Moon Snakes

It’s 18-minutes until The Gorgon brings a torch-carrying mob to an outsider’s door. Usually, that’s a Gothic horror finale. The Gorgon isn’t wasting time though.

The rush is primarily to put Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee on screen, letting their flawless presence add a hypnotic layer to what is a routine monster story. Cushing plays a doctor whose outward arrogance hides his fears and anxieties, likewise burying truth. Lee’s then his counter, digging for answers, and while they only confront each other once, that’s payoff.

The Gorgon finds uniqueness in its look and tone

Aside from torches, The Gorgon dwells in a small turn-of-the-century village, then uses forgotten mythology, a cobwebbed castle, full moons, and mysterious deaths. Formulaic is a kind descriptor. There’s a key change in that this genre – insofar as Universal designed it – often laid blame on science and progress. Partly, The Gorgon does too, with Cushing able to hide his village’s secret by proclaiming the existence of such a creature is ludicrous. Then-modern research rebuked such fantasy.

Yet, Cushing knows the truth. There is a Greek figure roaming the hills, turning people to stone with her gaze. Behind the harsh demeanor, Cushing can’t bring himself to expose the perpetrator. Not because he wishes to research or further understand this being, rather empathy and love. It’s protective of someone who doesn’t know what they are, even as the situation turns deadly.

Per norms, characters spend the movie questioning whether there is a werewolf or demon or vampire. That’s wasteful since the audience is certainly aware – they paid for a ticket/Blu-ray. The Gorgon does this too, albeit with more awareness. It’s not a matter of if there is a real Gorgon (a stone body wheeled into an office makes that clear), rather who it is. This allows some energy into the script, plus gives Cushing onus since the police and outsiders close in on truth.

At no point is The Gorgon complex, and given how few people there are in this story, the true killer becomes knowable long before the second act is over. Subtext isn’t involved either, no different than any readings concerning Medusa and her ilk. A woman in a dominate form, cursed to kill those she loves barely factors in considering the hidden identity. The Gorgon finds uniqueness in its look and tone. Atmosphere fills the iconic Hammer horror output, even the lesser ones like this.

The Gorgon Blu-ray screen shot

Video

Rich, natural color (with occasionally brighter tones) give this British effort a classy sheen. It’s fantastic filmic material, more splendid than the original budget indicated. Flesh tones – stony victims aside – saturate precisely, only a mild increase from reality.

Likewise contrast proves exceptional. Heartiness enlivens this imagery, each set well lit. When not, black levels add their mark, at times lessened at the source, alleviating any possible crush while sapping some depth. It’s not intolerable.

Even with two other movies on the same disc, Mill Creek’s encoding holds up. Grain resolves, but The Gorgon lacks the precision of better, newer masters. Preservation clears up any dirt/damage, leaving everything pristine. That’s great, even if resolution falters. Murky detail allows light facial texture and minimum detail elsewhere. The sets lack the fullest sharpness. Thankfully, there’s no undue processing, just a mediocre, DVD-era master.

Audio

Suitable, if not much else. DTS-HD presents the mono source with care, unaffected by digital issues. The result is a clean track, well rendered treble and decent low-end response. Range isn’t wide, if within the usual parameters for the ’60s.

Balanced dialog sounds organic. Thin, but capable. If there’s wear, it’s only perceptible from the Gorgon’s vocal song; that’s worn and wobbly in comparison to the rest.

Extras

Commentary by House of the Gorgon director Joshua Kennedy.

The Gorgon
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  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

Atmosphere helps lift The Gorgon over its familiar and routine horror trappings, plus Peter Cushing alongside Christopher Lee.

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