The Power is a 1968 science fiction drama based on a novel by the same name. The film stars George Hamilton as Professor Jim Tanner and Suanne Pleshette as Professor Margery Lansing. The Power was produced by George Pal, directed by Byron Haskin, and made at MGM studios. The movie is based on a 1956 novel written by Frank M. Roberson, and is a sci-fi/mystery drama that centers around two men with psi powers.
The Power is cast with actors who were either well known to most audiences at that time, some were up and coming stars; while rank and file actors completed the cast. The male and female leads were George Hamilton and Suanne Phulesste. Hamilton plays Professor, Jim Tanner, while Mrs. Phulesste plays Professor Margery Lansing. For the supporting cast, Michael Rennie, best known as Kalto from the 50s sci-fi movie The Day the Earth Stood Still, plays Arthur Nordlund. Arthur O'Connell plays Professor Henry Hallson, one of the lead researchers in the human endurance project. Earl Holliman plays Professor Talbot Scott, a project scientist. Nehemiah Persoff plays Professor Carl Melnicker also a project scientist. Richard Carlson plays Professor Norman E. Van Zandt another project scientist. Carlson is best known for his role in the 50s sci-fi/horror movie The Creature from The Black Lagoon.
The story begins with a group of scientists working for a government contractor that is charged with studying the effects of space travel on human subjects. The lab is located in Southern California, and is overseen by Arthur Nordlund. The government has picked Nordlund to make sure the research is going according to the program. Professor Jim Tanner is in charge of human endurance experiments, and uses volunteers as subjects. He is assisted by other scientists working for Nordlund, in particular, Professor Margery Lansing who is also a love interest to Tanner.
While attending a staff meeting, he is informed by one of his colleagues, Professor Hallson, that he has some very interesting results from questionnaires that were given to the project scientist. The questionnaires were a series of intelligence exams which Hallson finds to be intriguing. The results suggest that one of the project members possess a superior intellect. Halson doesn't know which scientists had the unique score due to the anonymity of the test. Hallson decides on a simple test by having the staff members focus their thoughts on a pinwheel centered on the conference table. Hallson instructs the staff members to concentrate on making the pinwheel spin, to everyone's amazement the wheel spins. Afterward, Hallson proclaims that someone in the room is endowed with a super intellect, and warns that kind of power is dangerous. The meeting is adjourned, and the staff goes back to work.
A colleague is murdered.
Before going home for the evening, Professor Tanner decides he needs to talk to Hallson some more about the event during the staff meeting. He can't find him in his office so he goes searching for him. While looking for Hallson, Tanner discovers the human centrifuge is in motion, and its speed is increasing rapidly. To his amazement, he finds that Hallson is trapped inside the machine, and that he's in grave danger from the gravitational forces exerted upon him. Tanner desperately tries to shut the machine down, but to no avail. However, the centrifuge is finally halted after the electric power is terminated. When Tanner opens the hatch he finds Hallson dead with a handwritten note that says, "Adam Hart." Afterword, the police are summoned, and the accident is intensely investigated. During the investigation, the police run background checks on each of the project scientists. They find that Tanner, who is a professional scientist and a long term member of the project, has no record of his achievements. Moreover, there is no record of his college degree, and additional training or professional certifications. All of his records have disappeared by some unknown method for some purpose. Tanner becomes the prime suspect due to the suspicious nature of his missing records. He decides to take a leave of absence and track down "Adam Hart" to find out why Hallson was killed.
Who is Adam Hart?
After he puts in for his leave of absence, Tanner wastes no time hitting the streets. In a time before the internet, Tanner must use a lot of leg work to track down leads and other information. He first goes to Hallson's hometown, and talks to his widow. He finds that "Adam Hart" was a childhood friend of Hallson. However, Hallson's wife can't remember what he looks like, nor does she have any pictures of him. She does suggest to check with other friends and associates of her husband. He goes to different individuals who knew Hallson, and makes inquiries about Hart. Tanner receives different answers from everyone he talks to; each time he gets a different description of Hart, and any photos of Hart are also non-existent. After meeting with former associates of Hart, Tanner is contacted by a person who knew Hart, and offers to take Tanner to see him. Tanner is left out in the Californa dessert, and is nearly killed by Air Force jets performing a bombing practice. When Tanner finds the man who left him for dead, he confronts him, and finds out that he was acting on Hart's orders. At this point, Tanner wonders why him, why does Hart want him out of the way. Does Tanner pose a threat to Hart?
