26th Oct2014

‘The Shout’ & ‘The Medusa Touch’ Blu-ray Review (Network)

by Phil Wheat

“The British Film” collection was launched by Network Distributing in April 2013 as part of a five-year plan to release over 450 vintage British films through a deal with Studiocanal. Many of the films have never been available to own and will benefit from new transfers. We’ve already reviewed a couple of their previous releases, the Hammer horror pairing of Countess Dracula and Twins of Evil – and now we take a look at two more interesting British horrors of the 1970s

Shout-Medusa

The Shout

Stars: Alan Bates, Susannah York, John Hurt, Robert Stephens, Tim Curry | Directed by Jerzy Skolimowski

Synopsis: During a cricket match at an insane asylum between the inmates and the local villagers, Crossley and Graves keep themselves entertained by telling stories. Crossley tells of how he came to possess supernatural powers enabling him to kill with a single shout and although his companion dismisses the tale as an insane fantasy, as the match continues the proceedings take a sinister turn…

My thoughts: If there’s one thing you can say about British horror compared to it’s American counterparts at the time, it’s that we knew how to cast British movies VERY well. Alan Bates, Susannah York and John Hurt were, and still are, powerhouses of British cinema and they deliver some superb performances here. Of course Bates has the key role here as Crossley, the storyteller who believes he has the ability to deliver a terrifying “shout” – a shout taught to him by the aborigines and one that can kill – yet throughout The Shout‘s running time you’re never really sure if that’s the truth or not; which is testament to both Bates and his director Jerzy Skolimowski, whose unconventional style disorients and confuses, almost unnervingly so.

This new Blu-ray from Network really showcases the film at it’s best, really bringing out Skolimowski’s fantastic camerawork – which somehow manages to make the quaint old cottages and gorgeous dunes of the Devon coastline look gorgeous and creepy at the same time. And of course the sound, be it the wind blowing across the dunes, Alan Bates’ dulcet tones (and his terrifying shout) or the bizarre, some would say eerie, sounds John Hurt’s sound engineer Anthony makes, are fantastically reproduced on this disc.

The Shout is another great example of British horror cinema that, over the years, seems to have been somewhat forgotten about (I remember it being a mainstay of UK television channels back in the 80s). Thankfully this new release from Network is the perfect chance for a rediscovery.

The Medusa Touch

Stars: Richard Burton, Lino Ventura, Lee Remick, Harry Andrews, Alan Badel | Directed by Jack Gold

Synopsis: John Morlar, a well-known novelist, is savagely attacked in his London flat. Barely alive, he is taken to hospital, and Brunel, a French detective currently based in the capital, is assigned to the case. His investigations lead him to Morlar’s psychiatrist, who discloses that her patient is obsessed: Morlar feels he bears an awesome telekinetic power the capacity to “will” destruction and death by making airplanes crash and buildings crumble, start raging fires and unleash mighty floods. Preposterous though it seems, Morlar’s power is sickeningly real he is able to wreak havoc at will and seemingly can’t be stopped…

My thoughts: To my shame, and despite the fact I’ve heard much talk about the film in horror circles, I had never seen The Medusa Touch until now. Playing out like an extended episode of Tales From the Unexpected or Hammer House of Horror, the film is less of your usual “whodunnit” style horror movie and more of a “did he do it?” Yes, Jack Gold’s film is one of those genre flicks that keeps its audience guessing – in this case whether a barn storming Richard Burton really has psychic powers or if he’s completely deluded, so deluded that he believes that a series of events really happened because of him! Interestingly The Medusa Touch, released by Network at the same time as The Shout, really makes a great pairing with that film, as both movies deal with very similar subject matter and both keep audiences wondering if what they’re being told is the truth or if it’s just the insane rantings of a madman!

The other similarity between both movies is the cast. The Medusa Touch, like The Shout, is filled with powerful performances. From Richard Burton’s Morlar to Lino Ventura’s cop Brunel, each and every actor involved in this film is seemingly on top form, working from a script that looks to not only tell its story but also make you feel like you know and by extension, empathise with, each an every character; even Lee Remick, who many will remember from The Omen, is given a meaty role – her psychiatrist Zonfeld , turns out to be one of the most complex in the movie, even moreso than Burton’s “psychic”.

Once again Network have done a fantastic job on this Blu-ray release. The colours are strong, the details are sharp. There was no noticeable print damage and whilst there was the usual film grain present, that’s to be expected with movies of this age and – for me – it’s great to see a film preserved in such as way as to not overly DNR the print. I sincerely doubt The Medusa Touch has ever looked this good.
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The Shout and The Medusa Touch are fantastic examples of 70s genre cinema and are stunningly presented on Blu-ray. Do yourselves a favour and pick up both titles now from Amazon.

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