Release Date: October 18th, 1964 (UK)
Directed by: Terence Fisher
Written by: John Gilling
Music by: James Bernard
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Richard Pasco, Barbara Shelley, Michael Goodliffe
Hammer Film Productions, Columbia Pictures, 83 Minutes
Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing starred alongside each other in over twenty movies. When it comes to watching old school horror pictures, especially from Hammer, it is hard to see one without seeing the other. Many films they did together are classics. Then there are some that aren’t. This film, historically speaking, probably falls somewhere in the middle, as far as popular opinion goes. Personally, I love The Gorgon and think it is one of the best Lee-Cushing films not involving Dracula or Frankenstein.
If you have seen a Hammer horror film before, you probably know what to expect. There really are no surprises here. It is consistent visually with their late 50s/early 60s gothic horror style. In fact, it is directed by Terence Fisher who was Hammer’s premier director and the man who helmed most of Hammer’s classics.
The story is different than other Hammer films, as the monster in this one is something out of the ordinary. Well, if the title is any indicator, the monster is a gorgon: an entity like Medusa from Greek mythology. She has snakes for hair, lives in a dark abandoned castle and can turn anyone into stone with her gaze. The village around the castle is alerted to something being strangely amiss when the body of a murdered girl is discovered to be rock solid. This causes the doctors, scientists and other folks around to get involved in solving the mystery.
What makes this film interesting, is that Cushing and Lee are sort of playing a role reversal in this film. Usually, Cushing is the good and pure hero – the Van Helsing type, while Lee is either the monster or some other type of morally depraved presence. Lee is the straight-laced hero this time, as Cushing is a more questionable character.
The role reversal and the unique monster make this picture something special in the Hammer Films catalog. And whether or not the special effects stand up to the test of time, the film still comes off as pretty creepy. It makes me wish that modern horror could accomplish something this suspenseful, without exposing the monster every five minutes and relying on jump scares for the entirety of the picture.
While this might not be as well remember as Horror of Dracula or The Curse of Frankenstein, it belongs in their company. It is certainly much better than most of the sequels spawned by those two films and they had a lot of sequels. The Gorgon is one of Hammer’s best pictures.