizing to him for leaving such a mess to deal with. From his hospital bed Morlar manages to bring down a cathedral on the "unworthy heads" of a VIP congregation attending a fundraising event for the crumbling building's restoration. Brunel races to the hospital and tries to kill Morlar to end the destruction, just as Zonfeld had, but he, too, is unsuccessful. Morlar, who is inexplicably still alive, writes on a pad the name of his next target: Windscale nuclear power station. It will be Morlar's most destructive disaster yet.


In addition, Gordon Honeycombe, longtime newscaster on the ITN national news broadcast, appears as the TV Newscaster on televisions being watched by various characters. During coverage of the space mission the voice of James Burke can briefly be heard, apparently in an audio recording from his coverage of the real Apollo 13 mission.


That Morlar is disgusted with the world is cited in Kim Newman's 1988 book Nightmare Movies, wherein Newman describes Morlar's dialogue as "incredibly misanthropic."[3]

Filming locations[edit]

Bristol Cathedral was used as the location for the fictional London place of worship, called Minster Cathedral in the film.[4]

The St Mary's Church Towers near Reculver were used for the scene where young John and his parents are having a picnic whilst on holiday. John wills the car to move towards his parents, which causes them and the car to fall over the cliff. Herne Bay, also Kent, was used for the scene where a young John Morlar (Adam Bridges) stays with his parents and is out on the seafront. The hotel is now residential properties.[5]

Cultural references[edit]

A sample from the film (Richard Burton's line "I will bring the whole edifice down on their unworthy heads") was used in the Manic Street Preachers' 1998 song "Ready for Drowning". The 2005 Manic Street Preachers song "Leviathan" includes the lyric "Baader Meinhof and Medusa Touch".

Footage from the film appears in the music video 'The Madness Was Mine' by the artist Sailing Blind.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Variety film review; 8 February 1978; page 18.
  2. ^ "The Medusa Touch". Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  3. ^ Newman, Kim (1988). Nightmare Movies: Critical History of the Horror Film, 1968-88. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7475-0295-1.
  4. ^ "The Medusa Touch". Retrieved 5 September 2011.
  5. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office The Medusa Touch Film Focus".

External links[edit]