Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Evil Touch: "Marci"

In "Marci," a teenage girl, the titular Marci Quinton (Elizabeth Crosby), is upset when her father John (Peter Gwynne) remarries following the accidental death of his first wife. While Marci apparently mourns the death of her mother, Elizabeth (Susan Strasberg), the new wife, attempts to adjust to life in the Quinton family.

Marci makes it clear, however, that Elizabeth is not welcome. She is fiercely competitive over her father's affection. When Elizabeth attempts to explain to John about the fact that her daughter is possessive and cruel, he rejects her counsel.  After Elizabeth is nearly killed in an accident of her own, she resorts to playing Marci's own game, attempting to real the truth about the girl.

In the end, Elizabeth learns that Marci murdered her own biological mother, who was pregnant with another child, rather than face competition for her father's love.  When Elizabeth attempts to make John see the truth about Marci, he learns that the girl has an unexpected ally...

"Marci" is a creepy and effective episode of the 1970's anthology The Evil Touch. It concerns a girl who is "calculating" and "vicious," in the words of host Anthony Quayle. Marci is locked in combat with Elizabeth, who finds herself in a "contest for her life and sanity with a mere child."  The episode plays out like a chess game, though Quayle describes it in Shakespearean terms with a reference to Titus Andronicus. 

Once more the subject of an episode of this Australian-made series is murder, and the focus is the family unit. At least here, its not about the money one stands to inherit, or take from a dying old woman. 

Instead, "Marci" explores the father-daughter bond in a really creepy way, with the final punctuation being that John himself is a willing partner in Marci's efforts. Quayle's closing narration finds Elizabeth dead and Marci dead, and John remanded to a "private home" for those with "neurotic disorders."

Today what seems most intriguing about the episode is not the third act twist that John would rather kill Elizabeth than see Marci take responsibility for her murderous actions, but rather the way that John gaslights Elizabeth throughout the narrative. He knows full well about Marci's murderous actions, and yet keeps telling Elizabeth she is the one who is crazy.  "I always thought you are such a stable person," he says. turning responsibility on her for his daughter's actions.

"Marci" is a fun episode, primarily because one sympathizes with Elizabeth's character, and because the twist is so shocking and murderous. John just goes ballistic, making his true loyalties known, and then the episode ends.  One thing is for sure: sweet Elizabeth did not deserve any of what she gets.

Overall, this episode plays better than the last few installments of the series, but next week it's back to scaring little old ladies in "Scared to Death."

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