This is going to be Part One of a two part review since Mill Creek has released four Hammer Films on two separate double features. This first review will cover The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960, aka House Of Fright, Jekyll’s Inferno) and The Gorgon (1964). So let’s get started. Back in the mid-70s when I was in my single digits I used to think all Hammer made were Dracula and Frankenstein movies, because that’s all I saw on Chiller Theater. Perhaps, “saw” is too mundane a word. Traumatized would be a better one. Yes, that sums up my experiences perfectly—traumatized! Normally, me and my brother were put to bed right after Space: 1999, and right when Chiller Theater began. At least this is the memory I have, but sometimes my mother ignored that rule for a little while, and truth be told there were times I wanted to stay up and see what Chiller was running. Sometimes it was a monster movie. The mood of my mother depended on whether we saw those monster movies. But there were these other times when one of the many Dracula and/or Frankenstein movies Hammer made came on. And sometimes it was a perfect storm of my mother being lazy getting us off to bed and a Drac flick airing. I had never seen a horror movie where the blood was so red and prominent. This is what shocked me and what I would be destined to remember for all my life. Long story short I grew up not being a fan of Hammer Films until I started to discover their other movies like their Quatermass trilogy, X The Unknown (1956), The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas (1957), and The Lost Continent (1968). But I had yet to distinguish the difference between Hammer, Amicus, and other British horror or science fiction flicks that had either Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee or the both of them in it. To me every time I came upon a movie with either of them in it (Island Of The Burning Doomed) I naturally took it to be a Hammer flick. To this day my “Hammer shelf” in one of my DVD towers holds more than Hammer Films. Basically anything from that era or earlier that has a Hammer vibe is stacked there.
Of these four movies the only one I’ve seen and subsequently became a fan of is The Gorgon. I’ve never been a fan of Universal’s monsters movies except the The Wolf Man (1941) and The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) and it’s two sequels, and thusly never was a fan of Hammer’s versions of them except The Curse Of The Werewolf (1961), so I’ll be seeing the three others (The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll, Revenge Of Frankenstein, Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb) for the first time in the next several nights.
THE GORGON (1964): Can’t remember when I first saw this. Perhaps in late grade school. It was on a Saturday morning but I freaked out right in the beginning when they showed that dude hanging from the tree, face dappled with blood. I saw it again much, much later in life and loved it.
It’s the early 1900s and what we learn by the time this is all over is that gorgons are hard to get rid of. There are three of them according to Greek mythology, Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa, but two of them are renamed in this movie as Tisiphone and Megaera. This flick centers on Megaera and according to the lore Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing) recites Medusa and Tisiphone were killed but Megaera fled and not just anywhere, but to these parts. In truth she may have been killed, or survived and died later. Whatever the case it’s her spirit that is causing problems. Gorgons don’t pass blissfully into that good night I guess, but into other human beings. Possession is what I’m talking about and this gorgon found a young lovely to take over five years prior to the events of the film. Carla Hoffman (Barbara Shelley) is her human identity and she works as a nurse for Namaroff in his hospital. Namaroff knows she’s possessed, known if for a long time apparently, and has her watched when she has her “amnesia spells,” which is what happens when Magaera surfaces and on the second night of a full moon. Carla has no clue she’s possessed.
Magaera has been wreaking stony death on the town of Vandorf for five years, every so often rearing her ugly head and turning some poor bastard into stone. She’s laired in Castle Borski, an abandoned and ruined place all steer clear of. To make matters worse Namaroff and the officials have conspired to keep her murders secret out of fear.
There are six main characters in this tale, three of them are related (a father and his two grown sons), but by the end everyone is dead except one. It starts off with Bruno Heitz (Jeremy Longhurst) and his chick arguing one night over her pregnancy. He intends to do the honorable thing and ask her father for her hand in marriage. It’s the second night of the full moon by the way. She follows soon after, bumps into the gorgon and is gorgonized (i.e turned to stone). Bruno is found a day later having hung himself. I guess he thought suicide would be better than facing her dead. To be fair, she did tell him her father would kill him.
