October has passed at last and our time with gobs of horrible sequels has ended. So it's back to normal, but some things are changing. I used IMDB to make a whole big history of horror list, so I hate to waste it, but approaching it chronologically is not working for me. So I'll be skipping around a lot and maybe one day have "best of" lists for all the decades after 1931. I'll be periodically covering non-horror fun as well, just depends on my mood. This is a blog, not a peer-reviewed journal, after all.
Speaking of fun, THE GORGON from 1964 is solid evidence that Hammer fare could be worthwhile even when nothing hit "classic" status. I heartily approve the use of old-timey monsters like gorgons (and mermaids!) to jazz up your monster movies. Even when the results aren't amazing, as occurs here, just ditching werewolves and vampers for villains with less exposure and more mythical cachet is a good move. GORGON features a gorgon, who has taken human form and is terrorizing an English village and turning its residents to stone. Hammer mainstay Peter Cushing plays the village doctor with a lot more ambiguity than your usual Peter Cushing hero/madman thing. Also good news!
The acting in this is really impeccable. My pick for MVP is Michael Goodliffe as the parent of a gorgonized boy. He's not present throughout the movie, but his scenes are a clear highlight. He's mighty displeased with the whispering conspiracy in this town (the town is like Amity and the Gorgon is like the shark in this analogy and Michael Goodliffe is Mrs. Kintner). Note to self: see more Michael Goodliffe.
Guess who else is in this? Christopher Lee! Like Cushing, he gets a decidedly non-Christopher Lee-ish role here as a surly professor. It's pretty rad to see the ordinarily aristocratic hero or vamp Lee barking at people and threatening constables while sporting a shaggy mustache.
The performances give a lift to what might otherwise be a pretty prosaic, old-timey monster movie. We do occasionally get swamped by well-designed sets and the directorial choices made by Terence Fisher do not err, but not much in THE GORGON is trying to do anything new. The plot doesn't waver into new regions and the intent is always a slow-burn spook, using traditional methods.
If we don't get a lot of reaching for new heights, we also don't get a lot of careless falls. GORGON knows where it's going and steers us there unfailingly. You could maybe cite some of the makeup as unfortunate, but the worst of it is kept unseen until the absolute very end, and the majority of the stone-turned effects are well done.
GORGON does a great job of keeping its titular monster obscure, too.
This is very much a traditional monster affair, so don't expect buckets of blood to be sloshed about. That said, GORGON has plenty of kicks for those who are willing to go with its flow.
"Don't use long words, Inspector; they don't suit you!"