Monster #26 - The Gorgon


United Kingdom, 1964

A Hammer Films Production
83 mins, colour, 1.66:1 aspect ratio

Director - Terence Fisher
Writer - J. Llewellyn Divine
Screenplay - John Gilling, Anthony Nelson Keys
Cinematographer - Michael Reed
Production Design - Bernard Robinson
Make-Up - Roy Ashton
Special Effects - Syd Pearson
Editor - James Needs, Eric Boyd-Perkins
Music - James Bernard

Peter Cushing (Dr. Namaroff), Christopher Lee (Prof. Karl Meister), Barbara Shelley (Carla Hoffman), Richard Pasco (Paul Heitz), Michael Goodliffe (Prof. Jules Heitz), Patrick Troughton (Inspector Kanof), Prudence Hyman (The Gorgon)

PLOT SUMMARY - By 1910, the village of Vandorf has been paralysed for five years by a series of mysterious deaths, yet the local doctor, Namaroff, has been concealing the truth about them. The victims are all turned to stone and Namaroff suspects that the derelict Castle Borski is the home of Megaera, last of the legendardy Gorgons. He also suspects that his assistant, Carla, provides the human vessel through which Megaera manifests herself. (Rigby, 2015)

The Gorgon, that fabled creature with snakes nesting in her hair, was one of only a handful of monsters in Denis Gifford's parade that was something of a known entity to me. I had read a fair share of books on Greek mythology, since that was the closest thing to fantasy and sword and sorcery a keen pre-teen reader could get his hands on in the early 1970s.

The Gorgon is a movie that stands out a bit from Hammer's usual fare.

For starters, it is based on a story submitted by a fan of Hammer's movies, J. Llewellyn Divine (Fellner, 2019). It is also the first and last time Hammer delved into any kind of classic mythology for their monsters - which might explain why they also managed to get it wrong: Megaera (Greek for "jealous rage") is not a Gorgon but rather one of the three Furies (Erinyes).

Also rather unsual was the choice of actress for the Gorgon, casting former ballerina Prudence Hyman for the role since the monster was supposed to "float gracefully like a wraith" (Fellner, 2019).


Original 1964 Lobby Card (personal collection)

The Gorgon was also both Terence Fisher's first reunion with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee since The Mummy in 1959 as well as their last work together as a trio. And finally, the make-up and special effects used for the monster - commonly a strong point for Hammer - is considered by many to have been a complete let-down in the case of the Gorgon.

"[With] so disappointing a monster, it's hardly surprising that The Gorgon is not a fan favourite." (Rigby, 2015)

However, fixating on and over-elaborating the handful of close-up shots of the Gorgon's hair full of obviously fake snakes obscures the many strong points and merits The Gorgon has - possibly making it the most under-appreciated and under-rated of all Hammer movies.


  I deliberately stayed away from this movie far too long, before finally watching it for the first time on Powerhouse's 2020 Blu-ray release, which provides the viewer with a gloriously high-definition rendition of both image and audio. The Blu-ray also features a number of extras, the most exciting of those being a short documentary (aptly titled "Heart of Stone") from 2017 on the making of The Gorgon.

First released in the UK in October 1964 (and in the US in February 1965), The Gorgon was produced with the intention of creating a double-bill with The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb as the supporting film (Fellner, 2019).

The aforementioned strong points of The Gorgon are its forceful yet also very fine sense of atmosphere and dread. This is supported by a storytelling that provides both suspense and comic relief, without ever slipping into the ridiculous, in spite of a plot premise which - like most horror movies - could easily be dismissed as being utterly ridiculous.

On top of all that, the highly accomplished and varied visuals of The Gorgon underscore and carry this tense and unnerving atmosphere for the entire length of the movie, with Gothic sets both beautiful and scary in which the characters and the acting that brings them to life also surpass the average Hammer fare by far.

Terence Fisher actually considered The Gorgon to be one of his best films (Rigby, 2015), and he may very well have a point there. Once people are able to put aside the snake effects and possibly see the psychology of fear and terror surrounding the Gorgon (which comes across very strongly in all her scenes not featuring a close-up of her head), reviews generally begin to see the merits of The Gorgon.

"[The Gorgon] exerts a certain funereal fascination, much enhanced by excellent cinematography and production design. In sharp contrast to the nocturnal moments in most Hammer horrors, Michael Reed's day-for-night photography in the opening scenes is remarkably effective and (...) banishes all thought of that familiar Hammer location, Black Park near Slough. And though the film's low budget is betrayed by a few exterior settings which are clearly painted backdrops, the desolate Castle Borski, both inside and out, is more impressive than any of Hammer's various Castle Draculas." (Rigby, 2015)

Monster Factor:

Overall Movie Rating:


As underrated and shunned as The Gorgon is, it is actually a very accomplished piece of Hammer gothic horror and one of its most visually atmospheric films, featuring a story full of suspense, dread and terror. The monster factor is a question of taste, but it still actually works (except perhaps for close-up shots). All in all, this movie works so well overall that it borders on required viewing.


Denis Gifford on The Gorgon
in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (1973)

Apart from a still depicting Prudence Hyman as the Gorgon, Gifford makes no further mention of the movie.


FELLNER Chris (2019) The Encyclopedia of Hammer Films, Rowman & Littlefield

RIGBY Jonathan (2015) English Gothic, 2nd edition, Signum Books


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The illustrations presented here are copyright material.
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All images from Monsters of the Movies (Carousel/Transworld) were scanned from my personal copy purchased in 1977
All images of Blu-ray or DVD covers were scanned from my personal copies
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Page created 22 February 2023
Last updated 2 September 2023

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