Cinema Sunday: The Gorgon (1964)

THE GORGON

Title: The Gorgon

Distributor: Hammer/Columbia

Writer: John Gilling

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco, Michael Goodliffe

Released: August 24th, 1964

MPAA: PG

 

Another Sunday, and another movie review! Huzzah! Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are the best acting tandem in horror movies ever assembled. Yeah, I just said that. Come at me with whoever else you have, but it won’t change my opinion. The sheer number of movies they did together helps that fact, and I’m not denying that, but seriously look at their body of work as a tandem, and you’ll be impressed!

This is one of Hammer Studios lesser known films (by the mainstream media types), but still has some redeeming qualities about it that cannot be denied. A tale that has some roots in Greek mythology, and add a splash of Hammer Gothic horror, and voila, you get The Gorgon! Let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of this one now!

The story begins with a young artist, Bruno Heitz (Jeremy Longhurst), as he’s drawing a portrait of his (topless) girlfriend. She informs him that she’s pregnant, and he storms off to tell her father that…”he isn’t going to avoid his obligations.'” As he heads into the forest, his girlfriend runs after him, but suddenly runs into some unseen killer that takes her out. The next day, we see that the girl has been found dead, and a search for Bruno is in effect. It doesn’t take long to find him, and when the police do, they’re shocked to see that he’s hanged himself from a tree…or did he?

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At the trial for this affair, it is clear that the local government wants to silence this case before it gets any more widespread. The father of the deceased, Professor Jules Heitz (Michael Goodliffe), is there, and has his say about what he theorizes happened. He tells the court that he will not rest until his son’s name is cleared. The court rules that Bruno murdered his girlfriend, then committed suicide. Professor Heitz and the local medical authority, Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing), are old colleagues, so after the hearing, Professor Heitz pays him a visit. Namaroff tells him nothing, and that he cannot help him. Heitz leaves, and is noticeably upset, but also realizes that he’s on to something fishy going on in Vandorf.

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The next day, Professor Heitz and his butler are at the home that his son was occupying at the time of his death, when all of a sudden, a few locals break in and threaten him if he doesn’t leave. A struggle ensues, but then the police show up. Everyone leaves, and Professor Heitz is even more aroused to find answers to this mystery. Later that evening, Professor Heitz hears some singing and heads over to the property nearby. As he creeps around the old castle, he can feel someone is there, watching him. We see a shadowy figure step out and Heitz screams in agony, and flees for his home. He reaches the home, but is badly hurt (image above). He’s turning to stone, but manages to write a few pages to tell his other son, Paul (Richard Pasco), of what has transpired.

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The following scene is Namaroff and Paul Heitz arguing over what killed his father. Namaroff stone-walls him, so he leaves. As he gets to the home, he sees someone in the house. It’s Dr. Namaroff’s assistant, Carla Hoffman (Barbara Shelley). She tells him that he’s in danger, and he should leave, but Paul refuses. Later on, Carla is talking with Namaroff about the gorgon theory that Paul had written back at the house. Speaking of Paul, as he’s sitting down at the home, a terrible wind blows the doors open, and he then hears that same siren song nearby. As he investigates, he sees a hideous face in water, reflecting at him. It drives him temporarily mad, and he passes out. He wakes up days later in the hospital, and sees Carla watching over him. He’s unaware that he’s been unconscious for days, and gets crazy when he finds out that the court hearing for his father is over. Namaroff has a brief discussion with him, but nothing gets resolved.

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After leaving the hospital, Paul decides to exhume the body of his father, and he then sees that he was turned to stone. He’s surprised from behind by Carla, and the two talk about what’s going on in Vandorf. Paul then realizes he’s in over his head, so he summons his former teacher, Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee), to help with the investigation. Once he arrives, the stuff really hits the fan, because of his no-nonsense approach to everything! The two discuss the problems in Vandorf, but Paul has fallen in love with Carla, and is letting it cloud his judgement.

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Meanwhile, Namaroff sends his goon, Ratoff (Jack Watson), to assassinate Paul, but old Professor Meister has a trick or two up his sleeve, and saves Paul. He then confronts the police, Namaroff, and anyone else that he thinks needs to answer some questions. He gets shown the door just like Paul and everyone else before him. Meister and Heitz then try to form a plan, but first visit the police for some information. They figure out that there were only a handful of women that have recently moved to Vandorf, thus giving them the lead that they need to solve this mystery!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

While this isn’t the best of Hammer’s offerings, it still pretty cool. Cushing and Lee both give very solid performances, as does Richard Pasco. Even Jack Watson (the doctor’s goon, Ratoff), is quite convincing with his menacing attitude. Barbara Shelley isn’t anything to write home about in this film (even though she’s had a few other great roles). The film is a little inconsistent with pacing until Christopher Lee’s character show up, and gets the ball rolling.

The sets, and atmosphere are typical for Hammer, meaning that they really drive the mood home. Although the “monster” isn’t very scary, the build-up, acting (for the most part), sets, atmosphere, and music score, make this film certainly worth a watch now and again. I won it on a four disc set that has three other classics on it that I’ll definitely be reviewing in the future (one of which I’ve already reviewed). Listen, give this one a look, if for no other reason than Cushing and Lee giving solid performances!

 

Check out the trailer here!

 

 

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