Director Byron Haskin and producer George Pal, who had made 1953’s THE WAR OF THE WORLDS together, reunited for THE POWER. It was Haskin’s final film and assembles a pretty good cast of familiar faces and an incredible Miklos Rosza score (Haskin actually cuts shots of someone playing the cymbalum into the film!).
Someone on a government research project has telekinetic powers and doesn’t want anyone else to know about them. He or she murders Professor Hallson (Arthur O’Connell, who’s terrible), who discovers the anomaly, and frames another colleague, Jim Tanner (George Hamilton). Tanner’s only clue to finding the psychic killer is the mysterious Adam Hart, a name Hallson scribbled just before he died.
Suspects include fellow scientists Van Zandt (IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE's Richard Carlson), Melnicker (Nehemiah Persoff), Scott (Earl Holliman, also in another MGM science fiction movie--a little thing called FORBIDDEN PLANET), and Lansing (Suzanne Pleshette). Gary Merrill plays a cop investigating Hallson’s death, and Michael Rennie (THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL) is a government liaison in charge of the research project.
Tanner’s snooping is interrupted by a street signal that addresses him directly and toy soldiers that fire blanks at him, and then more serious obstacles like a gas station attendant (Aldo Ray) who coldcocks him and drops him into the middle of an Air Force desert bombing test site. Hamilton plays Tanner’s freakouts rather well, and screenwriter Robert Gay (FATAL VISION) frames it all as an absorbing mystery with a weird psychedelic ending.
Besides O’Connell’s overacting, THE POWER mainly suffers from phony-looking Hollywood sets that dilute the terror with their artificiality and a draggy middle act that includes an ill-conceived party scene. All in all, a decent little picture, but I think it would have worked better as an independent with fewer bucks to spend. Also with Celia Lovsky and Lawrence Montaigne (both of whom played Vulcans in “Amok Time”), Yvonne DeCarlo, Ken Murray, Miiko Taka, Vaughn Taylor (unconvincingly playing O’Connell’s father despite being three years younger than the actor), and BRIDES OF BLOOD’s “Miss Beverly Hills,” a stripper.