What is it about extrasensory activity in movies that makes you want to run the other way? If a character is blessed with precognitive visions, it is an inevitable curse leading to a great deal of hand-wringing, near or actual descents into madness and usually a serial killer turning his sights on that gifted/unlucky individual. On the other hand, if it’s visions of past life experiences we’re talking about, what seems like a miracle of the mind cataloging the consciousness of several lifetimes generally indicates that character (and the viewer) will be stuck in several dreary plots within the same cheap B movie. Such is the case with J. Lee Thompson’s 1975 film “The Reincarnation of Peter Proud”, a movie which manages the too frequent accomplishment of making the preternatural mundane and the mundane even more so (“The Serpent and the Rainbow” anyone?).
Peter Proud (Michael Sarrazin) is a college professor who is having trouble sleeping, or rather it’s what going on while he is sleeping that’s troubling. Recurring visions of a man swimming in a dark lake and meeting with a violent fate are haunting his REM cycles, and after consultations with sleep specialist Dr. Sam Goodman (Paul Hecht) prove unsatisfactory, Peter- armed with the rigorous skepticism of an academic – takes the next logical diagnostic step with a trip to the local occult shop where neither a Satanic mass or the usual oddball movie background extras dissuade him from pursuing an unlikely course of supernatural investigation based solely on reading a book by Edgar Cayce. Thus engaged, the film- rather than easily conceding to the lure of supernatural horror film excesses briefly popularized in the wake of the success of “The Exorcist” -essentially becomes an earnest detective story with a major disadvantage in that the audience already knows the nature of Peter’s psychic condition; with the very title of the piece being a less than subtle hint.
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