(director: Byron Haskin; screenwriter: from the novel by Frank M. Robinson/from the play by John Gay/John Gay; cinematographer: Ellsworth Fredericks; editor: Thomas J. McCarthy; music: Miklos Rozsa; cast: George Hamilton (Jim Tanner), Suzanne Pleshette (Margery Lansing), Michael Rennie (Arthur Nordland), Nehemiah Persoff (Carl Melniker), Yvonne de Carlo (Sally Hallson), Gary Merrill (Mark Corlane), Earl Holliman (Talbot Scott), Arthur O’Connell (Henry Hallsom), Richard Carlson (N.E. Van Zandt), Barbara Nichols (Flora), Beverly Hills (Sylvia), Aldo Ray (Gas Station Attendant), Miiko Taka (Mrs. Van Zandt), Ken Murray (Fred), Celia Lovskv (Mrs. Hallson), Vaughan Taylor (Mr. Hallson); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: George Pal; MGM; 1968)
“One of the better sci-fi films that no one seems to talk about.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Power is one of the better sci-fi films that no one seems to talk about. It’s a classic B film, too long underrated by the critics. George Hamilton, believe it or not, makes like Cary Grant did in Hitchcock’s 1959 “North by Northwest,” as he becomes a man on the run across the contemporary suburban American landscape chased by someone with telekinetic powers. It’s based on the 1956 novel by Frank M. Robinson. Byron Haskin (“The War of the Worlds”/ “The Naked Jungle”) does a marvelous job mixing sinister action and lighthearted sidelight sequences. The talented all-star cast keeps the supernatural on a more or less literate level, while the George Pal special effects are credible.
Set at a space research center where six scientists — Jim Tanner (George Hamilton), Margery Lansing (Suzanne Pleshette), Carl Melniker (Nehemiah Persoff), Talbot Scott (Earl Holliman), Henry Hallsom (Arthur O’Connell), and N.E. Van Zandt (Richard Carlson) — are researching into human endurance (how much pain can be handled in a space flight) and are administered by a government liaison watchdog agent named Arthur Nordland (Michael Rennie). During a meeting all seven attend, anxious anthropologist Hallsom brings to their attention that one of them unknowingly possesses an unheard of superior intelligence and a test soon applied proves this to be true but doesn’t identify the subject. It turns out that this brings about a string of killings of the scientists, starting with the novel way Hallsom is killed in the lab when the controls stop working and he’s forced to remain in a pain chamber without escaping.
No-nonsense fedora wearing Detective Corlane (Gary Merrill) investigates and all suspicion falls on Tanner, whose school records have disappeared and his boss Van Zandt fires him for getting the job on false pretenses. To clear his name and find the killer, Tanner ignores the cop’s request to stay home and travels back to Hallstrom’s hometown where he believes there are certain invaluable clues regarding a mystery man who is up to something nefarious. There’s a beautifully realized Hitchcockian carousel sequence, where Tanner has to fight off the invisible force. That he’s able to and others are not, indicates that there may be more than one super-brain among the scientists and that person, who has developed the ability to kill by will power, fears Tanner more than any one else as someone who also possesses similar powers.
There’s a diverting scene at a drunken hotel party, where floozy Sylvia kisses one of the scientists but he’s dead. That only makes Tanner, along with his squeeze Lansing, more daring as he escalates his hunt to get the right scientist killer. It becomes a question if Tanner can get the unknown super-genius before the villain gets him.
If you don’t take it as seriously as it was acted, I think you’ll find it highly entertaining. Its major flaw is that it doesn’t clearly state the villain’s motivation for doing such evil and doesn’t explore with any depth the concepts of the Nietzschian mental superman it raises. It instead settles for being a predictable but thrilling mystery story.
REVIEWED ON 10/22/2005 GRADE: B+