The Gorgon (1964)

Article #1179 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-6-2004
Posting Date: 11-3-2004
Directed by Terence Fisher
Featuring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley

People are being turned to stone in an East European village, and a man whose dead son was held responsible for the murders vows to investigate.

I go into this movie with two prejudices. First, the gorgon has always been one of those creatures that to me seems out of place anywhere but in Greek mythology, and it seems just odd to me to find the creature appearing in this more Gothic setting. However, this is a minor quibble, and one that I can easily set aside if all else works.

The other prejucide has to do with bringing the Gorgon to life. The Gorgon is one of the most memorable monsters ever devised, and I believe if you’re going to try to bring this creature to life, you’d better do it right. In other words, you’d better deliver on the “snakes for hair” issue. At the time this movie was made, that would have required stop-motion animation, and this was obviously beyond Hammer’s means. So what we get is an unconvincing mask with snakes that occasionally bob up and down, and though that was probably the best they could have done on their budget, I find it thoroughly unsatisfying. I think they would have been better off making this movie about a different monster altogether.

That being said, the movie works well enough on many other levels. The acting is fine, with Cushing at his usual level of excellence and Christopher Lee giving a fairly energetic performance. I didn’t even recognize Patrick Troughton as the Inspector; despite having a truly memorable face and having gained fame for playing the Doctor in “Doctor Who”, he somehow manages to look very different in his other roles. The movie is deliberately paced, but never becomes dull. The script is a little contrived at times (the only reason Peter Cushing shows up with a sword rather than some other weapon in the final scene is because it proves convenient for the end of the movie), but this is a minor problem. What the movie really needs is a convincing monster.


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