Hammer Horror Month: The Gorgon

the_gorgon

Greetings, my ghoulies! It’s Halloween season. All during October I’ll be writing about some of my favorite Hammer horror films. This week’s selection is campy but fun. It’s The Gorgon from 1964. From that title, you’re probably assuming this is an over the top creature feature. To a certain extent you’re right. But the campy nature of it is part of what makes it such a fun film to watch.

The plot involves villagers being afraid of a full moon. Shockingly their fear is not of the Wolf Man. Rather, they are afraid of a woman who can turn people to stone. No, it’s not Medusa. But it wouldn’t be surprising if they were related.

When his father Professor Jules Heitz (Michael Goodliffe)  and brother Bruno (Jeremy Longhurst) die under mysterious circumstances, Paul Heitz (Richard Pasco) travels to a small town to determine what is going on. It’s the early 1900s and he finds villagers who are weary of strangers and apparently live in fear, particularly when there is a full moon. He hears of the legend of Megaera (Prudence Hyman) , a Gorgon so hideous that to look at her will turn you to stone. Of particular interest to him are Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing) and his attractive assistant Carla Hoffman (Barbara Shelley). Namaroff is obviously hiding something and is very possessive of Carla, who suffers from blackouts and memory loss. With the help of his mentor, Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee), Paul tries to unlock the secrets around them.–IMDB

There are classic horror elements here. There’s a mysterious monster, paranoid villagers, and craziness brought about under the full moon. It has similarities to The Wolf Man and Frankenstein. But The Gorgon has fun doing its own thing. The effects are pretty good, especially of the gorgon creature. The snakes coming out of her hair are something to behold. The makeup department really outdoes itself. The team of Roy Ashton, Frieda Steiger, and Richard Mills deserve a big round of applause. The cinematography of Michael Reed also deserves recognition. His other credits include another favorite of mine: Dracula: Prince of Darkness. His camerawork gives the film a great haunted look. His other credits include another favorite of mine: Dracula: Prince of Darkness. His camerawork gives the film a great haunted look. And Terence Fisher gives us another solid directing effort. He’s one of the best directors to ever work for Hammer.

But enough about the technical aspects. Let’s talk about this cast. They’re all solid in spite of the fairly ludicrous material. Longhurst holds his own alongside Hammer legends Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Prudence Hyman has fun playing the gorgon creature in all her campy glory. The Gorgon also benefits from the presence of Barbara Shelley. She brings a real vulnerability to Carla that draws you into the story. Horror fans may remember her from the horror classic Village of the Damned.

The Gorgon isn’t just a campy monster movie. It’s a fairly involving mystery with a great Gothic look. It’s not the best Hammer film. But any movie with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing is worth watching at least once.

 

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