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The Gorgon (1964).

March 4, 2008

The Scoop:
Britain’s Hammer Studios quickly shot to prominence in the late 1950s with their signature adaptations of Frankenstein and Dracula, each of which launched a popular string of sequels. The secret of their success was a combination of titillation, light gore and garish Technicolor, which shook up the world of those two famous monster movie icons.

“The Gorgon” is apparently Hammer’s attempt to create a new horror franchise, this time out of Greek mythology. It doesn’t totally work, but nonetheless there are some unexpectedly gentle, low-key moments that make this somewhat entertaining.

In 1910, a small German village is threatened by the spirit of a surviving Gorgon (one of those snake-headed sisters who turn everyone they look at to stone), who is inhabiting the body of a local woman (Barbara Shelley) and killing a series of victims. Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing plays the local doctor who is covering up the murders, while Christopher Lee is the university professor investigating them. Unfortunately, both wear rather silly facial hair, but once the monster design is revealed at the end, you’ll realize that’s the least of the film’s problems.

The best treat about this movie is seeing three of Britain’s biggest horror stars working together. Unfortunately, though, Lee is underused (and somewhat misused) — in fact, he and traditional screen nemesis Cushing only have one short scene together. But with plenty of moody atmosphere to carry you over the rough patches, “The Gorgon” comes off as a compelling little diversion.

Best Line:
“I’m turning to stone…”

Side Note:
Although Medusa is the most famous Gorgon, she actually had two sisters, Stheno and Euryale. However, thanks to some shoddy script research, the Gorgon in this film is named Megaera, which in Greek mythology was one of the three Fates.

Companion Viewing:
“The Reptile” (1966).


Take a Look:
The full version is available in installments on YouTube, starting here:

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