Professor Namaroff covers it up, as usual, and brands the girl’s death murder by domestic violence. Enter Bruno’s father, Professor Jules Heitz (Michael Goodliffe), who comes to town to clear his son’s name, but runs afoul of the gorgon himself. Apparently, you don’t turn immediately to stone. It’s a slow process. Jules manages to stagger back home and pen a letter to his other son of what’s happening in town and orders his manservant to give to him when he arrives. Paul Heitz (Richard Pasco) is a student of Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee), but it’s Paul who’s pulled into the picture next. Once in town he runs afoul of the all the cover-ups and hate of outsiders and starts to fall in love with Carla One night he too runs afoul of the gorgon, but his encounter is different. He sees her in a reflection, and that only partially gorgonizes him, putting him into a coma for five days. Karl is next to show up now and arrives at the behest of Paul to help him find the gorgon and kill it.
Everything comes to a head (pun intended) in Castle Borski with Paul facing off with Namaroff in a fight because he too is in love with Carla, but both of them fall prey to the creature’s deadly stare. Magaera only happens to get killed because she’s distracted gorgonizing Paul and doesn’t see Karl sneak up behind her, pick up that sword Namaroff had been wielding and lops her head clean off! Paul doesn’t die until he sees the gorgon’s severed noggin return to “normal,” revealing it was indeed Carla who was possessed.
THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL (1960): Christopher Lee is in this movie too, but he doesn’t fare as well as he did in The Gorgon. And this is another Hammer flick where all the main characters are dead by the end, except one.
Rather than having Mr. Hyde become an obvious “monster,” the transformation is more psychological. Though Jekyll (Paul Massie) does go through a physical transformation, but it’s more human based. The character starts out with a heavy mustache and beard, a certain hairstyle, along with a distinctive tone of voice. When he’s Edward Hyde, the face is clean shaven; the hairstyle has changed as well as the tone of his voice. This Hyde physically fits in fine with the rest of humanity, but he does not adhere morally to the concepts of good or evil. His monster side is more his lack of morality.
Jekyll has a wife, Kitty (Dawn Addams), who has fallen out of love with him a long time ago due to science being more a priority than her. She has taken a lover and its Jekyll’s best friend, Paul Allen (Lee), who’s more like Hyde, but with a loose moral base. They are genuinely in love, but Allen has a gambling problem that needs constant bailing out. He also loves the ladies, when he and Kitty have an argument.
Once Hyde comes into the picture, Jekyll sets his alter ego up as a friend, and he instantly takes to befriending Allen and Kitty, but an encounter with Kitty reveals her true feelings for Allen and this forces Jekyll back into the world. Eventually Hyde is able to gain control at will and goes about hitting the town with Allen in a week of debauchery that includes drugs and watching an underground fight. I guess debauchery was more G-rated back then. He also meets this performer whom he starts a relationship with, but it all turns homicidal when in Jekyll form he sees his wife kissing Allen. The night before she gave Hyde a letter to give him and it was basically a note saying she was leaving. Hyde takes over and plans their deaths—Allen by snake, and Kitty by suicide after she finds Allen’s body. Hyde intends to stay in the world this time and kills a random stranger so he can burn down Jekyll’s lab and make it look like he went crazy and killed himself. It all works out until at the inquest when Jekyll’s death is being ruled that Jekyll takes his life back and materializes right in front of everyone. He’s aged this time, and proclaims Hyde is dead, but he’s arrested for the deaths of his friend and wife and sent to prison.
Personally, this movie did nothing for me. Though it’s always fun to watch Chris Lee in anything and Oliver Reed (Curse Of The Werewolf) has a small cameo even.
These two films have been released before on DVD in a collection from Sony called, Icons Of Horror: Hammer Films, back in 2008, which is still in print. This is the first time they’ve been released on blu-ray and this double feature blu can be purchased here on Amazon!
Both transfers looked good, but The Gorgon looked to be the better with more clarity and detail.
Video/Audio/Subtitles (The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll): 1080p 2.35:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English Dolby Digital—No subtitles
Extras included . . .
Head on over to Part Two for coverage of The Revenge Of Frankenstein and The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb!