The Gorgon (1964) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Gorgon (1964)

The cover of the Australian Bluray of The Gorgon

Film: Hammer horror films are some of my favourite horror films, and I have been a champion of them for many years, even to the point I once had a letter published in an early issue of Kitbuilders Magazine wondering why there were hundreds of Universal Horror characters available in model kit form, but Hammer horror characters didn’t seem to get much respect from those in the ‘kitbashing’ and resin model kit hobby.

Thankfully those days are gone and those still in that hobby, of which I am no longer one (due mainly to time restraints), have many Hammer characters to choose from.. and perhaps I like to think I may have had a small part in that.

The Gorgon: Peter Cushing as Dr. Namaroff

These films have had us see heaps of exposure to wonderful actors like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Michael Ripper and their female counterparts, the so-called Hammer Glamour set, such as Caroline Monroe, Stephanie Beacham and Madeline Smith. The most famous of their films were about Dracula, or Frankenstein, but their forays into other creatures, like zombies, in The Plague of Zombies, or lizard-women, like in The Reptile were also occasionally incredibly entertaining.

Which leads us to this film, The Gorgon.

Paul Heinz (Richard Pasco) has travelled to a small village to investigate the death of his father, Professor Jules Heinz (Michael Goodliffe) and his brother, Bruno (Jeremy Longhurst), who apparently killed himself after murdering his pregnant girlfriend.

The doctor who pronounced them both dead, Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing) seems to be hiding something from Paul’s investigation though, which may or may not involve his assistant, Carla (Barbara Shelley), and legends of the mythical Gorgon, Megaera, keep turning up in conversation.

Thankfully, Paul’s mentor, Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee) turns up to assist, but can they solve the mystery before either one of them get… ahem… stoned?

The Gorgon: Patrick Troighton and Christopher Lee

Immediately this film is notable as it has Lee and Cushing in it, so Hammer fans should sit up and take notice, and the performances of all concerned are melodramatic, as one would expect. Special note should be made that this film also features second Doctor Who Patrick Troughton as the chief of police, and Prudence Hyman, who starred in other Hammer films like The Witches and Rasputin The Mad Monk. Hammer direction stalwart Terrance Fischer uses his talent to create some great sequences, but the joy stops there.

The story was written by one time movie writer, J. Llewellyn Devine, and developed into a screenplay by yet another Hammer regular, John Gilling, a writer/ director who is possibly best known for another Hammer film, The Mummy’s Shroud. This film, from a story point of view, unfortunately, is little more than a derivative of a werewolf film, with the big mystery being WHO is the normal person who changes, and that is telegraphed so early you could turn off the film at the 20 minute mark and know the result.

That would be a shame though, as the Gorgon make-up is magnificently cheesy.

In effect, it’s not that is a bad film but from a story point of view, it’s just disastrously generic, and bereft of surprises.

Score: ***

The Gorgon Madman Bluray menu screen: no extras for you!

Format: The reviewed copy is the Australian region B bluray, which runs for approximately 1 hour and 24 minutes, and is presented in a quite clear 1.75:1 image with a decent Dolby Digital Mono audio 

Score: ***

Extras: Nothing!

Score: 0

WISIA: Tragically, this is probably a Hammer film I won’t revisit just because the story is done so much better by so many other werewolf films, even though this isn’t a werewolf film.

The Gorgon: Barbara Shelley as Carla

The Nanny Review

One from the To Watch Pile…

The Nanny 
Film: I’m not always a balls-to-the-wall, high gore horror fan, in actual fact, a lot of the time, I much prefer the slow-burn style thriller. ¬†This leads me to enjoy some of the more older, black and white horrors, which is why I was excited to watch this Bette Davis, Hammer Horror film The Nanny.

The story is of young Joey Fane (William Dix), a ten year old boy who has spent two years in a facility for ne’er-do-well children after it seems that he accidentally killed his younger sister, Susy (Anghared Aubrey). Upon returning home from the facility, Joey is quite happy to see his mother, the faint-hearted Virginia (Wendy Craig, best known for the Tv series ‘And Mother Makes Three’/ ‘And Mother Makes Five’) and his quite strict father, Bill (James Villiers from Repulsion) but seemingly refuses to want to have anything to do with the family’s long standing ‘Nanny’ (Bette Davis, the Hollywood legend from films such as Dead Ringer and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane).

He becomes convinced that ‘Nanny’ is trying to kill him, and confides so in the 14 year old neighbour from upstairs, Bobby (Pamela Franklin from …And Soon The Darkness). Soon though, other members of the house become ill with evidence pointing to Joey poisoning them, and it would seem that perhaps he actually DOES have murderous intentions.

This film was produced and written by Jimmy Sangster, who wrote many scripts for the Hammer Horror stable, and was based on a book by Evelyn Piper. The director Seth Holt, sits high on my list of Hammer go-to guys as he directed Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, which I love. The score was composed by Richard Rodney Bennett who also gave us the scores to such films as The Witches and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

This is a thrilling movie that is told very deliberately, and contains some great performances; especially from the youngsters involved who really had to hold this film together. The film takes place mostly in and around the apartment building that the Fane’s live in, and Holt’s direction keeps it interesting, though never too much like it is a theatre piece, which could have happened in a lesser director’s hands. Highly recommended.

Score: ****

Format: The review copy of this film was a region B bluray released by Shock in Australia. The movies goes for 93 minutes, and the audio is presented in a decent and clean 2.0 LPCM track, and the image is presented in a moderately clean 16:9 image, that is quite artefact-y with many little marks and scratches on the print, but not to the point of distraction. All in all, a nice image for a film of this vintage.

Score: ****

Extras: Unfortunately, there are no extras on this disc, which is a bummer, as surely this is an important piece of film history with its victim being a child, and other elements that possibly hadn’t been dealt with before this film which I won’t reveal here as they are somewhat spoilerific.

Score: 0

WISIA: I don’t think this film will end up on high rotation, but it is good enough to keep in any collection, especially for fans of older, less ‘Hollywood’ horror.