The Gorgon

Dir: Terence Fisher
Star: Richard Pasco, Peter Cushing, Barbara Shelley, Christopher Lee

This takes the legend of the gorgon - I'm sure you all know of her, Greek mythology, hair of snakes, turns people to stone with a gaze, Perseus killed her using his shield as a mirror - and moves it into turn of the century middle-Europe, where it seems something is doing the whole petrification thing again. After losing his brother and father to whatever it is in just one week, Paul Heitz (Pasco) travels to the village where it happened to investigate, only to be stonewalled by the authorities. He meets Dr. Namaroff (Cushing), the man in charge of the local institution, and falls for his lovely assistant, Carla (Shelley), but also encounters the creature responsible for the deaths, surviving the encounter thanks to only glimpsing her reflection in a pool. For assistance, Paul's mentor, Professor Meister (Lee) joins him, and they also seek to rescue Carla, who seems reluctant to leave town for some reason. Particularly during the full-moon.

Rarely have I felt the feeling of disappointment experienced on finally seeing the monster. By coincidence, after finishing this, we bumped into Clash of the Titans - the old one - and saw Ray Harryhausen's infinitely-superior stop-motion gorgon. In contrast, this looks like a bad Halloween costume, and needless to say, this damages the impact disastrously, since it's been built up as the ultimate monster, whose appearance is enough to kill. The only way this gorgon would do so, is if the target were to split their sides laughing. We were additionally disappointed to discover that, despite "starring" Lee and Cushing, they have one exactly scene opposite each other, with the former barely in the first half at all. While they are their usual reliable selves, of course, they only show up Pasco as a bland, uninteresting hero. The script doesn't seem to know what to do, either; ok, we've got a monster. Now, what? The cinematography looks as pretty as ever, and Shelley gives great hair: it's not enough to lift this up, and more proof that Hammer's strength lay when they avoided the need for effects as much as possible.

[November 2010]

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