Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Gorgon

The Gorgon
seen online via YouTube

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are horror movie icons from way back, though these days they're perhaps better known as, respectively, Grand Moff Tarkin from Star Wars: A New Hope and Saruman from Lord of the Rings (and Count Dooku from the Star Wars prequels... sigh). Naturally, I had read about all the old horror flicks they made, together and separately, but I had never seen any of them until the other night, when I watched The Gorgon, a movie I picked specifically so I could see both of them in action.

Cushing and Lee were, of course, an integral part of the success and longevity of the British production company Hammer Films. Born in the mid-30s and lived through early financial difficulties (including declaring bankruptcy), Hammer got into the horror/sci-fi game in 1955 with The Quatermass Xperiment (AKA The Creeping Unknown), an adaptation of a BBC serial, which became a big hit. Over the next twenty years, they'd become the definitive studio for genre flicks, specializing in Gothic horror. They'd branch out into television in the 80s with a pair of horror anthology series, and eventually, the web in the 00s, and they continue to this day. Let Me In, the recent remake of the Swedish vampire flick Let The Right One In, was a Hammer release.

Cushing and Lee's first Hammer film was the same one, The Curse of Frankenstein from 1957, in which Cushing played Frankenstein and Lee played the monster. (Their first film together was actually Laurence Olivier's Hamlet; Lee's small role was uncredited.) This, also, was a big and influential hit. Cushing became known for his roles as Frankenstein and Van Helsing, while Lee specialized portraying Dracula, though they both made many different kinds of films at Hammer and elsewhere.

Now I know that Hammer horror movies in general and Cushing and Lee in particular are held in high esteem by horror fans, and I suppose there are better films of theirs that I could've picked for my introduction into Hammer horror than The Gorgon, but this is the one I got, so this is the one I'm gonna talk about. Sometime down the road I may talk about their better films.

So let's see: the identity of the female big bad is supposed to be a mystery, yet there's only one major female character. The Gorgon turns dudes to stone if they look at her, yet the transformation process isn't instantaneous, which is mighty convenient to the plot. When dudes get zapped by her, they stumble and flail around in a way that's more hilarious than shocking. And do I even have to go into the quality of the Gorgon makeup?

Cushing and Lee, at least, make this turkey watchable. Cushing strikes me as one part Vincent Price, one part David Niven. He's so earnest in his uptightness. Lee is more of a badass, at least in this movie. They don't have many scenes together, unfortunately. The costumes and sets evoke the Gothic horror trappings quite nicely, though the music is more than a little melodramatic. The story simply didn't sustain my interest for long. I'll try to watch a different Hammer film in the future, though; I realize they can't all be masterpieces.

Previously in Halloween 2011 Week:
The Ghost of Yotsuya

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