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The Gorgon

   

The Gorgon (1964) starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee

Synopsis

The Gorgon – In a rural village, a series of murders have been committed where each victim was turned into stone. A local professor investigates and finds an evil Gorgon haunting a nearby castle and in search of more victims.

Review

The Gorgon is a interesting Hammer horror film. It deals with a small village, that’s had a series of unsolved murders over the last 5 years. Murders that typically happen on the second night of a full moon. In many ways, it’s a werewolf film — only the creature is a Gorgon from mythology. For the purists, the film takes great liberties with the original mythology. But, it’s a good horror film, with good acting, atmosphere, etc. I frankly have only one negative about the film.

When we eventually see the monster, it looks …. bad. Not frightening, just bad. According to Christopher Lee:

“Beautiful-looking picture, but the whole thing fell apart because the effect of the snakes on Megaera’s head was not sufficiently well done for the climax of the film. Not a memorable film, but it could have been terrific.”

Sir Christopher Lee, quoted in ‘The Films of Christopher Lee’:

Cast

  • Christopher Lee (Horror Express) … Prof. Karl Meister. She shows up unexpectedly at Paul’s doorstop. He starts investigating the deaths, but it leads him to a conclusion at Paul doesn’t like.
  • Peter Cushing (The Mummy 1959) … Dr. Namaroff. The medical doctor, who testifies at the coroner’s inquest, about the death of Sascha. He knows that she was turned to stone. But, doesn’t share that at the inquest.
  • Richard Pasco (Watcher in the Woods 1980) … Paul Heitz. He’s investigating his father Jules’ death. He has the letter that Jules wrote, as he was being turned to stone. So he knows that there’s something going on. That people won’t tell him about. “Who is Namaroff protecting?”
  • Barbara Shelley (Village of the Damned) … Carla Hoffman. Naramoff’s assistant at the hospital. She knows he withheld information at the inquest. But she doesn’t know why. She’s trying to help Paul. She believes that the spirit of Megaera is haunting the woods and town. Although she falls in love with Paul, she’s unable to leave with him. For unknown reason.
  • Michael Goodliffe (A Night to Remember) … Professor Jules Heitz. The father of the dead man, Bruno. He doesn’t accept the coroner’s ruling of murder/suicide. As he’s slowly being turned to stone by the Gorgon, he’s able to write a letter to his other son, Paul. And warn him.

Secondary characters

  • Patrick Troughton (Doctor Who – The Three Doctors) … Inspector Kanof. The obstructing police official.
  • Joseph O’Conor (Oliver!) … Coroner
  • Prudence Hyman … The Gorgon
  • Jack Watson (From Beyond the Grave) … Ratoff. The orderly at the hospital. He has one very difficult patient. And a short temper.
  • Redmond Phillips … Hans
  • Jeremy Longhurst (The Crawling Eye) … Bruno Heitz. The young artist, who’s made Sascha pregnant. He intends to do the right thing and marry her. He leaves her side, to go talk with her father. He’s never seen alive again,.
  • Toni Gilpin (The Mummy’s Shroud) … Sascha Cass. The first onscreen murder.
  • Joyce Hemson (Island of Terror) … Martha. Mentally ill woman, who kept escaping from the hospital.
  • Alister Williamson (The Oblong Box) … Janus Cass. Landlord of the Saracen Inn, father of the dead girl, Sascha.
  • Michael Peake (Doctor Who: The Romans) … Constable

Editorial review of The Gorgon courtesy of Amazon.com

Hammer Studios was on a roll by 1964, adapting and updating classic movie monsters with a gory gothic slant, but the fantasy-tinged thriller The Gorgon was a rare attempt at producing their own creature. Transporting the Greek Gorgon myth to turn-of-the-century Europe, Terence Fisher invests the rural mittel-European village with a kind of cursed decay. A deserted castle dominates the perpetually mist-bound landscape while a series of unexplained murders leave victims turned to cold, gray stone.

The details are carefully hushed up by local doctor and asylum director Peter Cushing, who helps frame an outsider for the latest murder, which brings a parade of outsiders in to clear his name. Christopher Lee, under gray hair and bushy mustache, arrives in the third act to play a shaggy but sharp old professor, a scientist whose reason and determination cuts through the emotionally clouded motivations of both his allies and enemies. Fisher creates a thick atmosphere of suspicion and dread while driving the mystery ahead with a rapid pace, which helps overcome the gaps in logic of the town’s murky conspiracy.

The special effects are frankly stiff and unconvincing: the snakes sprouting from the Gorgon’s head are jittery, lifeless stalks that pale next to the gorgeous creation by Ray Harryhausen in Clash of the Titans, but Fisher manages to give the Gorgon’s scenes an eerie beauty. –Sean Axmaker

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