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The Medusa Touch

Original 1978 film poster.
Directed by Jack Gold
Produced by Arnon Milchan,
Anne V. Coates,
Jack Gold
Written by Peter Van Greenaway (novel),
John Briley (screenplay)
Starring Richard Burton,
Lino Ventura,
Lee Remick,
Harry Andrews
Music by Michael J. Lewis
Cinematography Arthur Ibbetson
Editing by Ian Crafford
Distributed by ITC Entertainment (UK, theatrical),
Carlton Video (UK, DVD),
Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s) 1978
Running time 105 min
Country United KingdomUK & FranceFrance
Language English

The Medusa Touch is a British film released in 1978. It starred Richard Burton (John Morlar), Lee Remick (Zonfeld), Lino Ventura (Brunel), Harry Andrews (Assistant Commissioner), Michael Hordern (psychic), Derek Jacobi (Morlar's publisher), Gordon Jackson (surgeon) and Jeremy Brett (Parrish). The screenplay was by John Briley, based on the novel The Medusa Touch by Peter Van Greenaway, and the film was directed by Jack Gold.


Plot summary

A French detective, Brunel (Ventura), is on an exchange scheme in London. He is assigned to investigate the murder of novelist John Morlar (Burton). As they examine the crime scene, the policemen find that the victim is actually still alive in spite of his heavy injuries and have him rushed to hospital.

With the help of Morlar's journals and Dr Zonfeld (Remick), a psychiatrist whom the author had started visiting, Brunel reconstructs Morlar's past life, which (seen in flashback) is full of inexplicable catastrophes, including the tragic deaths of people he disliked or who offended him.

Morlar is, in fact, a psychic with powerful telekinetic abilities. Disgusted at the world (in his 1988 book Nightmare Movies, Kim Newman described Morlar's dialogue as "incredibly misanthropic"[1]), Morlar has caused two recent disasters: an airliner crash and the loss of a manned spacecraft.

From his hospital bed he manages to bring down a cathedral on the "unworthy heads" of a VIP congregation giving thanks for the building's preservation; and he seems able to keep himself alive by sheer willpower. An enraged Brunel himself tries in vain to finish Morlar off and fails. The man has written on a pad the name of his next target - the nuclear power station at Windscale.

Film and novel

The film follows the plot of Van Greenaway's novel fairly closely, but changes several details.

  • In the novel, the detective is not a Frenchman but an English character named Inspector Cherry, who appears in several other Van Greenaway books.
  • In the novel Zonfeld is male and is a Holocaust survivor whose experience of Sachsenhausen concentration camp contributes to his eventual suicide.
  • At the end of the book, Morlar's hand does not scrawl Windscale but Holy Loch, the site of an American nuclear submarine base.



  1. ^ Newman, Kim (1988). Nightmare Movies: Critical History of the Horror Film, 1968-88. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7475-0295-1.  

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