21 August 2007 | Bunuel1976
THE GORGON (Terence Fisher, 1964) ***
Hammer’s THE REPTILE (1966) is a semi-remake of this one, and an improvement – for which the scriptwriter of THE GORGON, John Gilling, was upgraded to director. Typically, the DivX edition I watched was plagued by artifacts and a few jump-cuts (not to mention being in the odious pan-and-scan format); however, I was very glad to have finally caught up with it – especially in view of the DD Home Video company’s recent folding (this had been mentioned as one of a possible number of Columbia/Hammer DVD releases).
Peter Cushing is rather unsympathetic and pitiful here (but still commanding as ever); Christopher Lee (playing much older than his years and who only really comes onto the scene during the last half-hour) is his usual pompous self; Richard Pasco, then, makes for an unusual hero. As for the identity of the titular creature, Megera, this isn’t much of a mystery – since Barbara Shelley is virtually the only female in sight (and, conveniently, suffers from amnesia spells during the cycle of the full moon); Hammer does seem to have had their myths mixed up here, and isn’t Cushing rather negligent in having failed to prove his theory for five whole years?! Other notable cast members include police chief Patrick Troughton, Michael Goodliffe (as Pasco’s father, who along with his other son, falls victim to The Gorgon) and Jack Watson as Cushing’s over-eager aide.
In most aspects, this is a typical Hammer product from their 1955-68 heyday: rich-looking (production design courtesy of Bernard Robinson) but essentially undernourished – the monster ‘attacks’ being centered around one family unit, while the much-feared castle seems to be situated in the immediate vicinity of the local inn! Still, most of the Hammer stalwarts (above all director Fisher and composer James Bernard) are in good form – however, the two stars only interact in one brief scene and Roy Ashton’s make-up isn’t exactly great (which Fisher, astutely, generally films from a distance and, in fact, we only get to see her full figure at the very end).
Needless to say, I’d love to see this receive an official DVD release – along with my two most-desired Columbia/Hammer properties, namely TASTE OF FEAR (1961) and THE DAMNED (1963).