The Gorgon

1964

Horror /

8
IMDb Rating 6.5

Synopsis


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Forester-2 10/10

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.

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Reviewed by HK Cat 6/10

As mentioned by many, the Gorgon is not your typical scare-fest horror film.It's driving force is its atmosphere, its lore and understanding varioussubplots. Cheaply made, the film has no doubt turned some to stone-coldhysterics with its campy effects and home movie-like makeup of the creature.While the story has wonderful elements of mystery and lure, it never revealscertain motivations. For example, why has the Gorgon's spirit returned toearth? What is the Cushing character's intentions? Many of the story'scharacters know the myth behind the murders (how many variations are thereto a creature turning a man to stone with her gaze?), so controlling thecreature was no revelation.But all that aside, the film's theme is captivating. If you don't expect amonster movie, but view this film as a mystery based on folklore and with ahaunting backdrop, you too will be delighted with this hidden gem. There isa scene in castle, when Mageara first appears and we catch glimpses of herpeeking out at a prospective victim. It's a tantalizing prelude to theterror to come. But the scene that had me mesmerized , and that singularlycrystalizes the Gorgon's chilling presence is when she has turned acharacter with her demonic stare, then seemingly drifts back into theshadows. It is a strangely beautiful scene.The Gorgon, called the Mageara, is a true mystery. She has no emotion, notrue motivation, and she is not shown stalking her prey. Like a black widowin human form, she merely waits for (perhaps even lures) innocent souls tocome to her parlor. Mageara seemingly in incapable of harming man, exceptfor her petrifying gaze; she quietly floats about the castle. If I were toremake this film, I would tell the story from the perspective of the femalehost, and the struggle to understand her curse. There is sheer tragedy inwhat Hammer has presented, and I find myself looking upon many of thestory's characters with sense of sadness and doom.Finally, I want to say that I wish the stone victims could have turnedquickly, like those poor souls in the film "Thief of Baghdad," with SteveReeves. Oh well, just a last thought.

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Reviewed by Ian Brown (Glad-2)

The Gorgon ranks among Hammer's very best. Its premise is daring andimaginative - a female spectre so hideous that all who gaze on her areturned to stone, a power even more unnerving than the physical ferocity oflycanthropy or vampirism.<br><br>It boasts a wealth of Hammer expertise: Peter Cushing and Christopher Leeare at their peak; John Gilling scripted lucidly; James Bernard's score isone of his finest, the familiar overwrought strings underlaid with aspectral organ effect; and Michael Reed's pathecolor photography definesthe Hammer &#145;look', all sombre interiors and gorgeous autumnal forests. Butthe triumph is finally director Terence Fisher's.<br><br>The film begins beautifully with the credits superimposed against the twilitbattlements of Castle Borski. Other touches fleetingly capture the mood ofgothic-romantic literature. Professor Heitz beguiled into the forest by theGorgon Magaera's distant siren-call. Her reflection glimpsed through thedead leaves floating on a mill pond. The encounter by moonlight in thegraveyard between Richard Pasco and Barbara Shelley.<br><br>The Gorgon is certainly one of Hammer's most pessimistic entries. Thesetting is turn-of-the-century Middle Europe and the production-design moreTeutonic than ever (Hammer, ever economical, transposed the monster of Greekclassical myth to their familiar Germanic milieu). When we join the storythe village of Vandorf has been under Magaera's baleful spell for sevenyears. Much of the action takes place in a repressive asylum. And CastleBorski is not the richly appointed seat of other Hammer films but a brokenwindswept ruin.<br><br>Characterisation is equally unrelenting. Cushing's Dr Namaroff is a moreruthless and maniacal variation of Van Helsing. Lee's Professor Meister ,though gruffly benevolent, is overbearingly fatalistic. Meanwhile the mostsympathetic characters - Carla, Paul, his father and brother - are allkilled.<br><br>OK, inevitably the Gorgon's makeup is weak (though it scared me when I firstsaw it at age 11). The sickly green palor and spidery wrinkles are good,but the snake-hair just looks like she washed it the night before andcouldn't do a thing with it. Half-glimpsed, her first appearance isremarkably effective, though. Her graceful tiptoe from behind the cobwebsin ghastly counterpoint to what we know will be her terrible visage. Asudden shock close-up and she disappears - almost glides - back into theshadows in long shot, a sequence as well done as anything Fisher has everconstructed. Alas, audience expectation (something Hammer usually deferredto) demanded a full-facial exposure at the end.<br><br>The temptation would be to say that The Gorgon might have worked better inblack and white - but that would be to deny Michael Reed's disciplined useof colour. Perhaps only today's enhanced computer-graphics could properlypull off the effect required.<br><br>That flaw apart, The Gorgon survives as an early Hammer classic that canstand alongside Dracula, Brides of Dracula and The Hound of theBaskervilles.

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