Horror Review: The Gorgon (1964)

In the early 20th century, a Gorgon takes human form and terrorizes a small European village by turning its citizens to stone.

Before you read this I must admit that this film is one of my all-time favourite Hammer films, so it may be over-praised by me and I know it’s loathed by some. This film stars 3 of Hammers best stars, Sir Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing & Barbara Shelley. As we all know Lee & Cushing are one of the greatest acting partner’s and this film is no different to any others for their on screen chemistry.

The year is 1910. In the rural German village of ‘Vandorf’, seven murders have been committed within the past five years, each victim having been petrified into a stone figure. Rather than investigate it, the local authorities dismiss the murders for fear of a local legend having come true. When a local girl becomes the latest victim and her suicidal lover made the scapegoat, the father of the condemned man decides to investigate and discovers that the cause of the petrifying deaths is a phantom. The very last of the snake-haired Gorgon sisters haunts the local castle and turns victims to stone during the full moon.

These films may not seem scary compared to today’s Horror films, they may even seem cheesy, camp and outdated, but for entertainment it’s up there with the best of them.

You also can’t deny the acting ability of the cast, Lee & Cushing are amazing in this film, you see them bouncing off one another, giving each scene their all, their acting ability is out of this world, true masters of their craft.

I also love the story, Greek mythology is always fun and Hammer touched on it often but in my opinion this is the best. The dialogue, the production, the score it’s all beautifully packaged and so well thought out, something I miss from today’s Horrors.

One thing I love about old films is how beautifully made they are, the attention to detail is amazing, each scene is like a beautifully shot photo that’s come to life and is playing out before your very eyes. Also the use of colours is subtle yet genius, if you don’t understand what I’m talking about then watch some old Hammer films and you will see exactly what I’m on about.

If you haven’t seen this film I suggest you at-least give it a chance. It still amazes me to this day how many kids who are Horror fans don’t know about Hammer films, it’s always good to see the roots of the genre you love, where it all started and what it has inspired. I’m not saying this film will change your life, but it will entertain you.

To see the trailer for “The Gorgon” click here

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

  • Prudence Hyman’s snake-filled wig was worked by five wires which were attached to a box that was about 25 feet behind her. 
  • Although the UK cinema version was uncut some shots of the Gorgon’s decapitated head were slightly darkened by the BBFC. 
  • Actress Barbara Shelley, who played the possessed heroine, Carla Hoffmann, wanted to play the part of the gorgon as well for continuity, and suggested to producer Anthony Nelson Keys that she use a special wig with live green garden snakes woven into it for a more realistic effect. Her idea was rejected by Keys due to budget and time considerations. When Keys saw the abysmal gorgon effects in the finished film, he told Shelley that he should have listened to her suggestion. As Christopher Lee quips, “The only thing wrong with “The Gorgon” is the gorgon!” 
  • The name of the Gorgon character is “Megaera”, supposedly taken from mythology. But Megaera (“jealous”) in ancient myth is one of the three Erinyes, or Furies – the goddesses of revenge – not a Gorgon. According to Hesiod, the three Gorgons were Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa. 
  • Prudence Hyman was nearly decapitated for real. She was supposed to duck when Lee swung the sword but forgot to do so at the critical moment. The assistant director pushed her aside just in time. The scene was then redone with a dummy. 
  • Michael Goodliffe who plays Richard Pasco ‘s father in this film is only 12 years older than Pasco. 
  • Christopher Lee is quoted in ‘The Films of 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.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s