I made good on my promise to watch The Gorgon last night after it earned a few mentions on Facebook earlier this week, and what a bewitching film it turned out to be. This was my first time seeing Terence Fisher's film, and while I had certain expectations given the personnel involved I was quite surprised by how different this particular Hammer Horror played in comparison with fellow stable mates from this era. I think it was Tim Lucas who detected a certain Lewtonesque flavor to the film and more than a few times I thought of Cat People (both films feature heroines suffering identity crises). The film looks terrific as well, with vivid, crisp photography by Michael Reed - his lighting in particular of the Gorgon, in all her emerald finery is worthy of Jack Cardiff, and a handsome looking production as well - the sound stages at Bray can occasionally induce deja vu but I found the sets imaginatively realized and detailed - there's one particularly striking moment where a window reveals a setting sun, a subtle yet atmospheric piece of scenic art.
As for the Gorgon herself, she makes for a wonderful apparition, and Fisher handles her with customary skill and restraint - her first appearance in the film, standing half silhouetted on a staircase pleasantly recalls Christopher Lee's introductory shot in Dracula. If there's one point of exception I took with the film, was a moment where Barbara Shelley recounts the details of Professor Heitz's letter and which describes the hapless victims of the monster as being "gorgonized" - which made me cringe - a rare slip in John Gilling's otherwise excellent screenplay...
Post-script: Gorgonized is in fact a legitimate word !
Definition of GORGONIZE
: to have a paralyzing or mesmerizing effect on