There is a knot of tragic romance at the core of THE GORGON, a unique entry in the Hammer Film Productions canon. This 1964 picture is directed by Terence Fisher and is the sort of melodrama the filmmaker always wanted to make, so it does carry a kind of adamant resolve. What it lacks in chills and explicit visuals it makes up for in prowling atmosphere, while the character interactions allow a slow burn through a series of all-too-human concerns.
The tortuous tale involves Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing), who’s been working in the village of Vandorf. He’s seen the victims of several murders wheeled into his facilities and he’s seen them turn to stone. The latest victim embroils him in deeper controversy, as the father (Michael Goodliffe) of the accused killer arrives with intentions on absolution. This sets off a chain of events that draws Paul (Richard Pasco) to Vandorf. He further investigates the legend of Megaera and why so many people are being turned to stone.
The plot of THE GORGON runs through some convoluted paces, but it does allow for some interesting scenarios. Christopher Lee shows up as Professor Karl Meister, who lends Paul assistance as he tries to crack the case. Everyone is somehow related to or associated with someone else and there are quite a few filler characters. Carla Hoffman (Barbara Shelley) is vital to the plot, though, and she’s caught in a love triangle of sorts, with Dr. Namaroff and Paul pining for her worthy affections.
The romance of THE GORGON nearly gets lost in the shuffle, but Fisher does find a way to punch things up toward the end. The finale is as catastrophic and hard as any Hammer production, even if a few delicate changes unnecessarily telegraph the conclusion. There is also some subtext about the concealing of truth with designs on preserving some sense of social order. Other Fisher features have done more with such matters, but it’s easy to lose one’s way when there’s a bag of snakes involved.