Hammer studios rarely had a problem plundering myth and legend to come up with their latest big screen enterprise – think The Mummy, The Abominable Snowman etc.

Well, for 1964’s The Gorgon they decided to dip their toes into the waters of Greek mythology, coming up with something that nestled very neatly in with the studio’s regular output.

The bonus for horror fans this time around is not only do you get Peter Cushing, but also Christopher Lee, as well as female Hammer favourite Barbara Shelley.

The Gorgon is set in 1910 in the German village of Vandorf, a locality rocked by seven unsolved murders over the previous five years.

Even stranger, these murders have left the victims petrified and turned into solid stone.

Inspector Kanof (Dr Who veteran Patrick Troughton) is stumped, and turns to Dr Namaroff (Cushing), who doubles up as coroner and medic at a local mental institution.the-gorgon-27481_1

Dr Namaroff insists he cannot come up with a plausible explanation, but this does little to placate Paul Heitz (Richard Pasco), who travels to Vandorf to try and clear the name of his brother Bruno, implicated in the killings after a murder-suicide that opens the film.

Before long even Lee is on the scene, playing Professor Karl Meister, a scientist from Leipzig University who is equally baffled by proceedings.

Soon everybody is at loggerheads, with Namaroff growing increasingly shady as the truth gets close to being revealed.

Could it be there is a Gorgon in their midst? Why exactly is the local, abandoned castle deemed to be off limits? What exactly is Dr Namaroff’s involvement in all this?

All is revealed in a satisfying climax that features a short burst of effects work and ties up all the loose ends.

Directed by Hammer veteran Terence Fisher on an estimated budget of £150,000, The Gorgon nestled in between the likes of Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb and She in terms of the studio’s releases, and in many ways served as a precursor to the likes of The Reptile (1966).

With Cushing, Lee and Shelley in the same production you know acting is not going to be an issue and there is that assured air of quality that those three always bring to the table.

While not exactly a full-blown villain, it is nice to see Cushing playing a more complex character than his usual Hammer roles (Baron Frankenstein excepted of course).

Set design, courtesy of Bernard Robinson, is another strong point and it always amazes me how much atmosphere and period detail Hammer were able to wring out of their small budgets.

The Gorgon is not a particularly thrilling affair, but it always holds the interest and at just 83 minutes it will always hold your attention.

And, after all, any film which sees Cushing and Lee share screen time has to be worth a watch – doesn’t it?

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.