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In early-twentieth-century middle-Europe, villagers are literally becoming petrified. Although the authorities try to hush the matter up, it is apparent that at the full moon, Megaera, a Gorgon, leaves her castle lair and anyone looking on her face is turned to stone. When this fate befalls a visitor, experts from the University of Leipzig arrive to try and get to the bottom of it all. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
Prudence Hyman's snake-filled wig was worked by five wires which were attached to a box that was about 25 feet behind her. See more »
Professor Heitz's hairline is entirely different between his early scenes and later ones, after he's been gorgonized. See more »
We are men of science. I don't believe in ghosts or evil spirits, and I don't think you do, either.
Professor Jules Heitz:
That's one of the most unscientific remarks I have ever heard. I believe in the existence of everything which the human brain is unable to disprove.
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The crucial clue to understanding the work of director Terence Fisher is to note that his directing hero was not one of the 'usual suspects' for a horror director, like Lang or Hitchcock, but Frank Borzage, the 30's director of tender, fragile romances like 'Moonrise' and 'A Farewell To Arms'. And as he grew more confident and independent in his work for Hammer films, Fisher's most personal work smuggled Borzagian romance past his producers in horror guise. Forget the usual critical cliche about his work: that it presents rigidly defined black-and-white battles between Good and Evil.This only applies to a handful of his pictures, usually from the earlier part of his Hammer career. In Fisher's mature work, the lines between good and evil are often more ambiguous than in many of the more modernist horrors that came after him (e.g.'The Exorcist' and 'Halloween'). And his most heartfelt work - 'Curse Of The Werewolf','Phantom Of The Opera','Frankenstein Created Woman'and the film discussed here, is a sequence of tragic love stories. Which brings us to 'The Gorgon', one of the most romantic but also the bleakest of these love stories. All the key characters in the film are driven by the most desperate love: the pregnant Sascha in the opening scenes, Professor Heitz mourning and defending a lost son, Carla and Paul in their foredoomed affair, Namaroff oppressing Carla and torturing himself with the love she can never reciprocate, Ratoff(who might at first seem a token thug)worshipping Carla as devoutly as is master does, even Christopher Lee's celibate Meister has a father's anxious protectiveness towards Paul. But in the bleak world which cameraman Michael Reed depicts throughout in grim blues and greys, there is no reward for such devotion but the stony isolation of death. The film, however, is tragic rather than merely nihilistic, for the characters are haunted throughout by the thought that their love might somehow win them a place in some better world somewhere else. This makes Carla's parting from Paul in the castle scene all the more poignant: haven't we all known a moment such as she knows then, when we face the fact that the door to salvation was open to us as recently as a couple of minutes ago, but we looked away at the wrong moment and the breeze blew it shut? That's why this, like all Fisher's best films, is such a treasurable work. It's not about shock effects, but about the beauty and sadness of being alive. It stands as the bleakest of all Gorgon myths, bleaker by far than the Greek originals, for it portrays a whole world whose fate is to turn to stone.
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