Hammer Films / Monsters

The Gorgon (1964)

This Hammer film is not the best of Hammer, nor as popular as some other Hammer titles but it really exemplifies how Hammer does horror right, even with a simple story.

In this case, they cleverly take the Greek myth of the Gorgons turning people to stone and turn it into a horror tale. Megaera, a Gorgon (clearly upset that she was not as popular as Medusa, probably because she was actually a Fury not a Gorgon, whatevs) has come to possess the doctor’s assistant Carla, although she (and we, supposedly) are not privy to this until late in the movie.

Dr. Namaroff, played by Peter Cushing tries to cover her transgressions and keep an eye on her because she is a victim of Megaera, but  also because he loves her. She is very pretty and has an amazing shade of red hair.

Anyway, a man sees his son executed for a crime he didn’t commit, figures out its the Gorgon, then sees her and turns to stone himself, but not before dispatching a letter to his other son. Paul arrives to bury his father and determine what took his and indirectly, his brother’s life. Note that the father’s mustache is exactly the opposite of Peter Cushing’s, a cautionary tale, I presume. Choose your facial hair design wisely, hair on the lip means a longer life.

Paul then enlists the aid of Christopher Lee (as Professor Karl Meister), which is exactly what I think in a bind: where the hell is Christopher Lee when you need him?

Lee, naturally, has it figured out pretty quickly.
But Paul has made himself vulnerable by falling in love with Carla and can’t believe it’s her, despite the Meister trying to set him straight. Unfortunately, he then falls victim to her stony stare. But the mustachioed Lee saves the day with his brutal, but necessary measures.

Cue super cheesy make-up and special effects!

This is what Hammer Productions ace:

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (either/or but especially both together)
Monsters, however silly at the reveal
Creepy stuff happens at night, and in storms and with full moons
Gothic Buildings, graveyards, in other words-creepy places
Older time periods, in this case, Victorian, which allows for certain liberties and suspense of beliefs.
Pretty girls in peril
Perfect story arcs: characters and plot are quickly established and action ensues until a clear resolution emerges. There is no fooling around with a winning formula.
Short and not so sweet. Unless you got something really special, there is no reason to go over 90 minutes in a flick and most Hammer productions are more economical than that.
Costumes!Over-the-top Make-up! Technicolor!

So any story, even a weak, half-hearted one, can keep an audience when structured well. More filmmakers could use this lesson, I think.

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