This excursion into the supernatural has a subject, but no story to speak of. The subject, reincarnation, harbors about as much dramatic potential as, say, evolution; and so, to inject some horror-story thrills into it, Frank de Felitta, author of book and screenplay, has postulated a freak case, a faulty transmigration from one body to the next, and he has kept an eye on the marketable Exorcist model: a terrorized little girl, bedevilled by nightmare memories of her fiery death in her previous life, and hounded on the city streets by a shabbily dressed man claiming to be her previous father. The movie should have left the question open -- is this pesty fellow a true prophet or a typical New York City pervert? -- but instead opts for bald-faced proselytizing on behalf of the reincarnation doctrine. Director Robert Wise's sober, pragmatic temperament, at odds with the flighty supernaturalism, creates its own tensions and excitements, and grounds the movie in a wealth of middle-class mundanity. For one thing, there is the principal set, fastidiously designed by Harry Horner, a ritzy Manhattan apartment that houses, among its many earthly luxuries, a few traces of the fantastic -- the gargoyles keeping vigil outside the windows, the celestial blue Fragonard-Watteau-style paintings set in the ceiling, the shimmering light and monotonous susurrus of the aquarium in the bedroom. Also, most notably on the part of Anthony Hopkins, there is some finicky attention to the way normal people might talk and act in a given situation, however unaccustomed. Even the craziest line ("Bill, she burned her hands on a cold window!") is invested with the harsh authenticity of an everyday domestic tiff. With Marsha Mason, John Beck, and Susan Swift. (1977) — Duncan Shepherd
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