Before David Cronenberg popped heads in Scanners, before the mutant powers of Professor X (X-Men), before Drew Barrymore let loose with pyro in Firestarter, even before Sir Alec Guinness told us what droids we weren’t looking for, there was The Power. Released in 1968, the film brought (though perhaps not for the first time) the powers of telekinesis to the big screen and the movie seems to have been largely forgotten by the mainstream audiences of today. Well, at least I had never heard of it before now, not that that means anything. In any case, it is now back out there waiting to be discovered thanks to Warner Brothers and their Warner Archive line.
The film, directed by Byron Haskin (the 1953 War of the Worlds), tells the story of a man with telekinetic powers whose existence is threatened when he discovers that there is another with powers that could rival his own. Of course, this new person is not quite aware of the abilities he possesses and we are not informed of who this villain is until much later in the film, early on we only know that he exists.
As the story begins we are introduced to Dr. Jim Tannen (George Hamilton, who coincidentally shows where Rod Blagojevich got his hair inspiration from). He is the head of a special group researching pain limits on men for space exploration. In his work, Tannen must deal with a new governmental liaison played by Michael Rennie (the original The Day the Earth Stood Still), who is unfamiliar with what Tannen’s team is doing.
It does not take long for the action to be set into motion. Tannen comes under fire as his background records reveal themselves to be fraudulent. Of course they aren’t, but whomever the villain is has Tannen in his crosshairs and is intent on flushing the doctor out.
Well, I make that sound as if our villain is operating right out in the open, and that just isn’t the case. The majority of the film follows Tannen and his squeeze (and fellow doctor) Margery Lansing (played by the lovely Suzanne Pleshette). They run around narrowly escaping assassination attempts as they try to figure out the identity of this telekinetic superman. Everything, as one might expect, leads up to the final climactic showdown between the forces of good and evil.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat entertained by the movie. I was, but the movie itself feels too dragged out. At least part of this is because the story really fails to really dig into anything; it is all about the chase and nothing else. It would have been nice if they dug into motivations or the implications that go along with such powers. On the upside, Hamilton does a fine job of keeping the man on the run portion interesting and the score by Miklos Roszas is suitably creepy with its liberal use of the hammer dulcimer.
While the film has its charms, they are not really enough to make this a recommended movie. Certainly, a little trimming would have helped the pace significantly, and the opening could have been eliminated almost entirely (they could have started with the party sequence in the middle).
Audio/Video. The film is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and comes complete with its original mono audio track. The tech side of the coin is quite good. The film does show its age and has a distinctly ’60s’ look, but the colors and detail levels are good. The mono track, similarly, does a fine job, particularly with the score. It sounds particularly good when the hammer dulcimer kicks in.
Extras. Nothing. The disc barely has a title menu!
Bottomline. Genre fans looking for something obscure will likely want to check this out. It is entertaining enough for the curious but not enough to reward return revisits.