Like a fool, I asked, ‘What film was that then?’
Mary stiffened in the high-backed chair and sucked in enough air to fill a balloon. A carer overheard me, looked over and grinned. I knew then that it was going to be a lengthy revelation.
‘Well,’ she began, ‘I can’t remember the name of it, dear. It was about this man, that actor. You know, the one that married Liz Taylor. You know, that bloke with the deep sexy voice. Welsh feller was in Cleopatra. Him in the Roman tunic with the legs. What’s his name? Anyway, he keeps making rotten things happen, disasters like.’
‘It starts with him just staring out of his flat window. He’s watching a plane coming in to land in London, and he’s making it fall out of the sky with his mind. Then somebody behind him smashes his skull to stop him. But the plane crashes anyway. He doesn’t die though. He ends up in the hospital in a coma. Richard Burton, yeah, that’s him, dear. Richard Burton, that’s his name. I wouldn’t kick him out of my bed. Have you heard him read poetry? Sends shivers down your back, I tell you.’
‘Well, in the film he’s in hospital, but they show you his life from when he was a kid at school. That’s when he found out he had the power to make things happen. He made a teacher kill himself. Right creepy it was. Just like that kid in The Omen.
‘Because he kept creating disasters, he went to see a psychiatrist. That was the actress Lee Renwick. What? Yes dear, Lee Remick. Don’t make me lose my thread. Wow, those blue eyes, what I’d give to have those. Her cheeks are a bit puffy, but I’d put up with that for those eyes. So, where was I? Oh yeah, Richard Burton goes to see her and tells her he has this power to make disasters happen. But she tries to convince him it’s all in his mind, delusional. I think that’s what they call it. Bit like my sister Florrie’s old man. He thinks he’s God’s gift to women. Sorry, I’m waffling again, ain’t I? Well, he carries on causing mayhem, and after a while, she starts to believe he has this power.
‘There’s a French detective on some sort of foreign exchange with Scotland Yard. He’s investigating who tried to kill Richard Burton, and even though the doctor says he really should be dead, he ends up staying alive, still trying to make something else happen. Don’t you just love Frenchmen? I meanCharles Aznavour and that Sacha Distel. I could listen to them all day. They don’t make them like that anymore, do they? You have to wait until the end to find out who smashed his head in.
‘By the way, the doctor was that Scottish actor who was in The Professionals. He was that butler in Upstairs Downstairs. You know who I mean? I’m useless with names. Posh voice though, and reminds me of our Maths teacher Mr. Sharp. He was Irish, but had that same sort of voice you could listen to for hours. Mind you, he had a stern side to him as well, just like this doctor.
‘Anyway, while he’s in hospital, Lee Remick reads some of his notes in his flat. Sorry, I didn’t tell you he was a writer, did I. You know, books. That sort of writer. Yes, author dear. Now let me finish. She works out from something he had written that he was going to make York Minster fall to the ground. That’s like a sort of cathedral. Well, I suppose it is a cathedral. I’m not religious, but I do like walking around those places. Not that one though, because bits of it kept falling off. They were raising money to get it sorted, and the Queen was going to visit. I think it was to celebrate getting enough money to rebuild the damaged part. Yeah, that’s it. She was going to a service there, but Lee Remick reckoned that Richard Burton was going to make the building collapse on them all.
‘She convinces the detective to stop the event, and he tries, but nobody takes any notice. He ends up starting a bomb scare. He stops the Queen’s car, but the cathedral collapses on everyone inside. You see all the columns and the roof crushing their bodies. You don’t see any blood though. It’s not a new film, otherwise they’d show you their heads all mangled and bloodied. I mean, it’s sick. There’s no need for it. I know it’s only make-up, but you get so into the story you forget it ain’t real. It turns my stomach over when I see that sort of thing.
‘But that’s not the end of it. The detective rushes to the hospital, and Richard Burton is still in a coma, with bandages covering his head. You can just see his eyes though, and they’re open. That’s when the detective pulls out all the wires and tubes, keeping him alive. The monitor stops doing those annoying beeps and goes to one long beep. Then it gets creepy, because you think he’s dead, but his fingers move like he wants to write something. So they put a pen in his hand and lay a pad on his bed, and he writes Windscale on it. That’s a nuclear power station, and that’s where the film ends.
‘I don’t mind telling you; I felt really unnerved after watching it. I know it’s only a film, but the acting is so clever, it gets you believing it’s something that could actually happen. Glad they didn’t bring the grandkids yesterday. It put me in such a bad mood. Frightening ain’t the word for it, dear. You simply must watch it. By the way, I didn’t tell you, did I? It was Lee Remick who smashed his head in.’