Archive for The Gorgon

Melvin and Medusa

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology, Painting, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2008 by dcairns

Madame Medusa 

One fun thing about this joint — from MY point of view anyhow — is that I can see in my Blog Stats exactly what kind of web searches people use to find the site. Yes, I am looking into your dark hearts as you navigate the murky waters of the web and come into dock in my cyber-harbour.

As a result, I have become aware that two of the personages I’ve mentioned in passing have attracted quite a lot of notice. They are ’60s British character star Murray Melvin, and Greek mythological character Medusa.

the sexorcist

The Woman in Green

So, whopping great whore that I am, I thought I’d prepare a special blog posting about Murray Melvin and Medusa. Oh, and I’ll throw in this random mention of ST TRINIAN’S head girl Gemma Arterton too, since so many of you seem to find her so damn interesting.*

What's she got that's so special?

Medusa was head girl of the Gorgons. She had snakes for hair.

Murray Melvin has hair for hair. He starred in A TASTE OF HONEY and pops up in Ken Russell’s epic film maudit THE DEVILS, and Kubrick’s BARRY LYNDON (the litmus test film that hardcore Kubrickians admire most, and that nobody else likes all that much).

Medusa had a petrifying gaze.

Murray Melvin is a petrifying gay.

Actually, I have no private information about Mr. Melvin’s sexuality at all, so I take that back. He was cast as gay in A TASTE OF HONEY and it kind of stuck. He played highly repressed characters in THE DEVILS and BARRY LYNDON, and is a sort of Poster Boy for British Sexual Ambivalence (B.S.A.). I find it interesting (and definitely regrettable) that British cinema has made so little use of him since the swinging ‘sixties and ‘seventies. My theory is that Melvin’s camp quality is out of fashion in a world that either wishes to ignore homosexuality, or is eager to present images of gay men that don’t fit the camp stereotype. But some gay men ARE camp, if you want to use that word, and Melvin is an excellent actor, so where’s the problem?

It reminds me of the way Hollywood discovered racial sensitivity in the ‘forties and slowly phased out most most of the actors who’d made a living playing “comedy negroes” and servants. Replacing them with…virtually nothing. There’s an argument that flawed representation is better than NO representation.

The possibility also arises that M.M. was acting camp in films because the roles demanded it, and could just as easily play Dead Butch. It would be slightly surprising to me, but it’s still possible. In which case his recent disuse by our national cinema is even sillier.

Don't look at his eyes!

The last time I saw M.M. at the cinema was way back in Scots director Bill Douglas’ COMRADES, which also featured Barbara Windsor and Robert Stephens, who likewise should have been in far more movies.

Walpamur Petrifying Liquid

When Harry Hamlin Perseus lopped off Medusa’s serpentine head, her stare maintained its terrible power after death. Still going strong in his seventies, Murray Melvin likewise maintains his momentous powers of dramaturgical dazzlement.

*”Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” ~ Johnny Rotten.

The Great Stone Face

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2007 by dcairns

And that's how my scalpel got so blunt.

My partner’s brother Roddy is a movie buff too. He has learning difficulties, which partly means he’s even more certain about what he likes than most of us, and what he likes is Hammer Horror. As he’s with us for Christmas, we’re going en famille to the digitally restored DRACULA tomorrow, but this afternoon we ran Terence Fisher’s lesser-known THE GORGON, also with Cushing and Lee.

Don't look in her eyes!

It’s a slow-paced bit of thick-ear, with a Greek gorgon rather oddly transplanted to Germany, and an unusual restraint shown in revealing the monster, perhaps due to the makeup and special effects departments’ inability to muster a convincing headful of serpents for the titular mythological beast-woman. They really needed Ray Harryhausen to pull this one off.

Then there’s a distinctly Scooby Doo shortage of suspects — there is precisely one. Essentially all we have to see us through to the climax is atmosphere (dry ice and lighting, sets, Peter Cushing and what Scorsese calls “the precision of his movements within the frame”, James Bernard’s yowling score) and a few petrifications, though at the end there’s a rather lovely effect as we are startled by the decapitated gorgon Megaera’s transmutation into — the only other woman in the film!


“Is this black and white?”

“Where’s he going?”

“Who’s this?”

“What’s he doing?”

“Where’s he going?”

“I don’t think it’s her.”

“I can’t see a thing.”

“Where’s Christopher Lee going now?”

“Uh oh.”

“That did the trick.”

Harryhausen pulls off a good Medusa

Harryhausen can’t help but make monsters more monstrous than they’re supposed to be! His cyclops has goat legs, his troglodyte has a horn on his head, and Medusa is kitted out with scales and a serpent’s body. Generosity, that’s what I call it.