by Evan ODell 2/8/10
(1964) Directed by Terence Fisher. Story by J. Llewellyn Devine. Screenplay by John Gilling. Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Richard Pasco, Barbara Shelley, Michael Goodliffe, and Patrick Troughton.
I had wanted to see this one for some time. I'm a fan of the gothic horror of Hammer Studios and this was perhaps the greatest of their films yet to be released on dvd. That changed last year with the release of Hammer Films: Icons of Horror which also contains THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL, THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB, and SCREAM OF FEAR.
This film reunites director Terence Fisher with horror alums Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Terence Fisher had been directing movies since the late Forties and he was director on many of the best Hammer films including THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE HORROR OF DRACULA, THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE MUMMY, THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL, THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and many more. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee had already made an indelible mark on British horror as Dr. Frankenstein and Dracula, respectively. The thick mustache which Lee must act from under is definitely not his best or most iconic look.
This one has all the gothic atmosphere of other Hammer films. While likening the Gorgon phenomenon to lycanthropes. That is, an ordinary human, possessed of a Gorgon, has the ability to be taken over by the Gorgon on the second night of the full moon. This works for the film, but seems to point out the budgetary constraints. I might have preferred some kind of seemingly unstoppable mythological entity with her own agenda.
The Gorgon is wisely not revealed much until the end, when the budgetary constraints become all too evident. The snakes in the hair aren't too convincing. Though the effects of the final sequence reminds me of the death sequence of THE HORROR OF DRACULA and I'm sure was quite impressive in it's day. The Gorgon's name in the picture is Megaera and it mentions how she is one of three and the others were killed long ago. Greek myth teaches us there were three of them, but they were named Medusa, Stheno and Euryale. The character names were changed in the German print to reflect those of Greek myth.
The German village of Vandorf has had a number of murders occur over the past seven years. They've hidden the murders for fear that a local legend involving the castle Borski has come true. When a woman is killed by being inexplicably turned to stone, they blame her lover, Bruno (Jeremy Longhurst). The man's father, Professor Heitz (Michael Goodliffe) investigates and he finds the real culprit. Before he can succumb to the monster, he is able to get a message to his other son revealing the matter. Paul Heitz (Richard Pasco) arrives to investigate and falls into a love triangle with Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing) over his nurse/charge Carla (Barbara Shelley).