austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

You ask me for a contribution

The Gorgon, also a Hammer Studios film, does better than The Reptile in producing a decently scary monster movie.

In this case the setting is not a small English town full of hostile locals telling the newcomer to get lost. It's a small Austrian town. And after the first newcomer gets killed there's a second newcomer for the locals to tell to get lost. He doesn't, of course, and unravels the mystery of seven unsolved killings over the past five years, which for a tiny town in 1910 Austria is still a pretty big number. The killer is, well, look at the title. Not Medusa, though; the consensus seems to be that it's her sister Megaera, although how anyone can know that I don't know.

Most of the killings are by people being turned to stone, with suitably believable statues representing the corpses. The police and the coroner cover this up for the usual reasons given to cover up supernatural events in this kind of movie: so they can draw the skeptical investigators in from outside and let them kill off the monster. Imagine one of these stories where the locals aren't worried there'll be a panic and just let whoever wants to know figure out the petrifaction of the innocent. Me, I wonder how they're able to bury the dead in normal-size coffins, given that people could be in most any pose when they glance at the Gorgon.

There's several creepy scenes, including several where people who get brief glances are partially turned to stone. One uses his last hours to compose a letter to his son explaining what he's figured out --- mostly, that he's turning to stone, and that Herbert Spencer says most legends have a kernel of truth behind them --- although he chases his secretary away in order to do this. Me, if I were turning to stone, I'd let someone else deal with scrawling out a message using a dip pen. But I have all kinds of doubts about deathbed-confession type methods of conveying exposition.

This is a more satisfying film than The Reptile on most every count, including that there's more than one encounter with the monster, and the Gorgon's effects are much better done. The snakes in her hair are pretty silly --- they look like pop-up toys of very limited flexibility or range --- but there's enough in the rest of the Gorgon that it doesn't make her un-scary.

I guess the peculiar thing is that the initial meddling-outsider comes because he doesn't believe his son hung himself, as the coroner covering up the Gorgon's petrifactions insists. But the Gorgon doesn't hang victims; she turns them to stone. So, how did the son get killed? It seems like it must have been suicide after all, but I'd expect the movie to at least mention the irony of the thing the outsider was sure was a cover-up was in fact exactly what the conspirators said it was.

Trivia: New York State's Bakeshop law of 1895 banned employees from sleeping in bakeries; specified drainage, plumbing, and maintenance for sanitary needs; limited daily and weekly maximum hours worked; and specifically allowed cats to stay on the premises, presumably to handle rats. Source: The Bagel: The Surprising History Of A Modest Bread, Maria Balinska.

Currently Reading: A Bridge Too Far, Cornelius Ryan.


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