Medusa, who is probably the best-known of the Gorgons who haunt Greek mythology, is a scary creation.
That may seem like a rather obvious statement to make but seriously, let’s consider just how scary Medusa is. First off, there’s the fact that her hair is made out of snakes. Snakes are frightening in general. The other day, Doc caught a grass snake and tried to give it to me by dropping it at my feet. I have never been quicker to jump away from a cat. It’s not just Texas grass snakes that frighten me, though. There’s the rattlesnakes that I used to see when my family was living in New Mexico. There’s the water moccasin that I once saw swimming in Boggy Creek when I was up in Arkansas. I’m pretty sure that I once saw a cobra slithering through downtown Denton but all of my friends insist that it was just a water hose that somebody left out. Well, no matter! Snakes are scary on their own but they’re even scarier when they’re growing out of someone’s head!
And then there’s the fact that if you look at Medusa or any of her sisters, you turn to stone! I mean, it just takes one look and boom! You’re a statue! I imagine the process of transforming would feel terrible. Can you even imagine? Even worse would be someone trying to move your body and accidentally dropping you. I mean, you could lose a finger! I guess it wouldn’t matter since you would be dead but still, that would totally suck to lose a finger that way.
First released in 1964 and having since achieved a certain immortality based on frequent TCM showings, The Gorgon is a production of Hammer Film. The usual Hammer monsters are replaced by Mageara (played by Prudence Hyman), a Gorgon who has somehow found herself in a typical, isolated Hammer village. Neither Dracula nor Baron von Frankenstein are present in this film, though the actors who played them do have roles. Christopher Lee is Prof. Karl Meister. Peter Cushing is Dr. Namaroff. Together, they solve crimes and hunt the monsters!
Villagers are getting turned to stone and innocent artists are being condemned to die. We know that it’s all due to the Gorgon but it takes everyone else in the film a while to figure it out. For instance, Paul (Richard Pasco) has to dig up his father’s grave in order to be convinced that the old man died from being turned to stone. At first, the only person who truly seems to believe in the Gorgon is Namaroff’s assistant, Carla (played by Hammer films regular, Barbara Shelley). By the end of the film, of course, everyone knows that Gorgons are real! Of course, almost everyone has been turned to stone, as well. Even by the standards of Hammer, the body county is high and the monster is merciless in The Gorgon.
It’s an effective Hammer film, though it’s never quite as much fun as Hammer’s Dracula or Frankenstein films. The Gorgon takes itself perhaps a tad too seriously but, at the same time, you have to love any film that features both Lee and Cushing working together for once, as opposed to trying to kill each other. Christopher Lee especially seems to be enjoying himself as Dr. Namaroff. Lee reportedly grew quickly tired of playing Dracula and his joy of having a different type of role is palpable and perhaps the most likable thing about The Gorgon. As for the Gorgon herself, she’s properly frightening. I mean, she has snakes in her hair, after all.
When this movie last aired on TCM, there were technical difficulties during the last seven minutes of the showing. The screen went blank and then viewers were treated to several different takes of one of the Gorgon’s victims trying to write a letter as he turned to stone. It kind of freaked everyone out, to be honest. Had the Gorgons taken over TCM? Fortunately, order was restored in time for everyone to watch Plague of the Zombies. Thankfully, things worked out.