The Gorgon (1964)

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco, Michael Goodliffe, Patrick Troughton, Jack Watson, Joseph O'Conor, Jeremy Longhurst, Alister Williamson, Prudence Hyman, Toni Gilpin

In this mesmerizing fantasy-horror, a 19th-century European village is haunted by the spirit of the Gorgon of Greek myth, albeit here named somewhat inaccurately Megaera.

The story begins with the deaths of the young Bruno Heitz (Longhurst) and his lover, Sascha (Gilpin), who is mysteriously turned to stone, a fact denied by the authorities. Professor Jules Heitz (Goodliffe) arrives in the village to investigate his son's death, and himself is lured into the Gorgon's castle and, upon seeing Megaera (Hyman), is literally petrified. Before dying, he writes a letter to his remaining son, Paul (Pasco), who soon arrives determined to find the cause of his father and brother's deaths. With the assistance of his mentor, Professor Karl Meister (Lee), Paul discovers that the mystery is deeply connected to the fearful coroner, Dr Namaroff (Cushing), and his beautiful assistant, Carla (Shelley).

Fisher always claimed to be making "fairy tales for adults", and this film perhaps encapsulates that spirit more than any other. It marked the impressive Hammer debut for cinematographer Michael Reed, who later did a sterling job on Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1965). James Bernard provided a suitably creepy score, using the Novachord, a Theremin-like synthesizer, alongside a solo soprano to suggest the haunting call of the Gorgon. Roy Ashton created a memorable makeup for the title monster, despite a less-than-successful attempt at creating moving snakes for the hair.

The film contains one of Cushing's best performances as the conflicted, anguished Dr Namaroff, forever torn between his knowledge of the dark truth and his unspoken love for Carla. Lee's part is notable mostly for the rare opportunity he had to play a hero, another exception being The Devil Rides Out (1968).






David L Rattigan 2005





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