Sunday, June 21, 2015

Snakes on a Mane

Another Hammer horror from 1964, The Gorgon directed by Terence Fisher from a script by John Gilling based on J.Llewellyn Devine's story.

Another attempt by Hammer to start a monster franchise of their very own by raiding Greek mythology and putting another horror in a derelict castle that terrorises the locals of a European village. And it brings Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee back together again which was apparently great fun for the two friends although they share very little screen time together. Cushing's local doctor is a bit of an oddity, he clearly knows what is going on but tries to keep it all covered up possibly because of his love for Barbara Shelley's character. This leaves Christopher Lee to turn up in the second half of the film as Professor Meister who takes on the Van Helsing role.

Along the way various unfortunates get completely or partially paralysed by the mythical Megaera but it does take a while to get to the castle climax that we've been headed for right from the opening shot. Part of the problem was that the Gorgon's snake wig didn't really work and they quite rightly chose to keep her in the shadows for most of the time. When she does step into the light the ballet dancer Prudence Hyman gives her a beautiful and sinuous movement which goes some way to distracting from the failings of the snakes in her hair which were worked by air pipes trailing from the back of her costume. Apparently Barbara Shelley had offered to play the part with real grass snakes in her headdress and it's a shame they didn't at least try that.

This is rather like The Reptile with another new monster who has to be hidden because the make up isn't great. But any film that opens with a title card reading Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee has got to be worth a look. Four out of five petrified thumbs up and Hammer time continues.

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