Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Turn to Stone

Film: The Gorgon
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

I love how completely insane Horror Studios was in the 1960s. You want horror movies? They’ve got horror movies. Sure, there’s an endless supply of Dracula movies and vampire spin-offs, reboots of the Mummy and Frankenstein movies by the metric ton. But Hammer also went far afield for their horror movie fodder. Sherlock Holmes stories, for instance. And weird Gothic tales like The Reptile. And then there’s The Gorgon. The creature in this movie is…a gorgon, as in the mythical snake-haired creature whose look can turn a man to stone. It’s so completely out of left field. I love how absolutely insane it is.

Our story takes place at some vague time in the Victorian past. An artist named Bruno Heitz (Jeremy Longhurst) is told by his model/girlfriend/fiancée that she is pregnant. He goes off to have the confrontation with her father and she chases after him. But she wanders by the dreaded Borski Castle. She screams, and the scene ends.

When we pick back up, her body is being dropped off in the office of Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing, who looks like he’s been eating regularly in this film—his cheekbones aren’t nearly as prominent as normal). She’s been petrified. A search is ordered for Bruno, and he’s found swinging from a tree. Needing a solution for what has happened, the nature of the death of the young woman is covered up and Bruno is posthumously found guilty of her murder. However, no one who really knows anything is satisfied by this, especially Bruno’s father Jules Heitz (Michael Goodliffe).

Professor Jules Heitz is convinced that the spirit of Megaera, one of the original gorgons from the Greek myth, has returned. But this is definitely only a version of Megaera and one that doesn’t really comport with the actual myth. How so? Well, evidently Megaera isn’t always around and only shows up each month during the full moon. So, essentially, she’s kind of a were-gorgon. Looking to clear the name of his son, Professor Heitz catches sight of the gorgon and slowly begins to turn to stone. It’s a process that takes a little time, though, and he pens a three-page letter to his other son, Paul (Richard Pasco), about what is happening.

Paul shows up, and immediately has his own encounter with Megaera, although he only sees her in reflection. This makes his hair go grey, but doesn’t petrify him. While under the care of Namaroff, Paul starts making moony eyes at Namaroff’s assistant Carla (Barbara Shelley), much to Namaroff’s chagrin. Also arriving on the scene is Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee), who is on hand to help track down and kill the gorgon. Standing in their way is the local police force, headed by Inspector Kanof (Patrick Troughton).

The Gorgon is a lot of fun. What it isn’t is a film that makes a great deal of sense. The town in this case has a monster living in the nearby abandoned castle. We find out that these mysterious murders—where people are literally turned to stone—have been going on for five years and they happen around the abandoned castle, and always during the full moon. And yet, people still show up around the castle on nights with a full moon. This is the equivalent of people not being able to figure out that there’s a problem with taking shortcuts through the local minefield.

So, The Gorgon doesn’t make a lot of sense. And ultimately, it doesn’t even try to make sense. There’s no reason for one of the gorgons from mythology to show back up, and when showing back up only showing up three nights per month (she’s more active on the second night of the full moon we are told…and people still get petrified). None of this is explained.

It’s also a movie that doesn’t really trust that its audience won’t figure things out very quickly. There are only a couple of people who could possibly be Megaera, and since one of them is autopsied and has her brain removed about midway through the film, there’s no surprise at the end when the creature is finally dealt with.

There could have been an interesting story here, but The Gorgon decided to mess with the mythology of the creature in question. Why do that? I realize there was a desire to make a story, but this didn’t need to be so drastically changed. A were-Medusa is actually more ridiculous than just someone with snakes in her hair and the ability to turn people to stone.

This was fun to watch, but ultimately, it’s so silly that it can’t be taken seriously. But man, do I love the “fuck it, let’s roll!” attitude of old Hammer.

Why to watch The Gorgon: You’ve gotta love just how bonkers Hammer Studios was in the 1960s.
Why not to watch: It plays merry hob with the mythology.


  1. Color me intrigued lol. I've never heard of this but now I really want to see it.

    1. While I don't love the ads, Tubi is great because it's otherwise free...and they have a very weird collection of movies.

  2. I think I want to see this as well.

    1. There are a lot worse ways to spend 90 minutes.