Apr 20, 2019

The Psychic (1968)

The backstory to this odd, disjointed mess is described in Bleeding Skull:

In 1967, Herschell Gordon Lewis was hired by the ESP-obsessed script writer James Hurley to direct Something Weird. While Something Weird is one of the greatest gifts in human history, Hurley wasn’t so thrilled with the outcome. So a year later, he rehired Lewis to produce a reworking of the film. It was called The Psychic and filmed in Chicago. The distributor was bored with the finished film, so Lewis went back and shot some softcore inserts. Voila! Everyone’s happy! And a magnificent train wreck is born.

 Dan Thomas (Dick Gjonola) is out working on his house when he falls off a ladder.

When he awakens in the hospital it becomes clear that he has psychic abilities.  He can touch someone (or something someone has touched) and know things - like when they will die, and what was going through their mind, etc.  His wife Ellen (Robyn Guest) is there by his side.

Dan flashes back to when he and Ellen first met.  I include this scene because it contains the line that the film is known for: "You're not a cadaver yourself".

Indeed, Dan is quite a cheese-ball. He actually reminds me a lot of Phil on Modern Family.  The actor Dick Gjonola went to school with the writer of Grease and was the inspiration for Kenickie.

I love this scene at Thomas household.  But the idyllic suburban life soon comes crashing down as Dan's powers cause friction in the marriage.

Dan leaves Ellen, and he hooks up with a mousy girl who looks hot once Dan does a quick makeover.  (The actress isn't listed in the credits.)

 At a lounge, Dan meets Bobbi (Bobbi Spencer).

 He impresses her with his ability to know everything about her just by touching her hand.

 Dan and Bobbi take the show on the road; where Dan tells the fortune of his audience just by touching the items they place in a bowl.  Bobbi is his "magician's assistant".

Dan, letting his power go to his head, ditches Bobbi for an even more lucrative offer from a wealthy talent agent.

 Next we are taken to the set of a cringeworthy talk show hosted by Jerry Larson (Dave Whitaker), complete with bad jokes and canned laughter.  He's interviewing an actress, Valerie Parker (Carol Saenz) with a phenomenal set of gams. [Note: A couple years later, HG Lewis would again feature a magician on a TV set, complete with woman in short skirt.  See Wizard of Gore (1970).

 Dan is the next guest, and makes things awkward when he taps into Valerie's tortuous love life.  The scene goes on and on, livened only by the actress' frequent upskirts.

There's a very short bit of drama where Dan's daughter has been kidnapped.  He's frustrated that his psychic abilities weren't able to help the police find her.  His daughter is eventually saved, but his marriage to Ellen is not.

The final scene has actor Dick Gjonola delivering a hammy, teary eyed soliloquy to his doctor upon finding that his psychic ability is completely gone.  It ends with a cheesy lounge song played over the images of the women in his life: Ellen, Bobbi, Valerie, even the nameless naked chicks HG Lewis spliced in for no reason except to show boobs.  THE END

I can see how this might be fun to watch with friends, it's so helplessly terrible.  But it's also extremely boring, and any bit of sleaze is a spliced-in irrelevant afterthought.

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