Forgotten Films: The Gorgon (1964)
This is the 88th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
I have been sick for the last week, which is why there was no Forgotten Book last week. Still am sick, but I can manage a Forgotten Film review today and then hopefully the Forgotten Book a little later.
During this horrendous cold (and this is the worst cold I have ever experienced), I managed to miss Halloween, one of my favorite holidays. I had no real plans but I always hate missing doing something fun. Thankfully Turner Classic Movies, my favorite cable channel, kept up its annual tradition of providing some tasty scary delights. This year there were two films I really wanted to see which I had never seen. The Gorgon was one of them.
I have talked about seeing only a few Hammer Films in the theater. This one I had never even heard of until about 1997 or so when I got a volume of Hammer film novelizations. I had picked it up cheaply and decided that I was probably never going to read it so I offered it up on eBay. The paperback volume sold for about $70. I was amazed! And there was no real explanation other than two bidders both really wanted it. I wish I had another copy.
Flash forward to now. I was checking out items to DVR and there it was so a couple of quick button pushes and it was captured. The other day I was feeling well enough that I decided to watch it.
Set in modern times in some small European village, the story concerns frightening events around the town. For the past five years, people have been randomly killed by being turned to stone. No one likes to mention this fact. At the inquest, the local doctor Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing) conveniently manages to forget to include this information in his report. A young girl Sascha (Toni Gilpin) has been killed in the woods. Her lover Bruno (Jeremy Longhurst) was on his way to tell her father that he would do the right thing by her. She is turned to stone and he is found hanged in the trees. The killing is ruled a murder suicide.
Bruno’s father (Michael Goodliffe) comes to the village to get to the truth, knowing that his son would not do these things. He meets with the doctor and the doctor’s assistant, Carla Hoffman (Barbara Shelley, looking wonderful in these costumes). He challenges the doctor but gets no satisfaction. He soon finds himself turning to stone.
Enter the other son, Bruno’s brother Paul (Richard Pasco). He begins searching into the various killings in the neighborhood. He becomes entranced with Carla and they begin to make plans together. This does not set well with the doctor who secretly loves Carla. Paul is suddenly attacked by Megheara, the one remaining of the Greek Gorgon sisters, and nearly turned to stone. Fortunately his glimpse of her is a reflection and he does not suffer much damage. He is, however, unconscious of 4 days. I should point out that the Gorgon sisters were Medusa, Stheno and Euryale. No idea where Megheara comes from. Maybe she is a Gorgon cousin or something.
During his recovery, a friend and colleague from the university, Professor Meister (Christopher Lee) comes searching after him and then the true struggle of wills begins and Namaroff and Meister (Cashing and Lee) fight to control the horror that is affecting the village.
This is a pretty good little film and I am glad to have finally seen it. It has one drawback and that is the Gorgon herself. The makeup and other effects are pretty cheesy, though there was never a good gorgon on film until Clash of the Titans by Harryhausen.
Cushing, Lee and Shelley were among the best Hammer had and they are all splendid here. The supporting characters are very good, particularly Bruno’s father who is turning to stone and trying to write instructions to his son to help solve the mystery.
Terence Fisher, who directed almost all (if not all) the Lee and Cushing films for Hammer does a pretty splendid job here too.
Copies of the film are available on DVD from eBay. There are a few VHS copies from Amazon so it does not appear to be in great supply bit copies are there. Check it out; just don’t look in her eyes.
Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participati