The crucial clue to understanding the work of director Terence Fisher is tonote that his directing hero was not one of the 'usual suspects' for ahorror director, like Lang or Hitchcock, but Frank Borzage, the 30'sdirector of tender, fragile romances like 'Moonrise' and 'A Farewell ToArms'. And as he grew more confident and independent in his work for Hammerfilms, Fisher's most personal work smuggled Borzagian romance past hisproducers in horror guise. Forget the usual critical cliche about his work:that it presents rigidly defined black-and-white battles between Good andEvil.This only applies to a handful of his pictures, usually from theearlier part of his Hammer career. In Fisher's mature work, the linesbetween good and evil are often more ambiguous than in many of the moremodernist horrors that came after him (e.g.'The Exorcist' and 'Halloween').And his most heartfelt work - 'Curse Of The Werewolf','Phantom Of TheOpera','Frankenstein Created Woman'and the film discussed here, is asequence of tragic love stories.Which brings us to 'The Gorgon', one of the most romantic but also thebleakest of these love stories. All the key characters in the film aredriven by the most desperate love: the pregnant Sascha in the openingscenes, Professor Heitz mourning and defending a lost son, Carla and Paulintheir foredoomed affair, Namaroff oppressing Carla and torturing himselfwith the love she can never reciprocate, Ratoff(who might at first seem atoken thug)worshipping Carla as devoutly as is master does, evenChristopherLee's celibate Meister has a father's anxious protectiveness towardsPaul.But in the bleak world which cameraman Michael Reed depicts throughout ingrim blues and greys, there is no reward for such devotion but the stonyisolation of death. The film, however, is tragic rather than merelynihilistic, for the characters are haunted throughout by the thought thattheir love might somehow win them a place in some better world somewhereelse. This makes Carla's parting from Paul in the castle scene all the morepoignant: haven't we all known a moment such as she knows then, when wefacethe fact that the door to salvation was open to us as recently as a coupleof minutes ago, but we looked away at the wrong moment and the breeze blewit shut?That's why this, like all Fisher's best films, is such a treasurable work.It's not about shock effects, but about the beauty and sadness of beingalive. It stands as the bleakest of all Gorgon myths, bleaker by far thanthe Greek originals, for it portrays a whole world whose fate is to turn tostone.
In early-twentieth-century middle-Europe, villagers are literally becoming petrified. Although the authorities try to hush the matter up, it is apparent that at the full moon, Megaera, a Gorgon, leaves her castle lair and anyone looking on her face is turned to stone. When this fate befalls a visitor, experts from the University of Leipzig arrive to try and get to the bottom of it all.
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