When Tanner returns to the city after interviewing Hallson's associates, he starts experiencing curious incidents. The first of which is seeing a crosswalk light change from walk to run, toy soldiers fire live ammunition at him, and he even drives his car off the road, and into a river against his own will. He can't explain what is happing to him, but he senses that Adam Hart is behind it all.
If things weren't bad enough, some of the staff members start dying off. Van Zandt is killed in a house fire, Melnicker dies while attending a party with Tanner and Lansing present; while Talbot is killed during a shoot out with the police. At this point, there are only three people left, Tanner, Lansing, and Nordlund. Tanner takes Lansing back to his lab believing that it is the safest place to be for now. As Tanner is trying to sort out the day's events, Nordlund walks into the lab, and reveals who Adam Hart is. Spoiler ahead: Adam Hart is none other than Arthur Nordlund. He explains to Tanner that it was he who was behind everything. Why? Nordlund had feared that Hallson's test would not only expose him, it would also demonstrate that Tanner possessed such power as well. It was Tanner, and not Nordlund, that made the pinwheel move during the conference. Nordlund saw Tanner as a threat, so he tried to eliminate him via discrediting him at first, but when Tanner fought back, Nordlund escalated his efforts using the whole range of psychic powers. At this point, Nordlund engages in a psychic battle with Tanner in a final effort to dispose of him. He makes Tanner believe that he is either drowning, freezing, or on fire. However, Tanner proves to be more than a match for Nordlund, he fights back by using the same psychic powers that have been dormant within him. He manages to stop Nordlund's heart from beating thus causing him to die of a heart attack. The movie ends with both Tanner and Lansing walking into the morning sunrise on the institute grounds while he contemplates how he will use his "Power."
This video is an original trailer for the movie.
Notable facts about the movie.
The musical score was composed by Oscar-winning composer Miklós Rózsa. He was a Hungarian-American who composed dozens of musical scores for the film industry. In The Power he uses an instrument native to his country, a Cimbalom, which resembles a hammered dulcimer. The cimbalom is used periodically throughout the movie to denote the use of The Power by Adam Hart.
The use of the centrifuge as a murder weapon is also very notable as well. That scene was the most gruesome scene in the movie in which the victim eyes nearly popped out while bitting his tongue. The other deaths in the movie were less traumatic, involving less gore and drama, unlike the death of Hallson.
What I liked about this Film.
I have watched this movie at least a couple of times, and I'veenjoyed watching every moment of it. I identified with Professor Tanner's dilemma, where he was under a cloud of suspicion, and had to prove his innocence, all the while being pursued by an unknown force. It was in that air of mystery that I found it to be compelling enough to watch until the conclusion. The movie was also very well photographed, and was very stylish for its period. The musical score was very well done, the choice of instruments aided in a sense of otherworldliness. The cast members that were chosen were very talented, and were seasoned actors, which made for some good drama.
The Power was not a box office success, despite a good cast, and a well know producer. It is still praised by some, and criticized by others. Writing for the Fantasia Obscura section of rebeatmag.com, James Ryan makes these observations.
The fact that the psychic abilities follow no rules save whatever looks like it might be cool at that moment gets annoying at first as the plot rushes along from scene set-up to payout leading to the next set piece, but after a while, this starts to feel boring.
Okay, hold it a sec. Supposedly, superior intelligence is a sign of psychic powers? Really? Which means that instead of the Manhattan Project, Einstein and Oppenheimer should have just telekinetically busted apart the Axis Powers with their minds?
How does a “psychic superman” make any sense here? Where did this person come from, and why is someone so powerful slumming with the space project anyways?
Why did this person not use these extreme, undefined powers to just do away with everyone, erasing minds and such, rather than let this all play out as it did, which was a question from Robinson’s book as well?
On the positive side, I found some great comments made by fans of the movie.
Totally disagree with previous comments. This is one of the all-time GREATS in motion picture history. It is definitely "must see" cinema, and the pinnacle of Sixties film-making. 'The Power' is probably the last of its genre. It has that terrific "Sixties" look and feel.
Folks, it just doesn't get any better than this. I'd rate 'The Power' only one step below the all-time greatest motion picture of them all, 1958's 'Vertigo.'
The two comments came from an unknown commenter posting here.
My final thought on The Power is that it is, in essence, a good psychological thriller, and more of a thinking person type of story. Although it does contain some action scenes in the story, it is much more mental than physical. I would recommend this movie for anyone who loves a good mystery combined with elements of science fiction.
Where to find it.
The movie is available for sale on Amazon, and is presented on TV from time to time.